Published March 15, 2011
Volume 19, Number 3

Pleasanton’s Downtown: Crown Jewel of the City  

Downtown Pleasanton offers historic architecture, al fresco
dining,  the trademark arch, Museum on Main, and a new trompe
l’oeil mural.

Pleasanton’s downtown district might occupy just a small portion of the city, but it packs a big punch. Whether described as the crown jewel of the city or compared to a Normal Rockwell painting, it is a cherished asset that stands as a stalwart symbol of the community's economic health, quality of life, civic pride, and family orientation.

The blend of past and present is one of the primary attractions. The inviting tree-lined Main Street is like a walk back in time, updated with all the modern conveniences. Parents can stroll up and down the sidewalks with their children and the family dog, inhaling the aroma of freshly baked bread as they stop for an ice cream cone, a cup of coffee, or a glass of wine at one of the many restaurants with outdoor terraces. From the full schedule of cultural events at the new Firehouse Arts Center to the broad assortment of  specialty businesses—not just retail shops but doctors, attorneys, veterinarians, and CPAs—downtown has almost everything to meet the needs of local residents and visitors alike. 

The arrival of the new millennium saw Pleasanton certified as a California Main Street Community by the state's Trade and Commerce Agency, under the auspices of the National Main Street Center. The designation is substantiated by a treasure-trove of historic business and residential properties, representing a variety of architectural styles

 One stand-out is the Museum on Main, constructed in 1914 as Pleasanton’s town hall and now the steward of the community's historical treasures.  A recent addition to the Amador-Livermore Valley Historical Society, the building became home to the museum in 1984. Its permanent exhibit showcasing the bygone era of cowboys and ladies with hooped-dresses connects visitors to the area’s rich heritage.  The museum offers a wealth of programs tailored to visitors of all ages, from regional history exhibits, lectures, and children’s events to walking tours and photo and document archives, not to mention the annual October “not-so-scary” haunted house. For more information, visit www.museumonmain.org

Another downtown highlight, and one of the city’s most recognizable sights, is the Pleasanton arch across Main Street. It was commissioned by the Women's Improvement Club in 1932 at a cost of $532, and was originally topped with police and fire horns. Today, it is one of the few original gateway signs remaining in California.           

For those fascinated by architecture’s place in history, a Downtown Walking Tour map has been created by the Pleasanton Downtown Association (PDA), architect and local historian Charles Huff, and the Amador-Livermore Valley Historical Museum. Filled with photos and more than 60 history vignettes, it can be found online at: www.pleasantondowntown.net/pdfs/WalkingTourGuide.pdf

The city’s history is also honored in the two murals that dress up downtown buildings. The first, “Celebrate This Beautiful Valley—A View of the Valley Looking South, Back in Time,” dedicated in July 2007, stretches along the St. Mary’s Street side of Strizzi’s restaurant. Local artist Gary Winter gives viewers a glimpse of what Pleasanton might have looked like in simpler times—the Fairgrounds with the horse track, fields of cows, and the hopyards. The second, completed a little more than a year ago on the Valley Plumbing Home Center building, at Peters and Rose avenues, is a sepia-toned pastiche depicting a 1920s-era cityscape, complete with a Model T and a Southern Pacific locomotive.  Artists Ron Norman and Bill Weber added a bit of trompe l'oeuil with a full-color image of a visitor snapping a photo of the retrospective scene.

It takes more than historical appeal to keep downtown thriving . The non-profit PDA has built a strong reputation for producing a year-round series of events during which the gracious Main Street plays the supporting role. Its broader mission, however, is maintaining the vitality and hometown character of the district. Staff and volunteer committees address all kinds of issues and projects, from design and beautification to economic vitality and parking.

In April 2010, longtime marketing professional Laura Olson took over as the PDA’s Executive Director. Her in-depth experience in the region includes a stint as chairman of the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce and five years as Associate Executive Director at the Tri-Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau.

With her impressive background in business development and deep passion for downtown, Olson jumped in to spearhead a number of promotional initiatives, prime among them a rebranding of the Downtown Association.    

“This summer the Board of Directors will be working with a professional branding group to revisit who we are, what our image is, and how the downtown message should be communicated.  It’s much more than just a new logo--it’s a whole new focus for our marketing and promotional efforts,” she relates.

Once the rebranding is completed, the PDA will prepare the latest edition of its business directory. Also on tap is a new website by the end of year.  “It’s definitely time for a refresh,” Olson remarks. “Our goal is to have a more friendly user interface for business searches and events.”

The PDA also continues to take advantage of new social media tools, from Facebook (www.facebook.com/pleasantondowntownassociation) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/ptown_dtown)to nuAlerts and other media outlets. Anticipation is mounting for the launch of a free downtown iPhone application, expected to go live in late March.  “We are one of only handful to have this kind of app,” Olson points out. “It will allow visitors and residents to search for a business by type or by name and link to the Facebook page and photos. It has a GPS capability to map locations and can display special events and entertainment opportunities. It has a nice clean look and feel, and we’re very excited!”

In addition, the PDA has joined forces with the Pleasanton Weekly, the City of Pleasanton, and the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce to raise awareness of the value of shopping locally through the website ShopPleasanton.com. “Any business with a physical address in Pleasanton is eligible to participate in this free, program, which is a really powerful marketing tool,” Olson notes. Visit the site for information on how to participate. The public launch is slated for March.

The PDA sponsors a full schedule of downtown events and publicizes those sponsored by other entities, such as the City of Pleasanton, in its “What’s Up Downtown” calendar on its website, www.pleasantondowntown.net. This year, for the first time, the Association is offering sponsorship opportunities for the perennial warm-weather favorites, the 1st Wednesday Street Parties and the Concerts in the Park. Olson invites interested businesses to contact her at (925) 484-2199 for more details.  
Here are the highlights of the 2011 event cycle:

The Downtown Farmer's Market
Saturdays, year round
9 a.m.-1 p.m.           
The Pleasanton Farmer's Market is open every Saturday, rain or shine. Shoppers find farm-fresh produce, fresh-cut flowers, herbs, and specialty foods on Angela Street, between Main and First Streets. Afterward, many browse the shops and stop for lunch at one of downtown’s tempting restaurants.

1st Wednesday Street Parties
1st Wednesday of the month, May-September
6-9 p.m.
Main Street closes to vehicular traffic from Del Valle Parkway to Bernal Avenue from 4:30 to 10 p.m. as thousands of visitors flock downtown to shop, dine, and meander among the broad assortment of local shops and booths staffed by vendors and community organizations. The Round Table  Pizza parking lot morphs into a beer garden serving beer and wines from Livermore Valley Wine Country to the strains of a live band performance.  A secondary bandstand set further up on Main Street enlivens the area around the Pleasanton Hotel and Main Street Brewery. The schedule of featured and side stage bands is:

May 4 - Cinco de Mayo themed Street Party with Ruckatan and Georgi & The Rough Week
June 1  - Finding Stella and Rooster's Teeth
July 6  -  Houserockers  and Dave Crimmen Band
August 3 -  Sharing the spotlight with Public Eye and The Crisis is the much-loved annual Pooch Parade, presented by Tri Valley Guide Dog Puppy Raisers.
September 7 - Night Fever.  Side stage band to be announced. 

Spring and Fall Antique & Collectible Faires         
Sunday, May 29 and October 9
8 a.m.- 4 p.m.
More than 400 dealers setting up temporary shop on Main Street make these events one of the largest outdoor antique fairs in California. It’s the perfect place to shop for vintage, retro, and antique home decorations, clothing, furniture, jewelry, art, pottery, books, and collectibles.

Friday Concerts in the Park
Fridays, June 3-September 2
7-8:30 p.m.
Going back more than 30 years, downtown Pleasanton's summer Concerts in the Park are legendary. For many families, Friday nights in Wayside Park, on the corner of First and Neal Streets, have become a ritual kick-off to summer weekends. The live music covers the gamut--blues, country, jazz, pop, swing, disco, R&B, Latin and rock. Concerts include:
June 3 - Magic Moments,  50s, 60s, 70s, The Legends of Early Rock
June 10 - Batch-22,  Rock/Alternative Dance Covers
June 17 - The Houserockers,  Rock & Soul
June 24 - Ruckatan Latin Tribe, Latin Reggae World Music
July 1 - Rooster's Teeth,  Rockin' Blues
July 8 - Georgi & The Rough Week, Blues with a Rock Flair
July 15 - The Crisis
July 22 - Dave Crimmen, 50s-60s Rock'n Roll, Rockabilly, Surf
July 29 - Groovy Judy,  Flower Power Funk-Rock
August 5 - The Cooltones, Big Band Jazz, Swing & Dance
August 12 - Blind Nurse, Modern & Classic Rock
August 19 - Burton & Company, Jazzy Rhythm & Blues
August 26 - Hot Rods Band, Rockin' Oldies/50s & 60s
September 2 - Public Eye, High Energy Rock n' Roll

Summer Wine Stroll
Thursday, July 14
 6 – 9 pm
Against the backdrop of local downtown businesses, more than 30 wineries showcase their products in tasting areas at various locations along Main Street. Advance ticket purchase is recommended, since only 1,000 will be sold. Pre-sale starts on June 16th. Any tickets still available the day of the event can be purchased between 5:45 and 7:30 p.m. in front of the Museum on Main.

Earlier Than the Bird
Saturday, November 19
7 a.m. – 12 p.m.
A big success in 2010, its inaugural year, this event kicks off the holiday shopping season with great fun and fanfare. Mounted by the PDA in partnership with Livermore Downtown Inc., the “Bird” is intended to capture local consumer dollars before the post-Thanksgiving retail frenzy. Downtown retailers, opening their doors at 7 a.m., serve up refreshments and a plethora of special offers for early-bird shoppers, with free gifts and enticing deals for those in their pajamas.

Magical Holiday Evening
Saturday, November 19
4 -7 p.m.
A book-end to the early morning specials, the annual downtown open house sees the streets come alive with the sights and sounds of the holidays. Visitors will enjoy special hospitality and seasonal promotions as they browse the wonderful shops and businesses downtown.

Pleasanton Hometown Holiday Celebration
Saturday, December 3
5 - 7:30 p.m.
Main Street closes to vehicle traffic from 3:30-7:30 for the city-sponsored annual holiday parade of floats, marching bands, community groups, and more. The official tree lighting is accompanied by a community sing-a-long and Santa’s arrival. Many retailers remain open during the evening for holiday shopping.

 A community of dedicated individuals and business owners, the Pleasanton Downtown Association is chartered with the mission of promoting the economic vitality and hometown character of downtown. Through cooperative efforts, activities, and community events, the Association strives to make the downtown area an integral part of the city. Along with Executive Director Laura Olson, PDA staff includes Alisha Perdue, Events and Communications Coordinator, and Sue Post, Office Manager.

All businesses in the downtown area are automatically general members of the PDA. In addition to having voting rights, they may also become board members, committee chairpersons, and officers. Comprised of members, property owners, and city residents, PDA committees and sub-committees create a forum for maintaining cultural and economic vigor.

The PDA offers an Associate Member program for businesses located outside downtown that wish to join and support the organization. Associate Members are entitled to a number of benefits, including the opportunity to promote their businesses with a booth at the 1st Wednesday Street Parties. For information on becoming an Associate Member or to learn more about downtown Pleasanton, call the PDA at (925) 484-2199, visit www.pleasantondowntown.net, or stop by the office at 4725 First Street, Suite 200.


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