In 2019, Pleasanton ranked number two on WalletHub's list of Best Small Cities in California, which included cities with populations between 25,000 and 100,000. The personal finance site compared more than 1,200 cities based on affordability, economic health, education and health, quality of life, and safety. Pleasanton also appeared on its list of Best Small Cities in America for 2020. There have been many national nods to Pleasanton's quality of life. A major component of that quality of life is the city's historic downtown district, which spreads on either side of Main Street and runs roughly from just south of Del Valle Parkway to Bernal Avenue.
Many Bay Area cities no longer have a charming downtown area but Pleasanton officials and community leaders have worked hard over the years to nurture, preserve, and improve this area. Both residents and visitors enjoy much more than the varied historic architectural styles, which range from Art Deco to Colonial Revival to Craftsman to Italianate to Mission Revival to Moderne to Richardson Romanesque, according to local experts. They also enjoy cultural events, appealing spots for wining and dining, as well as boutiques and other amenities.
The Pleasanton Downtown Association (PDA) has been a major driver in making Downtown the attractive spot it remains today. Those efforts were recognized in June, when the PDA was accredited as a 2021 Main Street America and California Main Street program. In 2020, the PDA also attained this distinction on behalf of the City of Pleasanton. Main Street America is a program of the nonprofit National Main Street Center, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This network of more than 1,200 rural and urban neighborhoods and communities share a commitment to place and to building stronger communities through preservation-based economic development.
The Main Street America program is a mark of distinction representing the core of a community–a place of gathering, historical destinations, business centers, innovation hubs, and more. Pleasanton is among 888 other cities and towns across the nation with programs selected for this recognition in 2021. Fewer than 20% of U.S. cities with a population of more than 5,000 have programs so recognized.
The 10 standards of performance used for designating community programs as Main Street America Accredited members were developed by the National Main Street Center and Coordinating Program partners such as the California Main Street Community Alliance, in which PDA is also a member. These standards, or requirements, include that a Main Street America program has broad-based community support for the commercial district revitalization process, with strong support from both the public and private sectors.
Additional program requirements include vision and mission statements relevant to community conditions and to the local Main Street program's organizational stage. They must have a comprehensive Main Street work plan. They must possess an historic preservation ethic. They must have an active board of directors and committees. They must have an adequate operating budget and a paid, professional executive director. The programs must also provide ongoing training for staff and volunteers, report key statistics, and be a current member of the Main Street America Network.
In 2020, Main Street America programs generated $4.14 billion in local reinvestment, helped open 4,356 net new businesses, and generated 14,988 net new jobs, according to the PDA. Locally, the PDA and the City of Pleasanton have collaborated on important programs to address Covid-19-related economic impact on local businesses. Most notable has been Weekends on Main, during which portions of Main Street are closed to vehicle traffic and opened for pedestrian access, sidewalk shopping, and expanded outdoor dining.
Currently Downtown Pleasanton is coping with the pandemic very well, according to new PDA Executive Director Zac Grant, who credits creative problem-solving coupled with common-sense public health measures such as vaccination, masking, and social distancing. He notes that despite the hardships of the pandemic, the downtown area has welcomed several new businesses.
"Downtown Pleasanton is bouncing back with vigor in 2021 thanks to the grit of our entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, restaurateurs, and other leaders," says Grant. "Covid countermeasures developed by the PDA in collaboration with the City of Pleasanton are working. The outdoor dining program has been a huge success and likely saved many restaurants from failing. Likewise, closing Main Street to traffic on weekends has brought unprecedented vibrancy. Our Farmer's Market has provided essential access to fresh food and an uninterrupted atmosphere of community engagement."
"The tenets of the Main Street America designation are what makes our downtown a distinct place and a destination in the region," according to Pleasanton's City Manager Nelson Fialho. "Led by the Mayor and Council, the City looks forward to working with Zac and supporting the PDA as our downtown comes back into full swing."
The PDA will continue to serve up creative seasonal events, some traditional, some redesigned, and some brand new, according to Grant. For example, this year the popular Concert in the Park series is moving from summer into the fall. Because daylight hours are shorter then, concert times will shift and begin at 4 pm on Sundays rather than Friday evenings.
"Our next regular holiday event will be the Halloween Brew Crawl," notes Grant. "In part due to the pandemic, we plan to make fewer tickets available for 2021. That will also afford a much higher level of service at our participating restaurants, shops, and pubs." Given the recent rise of the Delta Covid variant, the PDA is ready to adapt its upcoming event schedule as circumstances warrant.
Grant took up his new post because his life's work is invested in leading creative engagement teams exactly like the Board of Directors at the PDA. "The opportunity to serve the PDA and its members, to restore financial stability and institutional equity lost to the pandemic, is supremely motivating."
As the new head of the PDA, Grant says his primary objective is to lead the PDA membership back to common objectives and themes post-Covid and "reigniting the distinctive Downtown brand as the treasured center of Pleasanton, a special place where people know and look out for one another."
For more information about the Pleasanton Downtown Association, please visit www.pleasantondowntown.net.