LIVINGSTON — A group of planners who have been working with city officials presented the Livingston City Council this week with ideas about how to develop an arts and culture district in town.
A community assistance program of the American Institute of Architects assessed Livingston and took suggestions this week before making recommendations Wednesday on developing aesthetics in the city.
The process is part of the Sustainable Design Assessment Teams program, which helps communities design themselves in a sensible and maintainable fashion. The city submitted a proposal to the group, and it was one of six across the country selected to be in the program.
The five-person team from the American Institute of Architects included artists and architects from El Paso, Texas; Portland, Ore.; Seattle; and Washington, D.C.
"The goal is to create a defined area for culture and arts, and get the community to rally around this particular area," said City Manager Jose Ramirez.
Ideas floated at the meeting included murals, sidewalk art, cobblestones, public performances and painted mailboxes, among others, Ramirez said.
The proposed district, which would stretch across both sides of Highway 99 and encompass Main Street, Livingston High and other areas, is meant to give visitors and residents walkable destinations, Ramirez said.
It's important to designate the district, Ramirez said, so that art pieces are connected to one another. He said he's excited about the ideas.
"It just opens a whole new world of possibilities," Ramirez said. "There's people who have a lot to give, and we just made a pathway for them to give."
Three grants awarded
The city was awarded three grants that are paying for professionals to shape ideas into a plan. One grant paid for the AIA review, and the other two paid for the California Chapter of New Urbanists and the Local Government Commission to visit in June. Architects, urban designers, planners and economic development professionals took part in the June planning sessions.
Councilman Gurpal Samra said the plans from the arts and culture experts will blend well with those from the urban planners.
Arts and culture is a way to tie buildings to the people in the community, Samra said. Livingston has a diverse population, with people of Indian, Japanese, Portuguese, Mexican and other heritages.
Samra said a vibrant arts and culture district can take advantage of that diversity and put a personal touch on area aesthetics.
Samra compared it to decorating a new home that was planned and built by someone else. "When you move in, you decide how you want it for yourself," he said.
The AIA team's report is expected in about two months.
Samra said the time for planning is right with city changes in the works.
Earlier this month, the City Council voted to demolish the historical Livingston Court Theater, which is in the heart of the proposed art district.
Also, Samra said, the council has proposed $800,000 for downtown revitalization in its yet-to-be-approved budget.
Reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.