The Merced Main Street Association, made up of dozens of business owners, was awarded a contract this week to oversee the downtown marketing and a tax paid by business owners in the area.
Last year, several business owners challenged the city on how the roughly $60,000 a year in downtown tax money was being used, and the City Council decided to wash its hands of the issue. Now the association will be in charge of how to keep the downtown clean, safe and good for business.
Awarded the contract on Monday, the association wants to get the ball rolling on events that bring people and their families downtown. President Daniel Kazakos, chief executive officer of spa retailer Country Comfort on Main Street, said the association has been working toward that goal for about eight months.
“Now the tough work really starts,” he said. “Now we’ve got this allotment of money. What is the best course to go spend that?”
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The association is toying with ideas for events, he said, one of which is a farmers market every Saturday morning. The idea would move the existing farmers market from its spot near City Hall to the cul-de-sac south of Bob Hart Square. Kazakos said the move could open up the event to live music and locally based food and fun.
The association wants to be transparent, he said, and will work toward posting minutes from the board meetings and planning monthly meet-and-greets with Merced’s residents.
Aside from the hard work left to do and the wrinkles to iron out, Kazakos said, the association is looking forward to what’s to come. “We’re genuinely excited,” he said.
Merced’s downtown is the area bounded by G and V streets, the Union Pacific railroad tracks and the alley north of 19th Street. The more than 500 businesses in that area pay double taxes on their business licenses, according to city records, and the money is pooled into a downtown fund.
A downtown survey from last year reported communitywide events, maintenance and security were most important in the minds of business owners.
Alissa Haynes, who is on the association’s board of directors, said the goal is simple: “We want to create a better neighborhood that feels safer.”
The association’s proposed budget for the $60,000 contract puts nearly half toward “safety and security.” The ideas to reach that goal, association leaders said, are still in their infancy but could include lighting and efforts to clamp down on panhandling.
Haynes, also the manager of Second Time Around used book store on Main Street, said the association would like to act as a facilitator for others who want to organize events or parades in downtown.
The association wants to build on the yearly events that already call downtown home, leaders said. There are about 50 businesses represented in the association, which includes business owners, landowners and store managers.
Kevin Hammon, owner of Binary Systems Computer Repair on Main Street, said he’s been pushing for an association run by business owners for more than three years. Now a member of the association’s board, he said “it’s a relief” the city turned over the reins to owners.
“It’s something everyone’s going to benefit from in the long run,” he said. “They just don’t know it yet.”
For questions or to reach the members of the association, email email@example.com or call Daniel Kazakos at (209) 261-4274.
Sun-Star staff writer Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.