Making a Positive Impact in Downtown Redding
By Jon Lewis
Shine a LightNovember 2015
Story and Photos by Jon Lewis
For a town that was saddled with the rather ignominious name of Poverty Flats when it sprang to life in the 1870s, Redding has grown—in fits and starts at times—into a city of fairly high regard. To see how far Redding has come, it helps to look at where it’s been, and the downtown area provides a nice window into the past. It also shines a light on what the future may hold.
“It’s the heart of our community,” says John Truitt, a Redding native and director of Viva Downtown, a nonprofit volunteer group focused on enhancing the area’s cultural, social and economic development. “It’s the history of the whole community.”
The classic directional streets—East, West, South and North— provide the frame for downtown’s early years. “It’s where the city started,” says Truitt. “It’s home to great local businesses, it’s home to the Arts Council, the Cascade Theatre … you can walk from place to place downtown and I really like that. Redding is built like a downtown; it doesn’t have a big suburban ‘car rules’ kind of atmosphere.”
Kenny Breedlove has been gung-ho on downtown since he returned to his hometown in 2006 and opened Market St. Steakhouse at the corner of Market and Sacramento streets. The downtown he sees today is a far cry from the one he remembers as a kid, when his mother would use the downtown Redding mall as a “pseudo babysitter.”
“It’s changed so much,” says Breedlove, who has gone on to establish other successful downtown businesses, including Shameless O’Leery’s. He cites the positive impacts created by Gateway, the mixed-use building developed by Brent Weaver, and the similar renovation of the old Greyhound bus station by Jane and Dean White.
Gone are the days when the mall gave the area a look that resembled a ghost town more than a downtown; present are a parade of fairs and festivals, a colorful threeblock-long promenade where the mall once stood, fun boutiques and inviting restaurants to provide company for the stalwart Jack’s Grill.
“There’s a lot of additional new energy and a lot of new businesses,” says Truitt. “And you can’t underestimate the effect the Cascade Theatre has had on things. Now there’s the Shasta College center and the new courthouse construction will be happening soon, and new restaurants to go to. Clearly, it has changed for the better.
The changes and updates continue, as evidenced by the three-day parklet and popup market on California Street in September that drew rave reviews. “That was so awesome. If that’s the writing on the wall for things to come, I’d be so excited,” Breedlove says of the project that was coordinated by Shasta Living Streets, Enjoy magazine and Cascade Square developer Craig Kraffert.
Breedlove says he’d gladly sacrifice a parking space in front of Shameless O’Leery’s for a permanent parklet in the hopes it would add to the walkability of downtown.
“Downtown Redding has embraced the idea of complete streets,” says Truitt, and that philosophy is revealed in new pathways and traffic patterns that are friendlier to pedestrians and bicyclists.
Efforts to create a more people-friendly downtown have not gone unappreciated at the Damburger, a downtown institution that has been serving up burgers and fries from its Placer Street location since 1962.
“I do see an effort by businesses to try and make downtown an attractive place to be,” says Julie Malik, who has been running the restaurant since 2005 when her parents, Ron and Kathy Dickey, retired. For her part, she recently added a patio cover and flower pots. “We feel by beautifying downtown it will bring more people down. We’re trying to do our part.
“We love downtown and we want to see it get better. We talk about it a lot. We definitely feel like we have a great location,” Malik says.
Linda Morris opened Dandelion, a women’s clothing and home décor store, in 1999 and operated it on Market Street in Sherven Square until this past spring when she relocated to Pine Street.
“I just like the downtown area, the buildings and the older stuff,” Morris says. “Downtown is making a comeback … we really like it in downtown Redding.”