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[whitespace] Loop streets will become parking zones in an effort to slow traffic

Campbell--Late last week, the "race track" that had been unintentionally looped around downtown Campbell--Civic Center Drive and Orchard City Drive--was modified back into regular roads, which had been the original intention. The new streets can be distinguished from the old race track by freshly painted parking spaces, paid for by the Campbell Redevelopment Agency, for the purpose of slowing down traffic and increasing parking opportunities.

"You create what's called side friction," explains Kirk Heinrichs, Redevelopment Agency manager. "People getting in and out of their cars have the tendency to slow traffic down."

And there are other benefits: 95 extra parking spaces which everyone hopes will lure more shoppers to downtown Campbell.

Campbell has had somewhat of a love-hate relationship with Civic Center Drive and Orchard City Drive since they were constructed in the mid-'70s. According to Heinrichs, the streets were initially built because East Campbell Avenue, one of the only east-west connector streets between Bascom Avenue and Winchester Boulevard, was becoming too congested. Campbell City Councilwoman Jeanette Watson remembers downtown traffic before these streets were built.

"It used to be just a steady stream of cars, and to be able to park downtown it was just impossible," Watson says.

Merchants and residents of downtown Campbell and people who traverse between Bascom and Hamilton regularly felt they needed Orchard City Drive and Civic Center Drive.

"As a resident, I think it's a good thing because if you were here before, it would back up miles and miles to get through downtown," says Merry Heskett, owner of Allthings Past N Present.

With the construction of the loop streets, the goal of reducing traffic on East Campbell Avenue was accomplished--perhaps too well.

"The loop streets became race tracks, and nobody was going downtown," Watson says.

Of course, the roads weren't the only reason downtown Campbell suffered. Historic downtowns were suffering throughout the Santa Clara Valley in the late 1970s due to the rise of shopping malls, Heinrichs says.

"I think it was a combination of things [such as] the progression of suburban sprawl with the development of malls," Heinrichs says. "The same thing happened in downtown San Jose with the development of Valley Fair."

Last fall, the city attempted to undo any wrongs the loop streets may have caused by approving a program to stripe parking spots along both roads. The move corresponded well with the city and Redevelopment Agency's broader goal to revitalize downtown Campbell.

"We're trying to create more of a downtown feel," Heinrichs says. "We think parking on the sides will help accomplish that."

Some business owners have high hopes that the parking spots will encourage more shopping in the downtown.

"I think it will help," says Karla Hunt, owner of Expressions from the Heart. "So many people use those loop streets as a means to get from Winchester to Bascom. And so many people aren't even aware that the downtown is here. Anything [the city] does will help."

Other merchants, however, are less optimistic.

"I don't think it will make a big impact," Merry Heskett says. "The new parking garage however, that will make a big impact."

Heinrichs says the RDA's move to allow parking along the loop streets is one of many actions his agency is taking in attempts to revitalize the downtown.

"I think if you look at any downtown or any commercial district and you talk to any retailer, the two things they want to see is a critical mass and availability of parking," Heinrichs said.

The RDA also sponsors the Campbell Farmer's Market and will soon pay to build sidewalks and plant trees along the loop streets. The redevelopment agency also coordinates the business assistance program, whereby desirable retail or restaurant businesses that will likely have an immediate impact on the downtown can receive waivers or other financial assistance.
Cecily Barnes

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Web extra to the June 10-16, 1999 issue of Metro.

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