Faces of Downtown
By Jessica Nguyen
Mahala Burns is an active member of the Downtown Stockton Community. A dedicated realtor for Cort Companies, a strong advocate for the revitalization of downtown, and an active board member for the Downtown Stockton Alliance, Mahala has witnessed Downtown Stockton’s evolution firsthand over the twenty-six years that she’s worked in this community. It was a pleasure to hear from her perspective.
How It All Started
This year marks Mahala’s 26th year working in Downtown Stockton! Wondering what the downtown area was like back when she first started? She shares, “It was very different…kind of a ghost town. There wasn’t a lot of activity and there were many boarded-up buildings.” Since then, downtown’s recent influx of local businesses, events, and other significant changes make it a much more vibrant community. Mahala adds, “It’s getting better every year!” We agree!
Dan Cort, CEO of Cort Companies, was one of the DSA founders and served on the board until Mahala later took over. She’s now been a DSA Board Member for 15 years! While reflecting on her time here, she points out that the DSA office hasn’t always been at its current Bridge Place location: “It’s [the DSA] been in a couple different locations, but the mission has been the same- to support property owners.” She’s proud of the DSA’s work in serving local businesses and its dedication to bringing people downtown to support local shops and events.
What Contributed to Downtown’s Change?
When asked about the specific changes that have positively impacted downtown, Mahala answers with “economic vitality.” The price per square foot for downtown property spaces haven’t increased dramatically over the past several decades, but much of the change comes from the energetic business owners who decided to set up shop downtown. Mahala commends these millennials for bringing in trendy businesses such as coffee shops and living/work spaces.
However, she credits the Stockton Collegiate International Schools charter school for being the highest agent of transformative change in Downtown. Eleven years ago, the k-12 school made Downtown Stockton its home and, “introduced children to the downtown area.” This was quite significant, for Mahala shares, “seeing kids injected so much life and vitality to the area… it gave us hope that there was a future.” This helped to quell myths that Downtown Stockton was a dangerous area that should be avoided at all costs. The school (along with the Team Charter School that opened later) proved to adults that if kids were safe in Downtown Stockton, they would be too.
What Are You Most Excited To See In Downtown’s Future?
Mahala explains that Monday through Friday within the hours of 9am to 5pm, Downtown Stockton’s streets are pretty active with workers, shoppers, and visitors. Unfortunately, the evenings are significantly less lively. Therefore, Mahala is most excited for the 81 new market-rate residential spaces/units that will soon be added in various buildings around downtown. There will be live/work spaces as well as regular loft apartments in areas such as across the street from Trail Coffee. She believes that having people live in downtown is the next step to breathing life into those quiet evenings.
Favorite Place to Have Lunch Downtown?
Without hesitation, Mahala shares that her go-to destination is the Thai Thai Restaurant, where she orders chicken noodle soup with broccoli.
Favorite Coffee Spot Downtown?
Mahala’s favorite spot is Trail Coffee, and she highly recommends the Coffee Milkshake! (Honestly, I’m now convinced to try it)
What is Downtown’s spirit animal?
“A beaver, because of the water and because beavers are persistent- they build their lodges and someone destroys it- next day, it’s back up again…they don’t give up.”