by Ben Sanchez
Cut your ribbon.
A buzzing sound lingered in the air near San Joaquin Street and Miner Avenue in downtown Stockton. I took a brisk walk from the office to find people gathering for the Miner Avenue Complete Streets ribbon-cutting ceremony. I can hear the sound grow louder as I round the corner off Channel Street. Days before, the Economic Development Department (EDD) dropped a flier on Instagram noting that on Wednesday, March 16, the community was invited to the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The buzzing sound of a drone flying above the streets captured the new roundabout at the intersection. Standing in the middle of the roundabout, The Spire. A historic art fountain that once occupied Hunter Square was designed by Glen Mortensen. The new plaque on the base of The Spire bathed in sunlight. I bet you have seen Mortensen’s architecture in Stockton. More specifically, Burns Tower at University of the Pacific and the School of Pharmacy.
Mayor Kevin J. Lincoln arrived on scene along with several public figures presenting short speeches to the public. A row of easels showcased the before and after photographs on a long time project coming to the finish line.
What a long road it has been for Miner Avenue. Jodi Almassy, City of Stockton Director of Public Works, addressed the crowd explaining the “labor of love” that went into the project. Since 2008, the complexity of the project achieved funding from six separate sources with Siegfried Engineering as the lead design firm.
I navigated the crowd, saying hello to fellow community members and business owners who attended the event. We all stood together watching the mayor grip giant scissors. He lifted them into position awaiting the signal to cut the ribbon. Cue a short pause for the photo op moment. Looking at all the development in this area, I think back to last year when the team and I would film vlog footage near Miner Avenue.
Throughout our walks of downtown, Miner was one of those areas with constant construction over the past winter. We veered and maneuvered our way past construction vehicles and workers who made progress block by block. The crew made us aware of the safety precautions along the sidewalks as they worked around the weather to pave streets.
Part of the footage can be viewed in our vlog episode 4 here (Or you might spot it in a reel on Instagram). You might remember sidewalk construction along Miner or certain cross streets shut down during this process last year. New bike lanes were installed with reduced traffic from four lanes down to two (Siegfried Engineering tells me this is called a road diet or lane reduction).
The impact on commuter traffic in downtown increased at this time as people discovered new ways to navigate their parking spots. Businesses along Miner started to view the transformation roll out over 2021. I know Beas Auto Sales kept customers aware through their popular Instagram stories. Their awareness to the situation at hand assisted customers who ventured downtown throughout construction times (Also their selection of lo-fi music used on Instagram is inspired by yours truly.)
The right time.
With businesses adjusting to downtown development, the question on everyone’s mind is, ”What is happening in downtown?”
A question I am most certain Eric Alvarez, City of Stockton Deputy Director of Public Works, is asked frequently. Alvarez jumped on a Zoom call to talk to the Downtown Stockton Alliance about his role with the city. Several months before the ribbon cutting, Alvarez gave an overview of several projects throughout the city. You can watch his full interview here.
When asked about the Miner Avenue Complete Street Improvements project he said, “It’s taken a long time — Miner is a large project in terms of its length. But with anything, the driver is money. You have to have the money to see it through.”
He noted a lot of minor details (see what I did there?) in his discussion about the project. Timing was everything when applying for funding on this project. Once grant funding was secured they had to find an ideal time to get to work with weather conditions and other challenges ahead.
“It took 10 years to get from the idea to finishing the work,” says Alvarez. Throughout their continued efforts to improve Miner Avenue several agencies were involved in the process to complete the project including Siegfried Engineering, Salaber Associates, and George Reed noted as key consultants and contractors.
During the ceremony, I stood next to Chris Kay, Marketing Manager and Business Development at Siegfried Engineering. I am sure you know of Chris Kay. His accolades within the community speak volumes throughout the city. A family man, entrepreneur, leader, broadcaster, and overall just a wonderful human, he set aside some time to answer my questions about Miner Avenue. He shakes a lot of hands as people come up to greet him. Kay spoke about the key points with this project and how he worked directly with Alvarez and his team. “The city is an extension of our staff — it truly is a collaborative effort,” says Kay.
Over the course of conversation, Kay revealed this was a complex project that started years ago. “Our company was involved from the very beginning,” says Kay, “We assisted with grant writing and preliminary designs, and were the lead design firm on this project.” This is another significant milestone for the company. The northern and central California engineering firm has an incredible portfolio of roadway projects and improvement projects throughout California. Their expertise and insight offered the city a new perspective when designs were finalized (Remember that road diet we talked about).
As we gazed toward the Spire I asked him what his thoughts were with his firm bringing this idea to fruition. “To see it finished is amazing,” says Kay. “The long standing project complete is incredible to see in our hometown.”
You might not know this, but the development project on Miner is considered a ten block corridor. From the railroad tracks all the way to Center Street.
*Photo courtesy of Siegfried Engineering.