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Personal Reflections on Revitalization
March 2009 | Tony Corso, Stratford


15th Street in the '60s.  Courtesy of Del Mar Historical Society.


Most of us are aware that the Del Mar City Council recently took another step towards revitalizing the commercial center with the adoption of what is referred to as a “Form-Based Code.” As reported in the previous edition of The Sandpiper, Form-Based Code is a physical design process for determining the ultimate form and mass of structures in a specific district, the function and relationship of buildings one to another, ideal architectural standards, the character of public spaces, including streets and streetscape and overall landscape design.

This approach, applied to controlling development and achieving a more pleasant and viable commercial district has been used successfully in Austin, Texas, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Denver, Colorado, and in such diverse Californian cities as: Ventura, Santa Anna, Benicia, Grass Valley and Oakland.

There are impressive examples of revitalization to be found in such places. Moreover, they often manage to achieve a recognizable “sense of place” - one with a robust identity, unique character and the ability to attract those searching for a pleasant gathering place.

It seems that a form-based code approach to revitalization has much to recommend it. However, there is one aspect of such revitalization that is seldom examined and reported upon—the quality of businesses and other activities sheltered and accommodated in the new and rehabilitated structures.

One might ask, “Is the investment of time and resources worth the effort if it generates an unimaginative collection of businesses or enterprises oriented to little more than casual shopping and dining? If so, can it continue to attract visitors and residents in the long run? “

Perhaps, as a part of efforts to revitalize the Del Mar Village Center, representatives of the private and public sectors, including local residents, might discuss: “Beyond land use, what types of activities and businesses ought to be accommodated in a revitalized commercial center?” What contribution might a revitalized center make to the development of “community” or to the implementation of the Community Plan? To what degree are proposed uses imaginative, inspired, inventive or innovative?
Knowing Del Mar, I suspect some of this dialogue has already begun.

I recently visited Fallbrook and discovered an exciting plan to rejuvenate the commercial district with the development of a large art center, which will serve as the focal point of commercial revitalization.


Historical Photos: Many of the historical pictures on these pages are included in a slim volume that can be bought online from the Del Mar Historical Society: "Discovering Del Mar's Past." Click here.


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