RIO VISTA — The city by Monday should have at least a rough idea of how to proceed with future revitalization efforts.
With the Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team in town over the weekend, the city is hoping to develop a clear vision of what needs to happen to make the city more appealing to outsiders as well as a place for locals to be proud of.
The seven-member team of professionals from all over the country includes experts in city planning, architecture, revitalization, economic development and landscape design.
Team members began their study with a community tour Friday morning, followed by a series of stakeholder meetings focused around transportation, downtown/waterfront, and community and developing a sense of place.
Although it was early in the four-day study, the team members were already impressed with the city and beginning to see what kinds of things need to happen to revitalize and modernize Rio Vista.
“We’re learning a lot. I am a member of the team and I come from a small town in a remote, rural area in Vermont,” said Patricia Sears, executive director of the Newport Renaissance Corp. “We’re on an international lake and you all here are on the river, so there’s some similarities.”
Sears also spoke from firsthand experience about the value of these type of studies.
“We had a R/UDAT about five years ago come to us and . . . it was very powerful in helping us focus and advance change,” Sears said. “So I’m seeing some good things here and that’s why I was asking for what people’s perceptions of their assets are because something that we have found successful with us is, what do we have? That tells us what we don’t have and that tells us the next steps. And that’s what we’re assessing a little bit here.”
Edwin Okamura, executive director of the RioVision Steering Committee, which applied last year for the team study through the Washington, D.C.-based American Institute of Architects, said Friday was a good start for the team and for the city.
“I stepped in on each one of (the stakeholder meetings) and it’s been a really interesting mix of people that showed up,” he said. “I was just at the downtown and waterfront session and they had three mayors there, our current mayor and two former mayors.”
Okamura said RioVision’s goal for the weekend survey is simple.
“A plan that we can execute, and a plan that engages the entire community,” he said. “And I think that’s what (the team) is trying to accomplish here is get us all to as a community come together and say, ‘Hey, this is what we want.’ ”
Between the three afternoon sessions, close to 80 people showed up to give input on what they felt the city needs.
At the community and sense of place meeting, around 20 stakeholders, including city leaders, business owners and residents, discussed what needs to happen to develop a cohesive sense of community.
Ideas for offering more events to attract outsiders, marketing the current city events and more were tossed around. Some lamented that outside of Rio Vista, few people even know the city exists – even Sacramento Episcopal Church authorities who were confused about where a new parish opened up.
One person brought up a long-running AT&T Wireless television commercial featuring a runner getting lost and ending up among the windmills in the Montezuma Hills outside of town: “That AT&T commercial was all too true.”
The consensus of the group was that stakeholders need to find a way to focus ideas and energy into positive changes, and that’s where the team study comes in.
“It’s about nurturing the relationships into partnerships and using that power to affect change. I think it’s been eye-opening for me,” Sears said, adding that Rio Vista has potential. “The history is really rich but I think the future, it’s a matter of agreeing to be accountable to move something forward.”
Team leader Wayne Feiden, planning director for Northampton, Mass., said things were going well, although the team was still in listening mode Friday.
Aside from downtown/waterfront, the sense of community and transportation issues, Feiden said a longer term issue to address is the future of Highway 12 and what to do if the highway is eventually re-routed around town.
“We heard a lot of comments on all of those things and some really good ideas,” Feiden said.
He also said the tour was a good starting point for the team’s assessment.
“We certainly got a lot. Downtown has some really strong things,” Feiden said. “Some vacant buildings. But the tour sort of helped us see how the community all fits together.”
The team survey, which is paid for by the American Institute of Architects, continues through Sunday with a final public presentation at 6 p.m. Monday at D.H. White Elementary School, 500 Elm Way, Rio Vista.
Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6979 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mcorposdr.