While it has patches of charm, the overall expression of Goleta’s Hollister Avenue is dull, worn and not visually enticing.
That’s according to a study by Downtown Works, a retail market analysis consulting firm.
The research is a snapshot of what business leaders and city officials learned Thursday at the second “Old Town Business Summit” hosted by the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce.
The chamber’s representatives invited the general public for a morning full of topics ranging from Old Town renovation projects to discussing opportunities and challenges the area is facing.
Goleta chamber board chairwoman Hallie Avolio welcomed more than 40 attendees to the free summit at the Butler Event Center.
“Over the years, I learned that Old Town is is a beautiful, vibrant and authentic community,” Avolio said. “There’s eclectic retail stores, good eating establishments and places to congregate with friends — there is a charm about Old Town.”
Downtown Organization of Santa Barbara director Maggie Campbell presented a study about retail stores along Hollister Avenue.
“Overall, they (survey consultants) felt there was potential, but the overall visual experience is less than appealing,” Campbell said. “You can make incremental change just with paint.”
The report shows a lack of eye-catching storefronts and streetscaping elements along Hollister Avenue. Many operations looked at were “tired in appearance and in need of a facelift,” the report states.
Key demographic numbers support the Old Town community’s economic potential, according to the report.
More than 97,000 people live within a 10-minute drive to the area.
Data show 44.9 percent of the population within that range hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, and $95,000 is the average household income for people living within a 10-minute drive to Old Town. The average household income within a 20-minute commute is $102,000.
Numbers highlighting psychographics — lifestyle values and attitudes — show 84 percent of the 0-10 minute population fall into the following groups: dorms to diplomas (25.3 percent), exurbanites (12.4 percent), pleasantville (9.3 percent), trendsetters (9 percent), in style (6.1 percent), urban chic (5.9 percent), golden years (4.9 percent), international marketplace (4.9 percent), retirement communities (3.5 percent) and enterprising professionals (2.9 percent).
Recommendations from the survey consultants include making Hollister Avenue more pedestrian-friendly through traffic calming and streetscaping. Focusing on the needs of residents within a 10-minute drive of Goleta’s commercial area and being mindful of parking as the space evolves were advice noted.
Growing and building on the small clusters of stores, eateries and personal services around the intersection of Hollister and Magnolia avenues were suggested.
Another recommendation was enhancing the look of retail storefronts and making the outside more appealing. Survey consultants urged considering artwork such as murals on blank walls to enhance Hollister Avenue visually.
Not only did the summit provide topics of business, but the event also offered an overview of the ways the city is addressing issues in Old Town and plans underway.
Goleta city spokeswoman Valerie Kushnerov informed the crowd about how city staff is working on revamping Old Town with new projects.
She noted restoring sidewalks and walking paths, replacing the Hollister Avenue Bridge over San Jose Creek, the 4-acre park slated at Hollister and Kellogg avenues, as wells as signage and sidewalk improvements.
Improving the quality of life by making Hollister Avenue appealing to walk, drive and shop, making the street safer for all travel modes and reduce cut-through traffic are a few goals Kushnerov added.
Addressing infrastructure improvements, enhancing the physical and economic environment, continuing to secure public parking and supporting the vitality of Old Town are some the city’s additional goals, Kushnerov said.
Other projects include the Goleta Valley Community Center facility repairs and a High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk signal at Hollister Avenue and Chapel Street.
Kushnerov also noted conducting a drainage analysis of Old Town streets and creating a community garden at Armitos Park.
“This is an ambitious program of work for the next two (fiscal) years,” Kushnerov said. “The City Council remains committed to improvements in Old Town. The Old Town area is recognized as a historic part.”
To provide input as the projects are developed, text “Goleta Old Town” to 468311 or sign up at www.CityofGolea.org.
Kristen Miller, president and CEO of the 600-member Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, said demographic change is fueling shifts in downtown areas.
“Our opportunity is to take downtown to the next level so that people have a sense of place and pride — a working downtown that meets modern needs,” Miller said. “We are tracking local and global changes. We see a trend that the coolest cities in America are striving to be about the people compared to the infrastructure.”
One trend Old Town businesses can use as an opportunity, Miller said, is the shift away from brick-and-mortar retailers and a recognition that people shop more for an experience and entertainment.
Miller urged small business owners to recognize the importance of online presence and digital reach.
“Old Town is fortunate not to have a vacancy issue,” Miller said. “As digital continues to touch the consumer journey, small businesses need to get in on that action. Retailers are becoming multi-channeled.”