EUREKA- It’s the most visited area of the city, but full development there cannot happen overnight. The City of Eureka has invested millions of dollars in the renovation of the city’s waterfront over a period of about 20 years. However, after a quick stroll down the boardwalk, you’ll likely notice the area is not fully developed. For Part 1 of Waterfront Watch, we’ll take a look at the plans that are currently in place and which possible projects are out there to turn Eureka’s waterfront into a more visitor friendly attraction.
Life-long Eureka residents say the waterfront is better than ever.
"There was nothing here. There were just old, dilapidated buildings and you could hardly get down to the water. It was definitely not like this. I mean this is a huge improvement," said Sandra Kennedy, a Eureka resident.
In 1993, the City of Eureka adopted a revitalization plan for the waterfront, a plan former city manager David Tyson helped execute.
"It included the fisherman's warehouse and dock facilities. It included pieces of this boardwalk. It included many projects to bring the public back to their waterfront and gain access to their waterfront," said Tyson.
Sixty-two million dollars later, the waterfront is now more developed. Tourists and North Coast residents alike visit the waterfront every day, on a lunch break or for an afternoon stroll. Even with the progress made over the years, officials with the Eureka Police Department say the area still faces issues.
"We do get some occasional problems with theft, with robbery, with transient related issues as well. People camping out, litter and so forth. So yeah, it can be a little problematic," said Police Chief Andrew Mills with the Eureka Police Department.
But Chief Mills thinks there is a solution to the problem.
"I absolutely believe that a fully developed waterfront would make it safer downtown…People make a rational choice to commit crime. The greater the natural surveillance, the greater they're likely to get caught, the more people are out there milling around, the less likely they are to go down there and commit crime,” Police Chief Mills said.
A fully developed waterfront can only arrive one project at a time, and the hotel project behind the boardwalk between C and F Streets has been in the works for more than 10 years.
"The Waterfront Hotel is certainly something that will occur. It's something that the community has always supported going back all the way to the early 2000s and late 1990s,” said Tyson.
"A resort would be fabulous. Here on the water. I mean everybody coming in could enjoy the beautiful surroundings that we have here," Kennedy said.
"Marriott loved this site. They said it's one of the best sites that they can find on the coast of California right now. You could imagine having a hotel like that, the kind of people that it would bring to this area," said John Ash, one of the developers of the hotel project.
Nearby, the 38-acre balloon track has been in its current condition since the closure of the rail lines in the 1980s. The Marina Center Project has been in the works since 2004 to develop the area into a development with commercial, retail and office space.
"The development plan that we presented doesn't restrict, it actually enhances access to the waterfront. There's trails that are part of it. There's open space,” said Michael Casey, the Executive Vice President of Real Estate for Security National Properties.
Other projects on Eureka’s waterfront do not have as much traction, like another parcel of land near the hotel project zoned for commercial use, or the area between the Adorni Center and the Samoa Bridge which was also zoned for commercial use.
"Swim Possible was interested in the property down by the Adorni Center, that project doesn't look like it's going to come to fruition," said Michael Knight, the Assistant City Manager of Eureka.
Industrial use zoning is in place for the parcels of land next to the Wharfinger Building. Even though the sites would not be open to visitors, city officials say that kind of development is important for Eureka as well.
"When you have structures and development, you have increased property taxes. So Eureka realizes increased revenues in the general fund and that helps fund all of our police, public safety, parks and recreation. So it's a quality of life issue," Knight said.
But having development projects in progress and actually seeing those projects come to fruition are two separate things entirely.