For optimum deliciousness, meals should be cooked just right. A couple of minutes too long in a toaster and bread turns carcinogenic. We encounter the concept of timing hundreds of moments each day. It is especially important in business. Most know to buy a stock when the price is low and sell when the price is high. Don’t ask for a raise when the company is about to go bankrupt. In most areas of our lives, daily tasks and big decisions, timing is everything.
Top entrepreneurs execute at the right time. They seem to have a supernatural instinct about outside forces and trends, understanding just before the rest of us when is the perfect time to create a new product, offer a new service, enter a new line of business or close an existing one. They say being a little early is OK, but being late is a disaster. Ideas cobbled together at the right moment, fueled by big dreams and hard work, coalesced into pioneering movements like Lyft, Lululemon, Stripe, Starbucks, Minted, Drybar, Instagram and WeWork.
Bill Gross from IdeaLabs gave a popular TED Talk about "timing" being the single biggest reason for startup success. Many entrepreneurs feel that this means success and failure in business is significantly based on luck. This isn't really the case. It’s all about recognizing when the time has come to shift focus.
The same concept applies to our downtown. In last week’s Californian, Sacramento Bee Columnist Dan Walters wrote that the time is decidedly out for redevelopment, which some might think spells disaster for downtown. This program of state and federal statutes gave cities and counties the ability to establish redevelopment agencies to attack urban decay. Agencies were given significant authority to acquire real property and use the power of eminent domain to develop and sell property, without bidding, and relocate property owners. It had a positive impact kickstarting revitalization in many downtowns. There were many abuses, but good projects came from the program.
As Walters wrote, the concept came to a screeching halt seven years ago when the Legislature and then-Gov. Jerry Brown abolished redevelopment.
And, honestly, I would argue that we don’t need it. Our downtown can make it on its own with market-based, private-sector investment. Through redevelopment and public sector projects, impactful investments have been made. Groups and nonprofits should continue efforts to push for quality-of-life improvements, but the focus has shifted solely to the private sector.
Last week, my husband, Austin, was asked to speak about downtown to a group of more then 300 of the most engaged community leaders and business owners gathered for the Institute of Real Estate Management's Real Estate Forecast Breakfast.
It’s a sign of downtown’s progress that he was asked to speak about it. In the past, downtown was not seen as viable because of its vacant buildings, limited parking and distance from new housing. But the old perception of downtown is rapidly changing. This shift bodes well for our entire city's ability to grow and thrive.
We live in a digital age where convenience and online interactions dominate. A glossy Internet veneer makes the hunger for authenticity and tangible connections even greater. Downtowns, with all their place character and history, density and culture, provide this.
Downtown is the civic front door for residents and newcomers. It’s the welcome mat for visitors. It’s the Saturday night out for residents living all over our city. It’s a home base for a growing number of businesses. It’s the innovative, creative and cultural hub. More public art projects, plays, concerts and symphony productions happen downtown. It’s the recreational destination for festivals, holiday parades and sports events. It affects the lives of people living all over the city like no other real estate.
It’s the destination of many daily commutes, since it serves as a huge job center. More than 25,000 people work downtown on a daily basis, according to Kern Council of Governments. It has the highest concentration of restaurants with more than 70 downtown. Our downtown saw a healthy number of new businesses open in 2018 — 120, according to data from the City of Bakersfield. Downtown hotels (The Bakersfield Marriott at the Convention Center and The Padre) have the highest occupancy and room rates of anywhere in town. The Padre's occupancy rate of 75 percent to 80 percent exceeds the industry standard of 65 percent. New, market-rate, multi-family housing downtown has the highest rents in town. Downtown's "Walk Scores," which measure an areas's pedestrian friendliness, are the highest in Bakersfield.
Downtowns in mid-sized cities are the leading role in a huge migratory trend across the country. “After investment in parks and greenspace, homegrown tech hubs and downtown redevelopment, many small and mid-size metros are seeing more signs of life and increased migration,” according to a recent Brookings Institution analysis of U.S. Census data. “This comes at a time when larger superstar cities are seeing slower population growth and an uptick in domestic out-migration.”
Patrick Sisson from Curbed reported on U.S. Census data: “Mid- or second-tier cities, loosely defined as those under a million people ... are increasingly seen as not just places to find a lower cost of living, easier commute and closer connections with family, but also a more approachable, neighborhood-oriented version of the urban lifestyle that sent many to the larger cities in the first place.”
The story of our own downtown fits neatly within this narrative.
All signs point to growth and success for our downtown. We are living at an exciting time in the story of our city. Downtown is circling back to its origins when it thrived as a center of commerce, entertainment and trade. It can now stand on its own without government-assisted redevelopment. Not only will our community benefit from new restaurants, offices and housing downtown, so, too, will those who have the foresight to see now as the time to invest their talents and treasure in the future of our city.