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Downtown Madera is not only a part of our past, but a symbol of our future

On behalf of the Madera Young Professionals, I would like to extend my thanks to community members, event sponsors, and local exhibitors for taking part in our first annual “Madera 125 Pop-up” event in Downtown Madera on Friday, June 15th. In particular, I’d like to give special thanks to Sunrise Rotary, Madera Rotary, Riley’s Brewing, Camarena Health, Madera Downtown Association, Crown Services, Dawg Pound League Cornhole, and the Madera Chamber of Commerce, for their generous support.

Madera Young Professionals was established in 2016 to provide networking and professional support to career-minded Maderans, while also providing opportunities to contribute to our community. This year, we decided to do something a little different and organize an event in a family-friendly, fun and casual setting, while showcasing our Downtown, local service clubs, community partners, and local businesses.

We converted the underutilized roadway between Yosemite Avenue and 5th Street near the Old Train Depot, known as Cesar Chavez Plaza, and had several hundred people in attendance. Folks were able to hear live jazz and rock music by The Experience, enjoy authentic Oaxacan cuisine from Los Girasoles, pizza by the slice by Papa Murphy’s, local artwork and children’s activities by the Madera Arts Council, and enjoy a cool night under the stars and quaintly strung lights. Riley’s Brewing, a local Madera-based craft brewing company, premiered their “Madera 125” label in commemoration of Madera County’s 125th anniversary. The beer was produced just two miles away from the event space.

The event proved that excitement and fun can be had at Cesar Chavez Plaza, while exemplifying the community’s history, resources and potential in Downtown Madera. A couple of road closures and a little creativity can bring E Street and Yosemite Avenue alive. The Plaza offers a beautiful backdrop that features a crisp and welcoming tree line, ample lighting, and an open roadway that can accommodate future street fairs, farmers markets, and community events.

We hope to make this the first of many events, and most importantly, encourage others to look for “place-making” opportunities for our Downtown, too. In fact, local businesses and community organizations, like Wilson’s Motorcycles and the Coalition for Community Justice, are already taking it upon themselves, organizing block parties, utilizing buildings to display mural artwork, and converting empty parking lots to support “First Friday” pop-up art shows. Businesses, organizations, and community members alike are not just waiting for revitalization to occur, they are already spearheading and experiencing it.

The “Madera 125” pop-up event served as a testament to this growing vision and desire to do more for our Downtown and its businesses.

Fortunately, there are efforts underway to improve our Downtown for the future as well. To name a few:

• We have seen unprecedented coordination, and investment, by public agencies and the Madera Arts Council, with the completion of a visioning feasibility study for a cultural arts center along Yosemite Avenue;

• $300,000 CalTrans Sustainable Transportation Planning Grant was recently awarded to the city to begin planning for Yosemite Avenue’s future;

•Development of a Downtown Specific Plan is currently underway;

• Authorized under the federal tax bill, recent inclusion of Downtown as an “Opportunity Zone” which serves as an economic development tool for tax-deferred project investments;

• Local merchants have organized the first “Business Watch” working alongside our Police Department; and

• Next month, the Madera City Council will have an opportunity to approve a business incentive program aimed at reducing permitting costs for businesses looking to locate or grow in Downtown. As a lifelong Maderan, I am proud to see the growing focus on our Downtown and the commitment by those, in ways both large and small, that are working towards its revitalization. Let’s be reminded to show up, support those who have already invested greatly, and commit ourselves to its success and renewal. Again, on behalf of Madera Young Professionals, we appreciate all of those who made this event a success, and hope it offered an example of how vibrant Downtown can be while offering a glimpse of what’s possible.

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Will Oliver is a Madera City Council member who represents District 3; he is the founder of Madera Young Professionals.

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