Merchants and city leaders do walk-through tour of downtown El Centro

El Centro martial arts teacher and business owner Bryan Walker offers help from himself and students to clean up the sidewalks of Downtown Main Street during a meeting of city officials, residents and business owners Thursday before a walk-through of the downtown area.

EL CENTRO — El Centro’s downtown Main Street has become an iconic location through the years, and with recent efforts to make Main Street suitable for the public, city officials held a walk-through tour of shops with local business owners June 15 to gather ideas for solutions and update information of on-going projects.

To beat the Valley heat, a group of about 40 city staff members, business owners and residents met at Seventh and Main Street at 8:30 a.m. to begin a tour that ended on Fourth Street.

“From all of those who showed up I can tell we are all on the same page of working together as a community to preserve this historical business district,” said Alex Cardenas, mayor of El Centro.

The Main Street shopping district spans three streets consisting of Broadway, Main, and State. Over the years, many of the buildings have decayed to the point for need of renovations. Due to the state of these buildings, some have closed their doors, while the rest struggle to make their shops looks as presentable to the public. Other issues include trash and garbage build-up from transients — a view many merchants get from the sidewalk. However, one of the main issues affecting the downtown area are the many homeless and drug users.

Local martial arts teacher Bryan Walker from Shaolin Kung Fu Five Animals spoke out during the meeting to provide his support for a plan of action.

“To help with the trash issue, students from my school have volunteered to clean up and down Main Street,” said Walker. “I have also reached out to Wilson Junior High and Southwest High School, to allow students to get community hours for graduation for their work.”

The tour of downtown served as an eye opener for many most important issues. Preceding the tour, business owners and city officials met in the 510 mall building to discuss these issues with attendees.

“One of the major issues of the downtown area was that there were no lights in the alleys for the business owners,” said Jason Jackson, former mayor. “And we have finished the first half of that current project by adding lights to the alley.”

The second phase of the project calls for the city to add street lights to the area for a better night life experience for street fairs and gatherings during the winter months, Jackson said.

To tackle the issue of drug users and the homeless, the city will continue to rely on the police force to patrol the area and enforce the law professionally and efficiently, Cardenas said.

City officials ended the meeting by encouraging businesses to stay involved in the community, and continue to help turn the downtown area back into the  bustling shopping district it used to be.