The revival of downtown Brawley

Plaza Park kiosk undergoing transformation


When I first came to the Imperial Valley in the early 90s, I was all about the big city. I grew up in Wichita, Kansas. About the size of Fresno, it has a population of 350,000. Like San Diego, there are always things to do and events happening every day. If you were bored, it was your own fault.

Being a musician opened up even more opportunities to keep myself busy. There are many bands and places to perform music in Wichita. You just had to narrow down your choices to what and when you wanted to play –and I was always playing.

After the birth of our first child, moving to a small farming community and raising a family was what my wife and I wanted to pursue. It was a culture shock for me, but I was up for the challenge. Then we jumped into our greenhouse business, which was a seven-day-a-week endeavor.

We were slow to meet many people, except for those who my wife knew from growing up in Brawley. It wasn’t until we became Christians that we really felt part of the community. The everyday routine we had established also set the stage for becoming “Brawleyites.”

Interacting with others in the community, living and working here led us to love living in a small town. The passion and commitment the people of Brawley exhibit is inspirational, to say the least. Everyone cares for this town. From the Little League coaches to those in public safety, from the community leaders to the soccer moms, and everyone who calls Brawley home, they care about this community.

When you look at downtown Brawley, you wonder what went wrong. Between the exodus of business in the past few years and a string of arsons, it looks like a third world country.

But there is change in the air.

New businesses are looking to open up in the downtown area. Those already established are seeing this as good news for them.

Recently, we made the decision to open an office on the Plaza in Brawley. We want to be a part of the revival of this area. We chose a location that had been vacant for years but is perfect for us.

The downtown corridor has been designated the Brawley Downtown Arts District. With a lot of talented people in Brawley, the thought is to turn the area into a destination for entertainment, food, and arts.

New projects are underway in cooperation with the City of Brawley, the North County Coalition of the Arts, and the Brawley Chamber of Commerce.

The kiosk in North Plaza Park is being refurbished, new banners are planned for the Main Street light poles, a piano-themed crosswalk will be installed between North and South Plaza, and a volunteer-based cleanup crew is focusing on the Main Street corridor.

It’s already happening, but more needs to be done.

This is where the people of Brawley come in. In the years I’ve lived here, I’ve learned the people of Brawley are the “heart” of Brawley.

As in other cities across the country, it is private individuals and companies that fuel the downtown revival. The city can facilitate some things like parking and building codes, but it’s you and I that will make this happen.

There are those who doubt this will happen, but I am counting on the people of Brawley.

Lloyd Miller


  1. Thanks for the wonderful editorial.
    As a musician, you can understand the importance of music in the arts. This was one of the reasons the keyboard was selected for the crosswalk on main. It was the idea of Sal Ortiz. He is a musician, a member of Valley Jazz and a Board member of NoCCA.
    Bringing Arts and Culture to the Brawley Downtown Arts District is one of the prime goals of NoCCA. Other proposed events include art shows, music and art festivals, public art displays, walking tours, mural painting and public art placement projects.
    We are currently working on 3 mural projects, a local play production and a concert series.
    The mission of the Brawley Downtown Arts District is to promote the Arts by encouraging the arts in general, as well as the enhancement of businesses, while encouraging new pedestrian-oriented commercial, professional, and residential growth within the District.

  2. Western? Piano? What about our 90 percent Mexican-American heritage??? I’m sure we are going to have some representation before the ‘right’ takes the whole thing over… You have a coalition by the Rock now a days…

  3. I am very hopeful for the future of Downtown Brawley and excited to hear about ANY new projects there, but I have to say I am a little confused about the focus on music. A western theme? Understandable. But putting a piano-themed crosswalk in such a prominent location between two of Brawley’s most iconic buildings seems a bit tacky and honestly trivializes our historic city center. I hope for something tasteful, but I still question the piano as being pivotal enough in Brawley’s history and character to be in the heart, and literally the center, of the City.

  4. I’ve been wanting to do a mural down there. If you know any business owners that would like to brighten up their wall, I have all the paint and ready to go.

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