In an effort to truly understand the connection between the Goleta community and business, a group of influential industry leaders boarded a charter bus Wednesday to learn more about the area they serve.
A Santa Barbara Airbus served as the connector between Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce board members and their mission during Wednesday’s monthly board meeting-turned-mini road trip of more than 20 development sites.
After grabbing a to-go lunch from Sage & Onion Cafe in Old Town Goleta, board members took a short jig to the Hollister Bridge, following the lead of their unofficial tour guides: Santa Barbara Airbus president Eric Onnen and The Towbes Group president Craig Zimmerman.
Standing on the sidewalk next to steadily flowing traffic, Zimmerman explained progress on the San Jose Creek restoration project, designed to widen the creek to improve fish movement and relieve some flooding and drainage issues. He said the work is expected to be completed by the end of 2014.
Onnen added that the bridge itself needs to be replaced in phases to the tune of $10 million because “the bridge is failing.”
The group then filed onto the bus and listened to commentary as they passed proposed Highway 217 roundabout projects, Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital, Cabrillo Business Park, the Westar project, the Page site for potential housing, the proposed Old Town Park location on Kellogg Avenue, and the Ekwill/Fowler road extension to divert traffic from Hollister in Old Town.
Visuals brought a new dimension to the projects that members have been talking about for months but may have never seen.
“I didn’t realize the sidewalks were like that because of flooding,” one board member said after learning that storefronts were built up higher on curbs because of drainage issues along Hollister in Old Town.
After that is fixed, Zimmerman said, maybe more business will be enticed to help revitalize the neighborhood.
The bus passed a host of other housing developments and hotels, as well as several empty grass lots deemed to have “potential” for future growth.
Two locations vying for consideration to house Goleta’s new City Hall were also highlighted, including the Goleta Valley Community Center on Hollister and “the triangle” property purchased by the city near its current City Hall on Cremona Drive.
Board members learned that the possible location for Target — five acres where a FedEx building and others sit on the corner of Hollister and Los Carneros Way — is probably still at least a couple of years away from coming to fruition. They also got a glimpse of a proposed rail platform that would be built near Raytheon and AppFolio on Castilian Drive.
“It’s pretty neat how fast they put them up,” said board chairman Tony Vallejo, noting how quickly Cabrillo Business Park is taking shape.
Images stimulated questions and, perhaps, will also improve collaborations — something Vallejo said he hoped the tour would foster.
“We talk about these projects a lot,” he said. “There’s a lot of great things going on ... Things are definitely improving. There’s a need for growth. It’s great news for Goleta.”