Shh ... it’s a secret. No it isn’t! I recently read a story in another paper asking if Google cash were behind the Los Altos downtown makeover and why. My first thought was, “Who cares?” We are an intelligent group in a small town where it is very difficult to keep secrets, and we can do the math.But is it necessary? Don’t we have other things to do?
If someone wants to bring vibrancy to our sleepy town, anonymously, then let them and stop talking about it. I’m tired of reading about this, yet here I am writing about it, but only to point out the ridiculousness of it all. Not long ago, before Passerelle Investment Co. blew into town, residents were complaining because downtown was drab and shutting down before sunset. Our storefronts were dated and we had too few restaurants from which to choose. Lease rates were so high that it was next to impossible for small businesses to pop up a shop and find out if we wanted what they had to offer. Now, it’s difficult to find parking because things are beginning to bustle, and that’s a good thing, as Martha Stewart would say.
For those of us who were living in this town before the mysterious force moved in, it may feel a bit in-your-face and abrupt. But if you step back and think about how things were just a few years ago, you may instead view the updates, offerings and art installations – even if you don’t understand them – as lightning-fast progress toward an enriched downtown. Not everyone agrees with all of the changes or the architecture or the paint color, but there must be something for everyone, so collectively it benefits each of us. And I don’t remember anyone else stepping up to make changes, so I’m just glad someone did.
It may also feel to some like we’re living in a Monopoly game, but I see it differently. I don’t get $200 for passing Go – or should I say Main and State? – but I can easily spend $200 because I now have choices. I know that there are mixed feelings about some of the new shops, but they look nice and offer quality, tasteful finds. And it’s nice to be able to stroll and pick up an artisanal product in a town with a clean, fresh aesthetic. I am concerned, however, that we are rapidly pricing out those in the community who don’t live on stock options.
The thoughtful effort made by this mysterious person or people could be simply appreciated if we could look past attaching a name and stop pondering their reason. I would imagine the best interest of residents at large is kept in mind through the planning phase, but even if there is some ulterior motive, our town is still more vibrant than it has been in years. More importantly, places for our youth are starting to break through. I just wish the force behind this had tweens and not only young ones – it would be nice to have tasteful, creative retail and restaurants that were attractive to middle and high school students.
The instant silence whenever questions arise about who is behind the downtown makeover is getting a little old, but it’s working from a marketing perspective, because the story is told again and again in widely read publications. And, by the way, there are longtime and new business owners who are happy to tell their stories, so maybe we can give them some of the limelight.
OK, I’m done with my column and I think I’ll head out to do gift shopping, have lunch and admire some art, all without leaving the little yet vibrant downtown of Los Altos. But I don’t know whom to thank. Maybe I’ll Google it.