Burlingame looks to boost its appeal 

With long-term plans to transform the Burlingame Avenue area still in the early stages, city officials Monday night discussed ways of maximizing public input.

The Downtown Specific Plan, which will center on developing Howard Avenue as a destination spot, was discussed at the City Council meeting, with most of it centered on conducting an outreach campaign to arouse public interest.

The plan is part of an overall strategy to expand the economic success of Burlingame Avenue into adjacent commercial areas, from Peninsula Avenue to Oak Grove Avenue. The goal is to develop a downtown plan and finalize it by October 2008, Community Development Director Bill Meeker said.

"It’s a much broader study area now and the whole goal is to enhance the successful business area we already have," said Meeker, who was hired by the city in March to spearhead the project.

The outreach campaign, to be conducted by Kevin Gardiner & Associates, will include interviewing focus groups, distributing announcements and forming a Citizen Advisory Committee.

Kevin Gardiner presented the list of stakeholders to the council Monday, which included merchants, property owners and historic preservationists, among others. Gardiner said there will be several public engagement meetings for the rest of the year.

"We are going to have workshops earlier in the process and have larger [meetings] later, at least after Labor Day," he said.

Earlier this year, the City Council was presented with designs of what a plan might look like. The designs included narrowing Howard Avenue to allow sidewalk dining and replacing some parking areas with vegetation and trees. However, Meeker stressed that such ideas are preliminary.

"Those concepts are not necessarily the basis of what it will look like," said Meeker, who said specific concepts of the plan may emerge by the end of the year.

While some downtown projects focus on revitalization, Meeker said Burlingame’s goal is enhancement.

"This is to try and invigorate what we already have," he said.

The process parallels ongoing discussions within the Safeway Working Group, a seven-member committee that is attempting to draft recommendations for a modern grocery store on the corner of Howard Avenue and El Camino Real.

Candace Hathaway, the group’s moderator, said both the Safeway group and the downtown plan organizers will be in contact as both projects

progress. The working group meets again Aug. 7 for a second phase of discussions, which will center on design criteria.

"The dialogue for both is similar because there is a strong desire for vibrancy in the downtown," she said.

bfoley@examiner.com

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