Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment of a multi-part series on the history of Old Town Clovis, as told by Larry W. Gamble, a member of the Central Clovis Steering Committee in the 1980s. The committee provided input to the City Council on what would eventually become Old Town Clovis.
As talks continued regarding how Old Town Clovis would look — a mixture of turn-of-the-century and Western — City of Clovis assistant planner Dwight Kroll was hard at work planning the nitty-gritty details of the space between 4th and 5th streets and Clovis and Pollasky avenues.
One of the more fascinating aspects of planning for Parking Lot #1 behind the stores in the core area of Old Town was the walkway discussion. To the businesses, it seemed prudent to provide a passage from the parking lot in the middle of the block to Clovis Avenue shops as opposed to walking all the way around the block. Facilitating access to and from the rear parking lot was an issue that was hotly debated.
The project called Old Town Square was a proposed building project by developers David Head and Cecil Hill. They wanted to convert and renovate an old building. The owner said he would sell it, but only if they also bought a second adjacent structure he also owned.
Upgrades to the building and limited funding created other issues. To tear it down leaving an open space sidewalk to the parking lot would break the continuity of the original historic look along the street.
Assistant planner Kroll envisioned something more unique and exciting. He suggested a walkway could be designed into one of the two buildings and a creative turn-of-the–century storefront encompassing both buildings could be created along Clovis Avenue. Dwight built a scale model of the proposed project.
At the unveiling of the model, box wine and cheese were served to interested local business owners. It was a tremendous success and that event marked the beginning of what became the Store Front Renovation Program. It allowed many of the owners to also participate and improve the appearance of their old buildings.
Mike Dozier was hired to manage the newly-formed Clovis Community Development Agency (CCDA). He turned out to be the right guy at the right time. He was successful in moving many proposed redevelopment projects forward. Among them was the renovation of the Old Clovis Hotel and the east side of Clovis Avenue between 3rd and 5th streets. He and the economic development staff orchestrated bringing the Anlin Window Company to Clovis and negotiated with the United States Forest Service to construct their facility on Tollhouse Road.
The CCDA handled many other improvement projects in Clovis. When Dozier left the post, it was assumed by Tina Sumner who continued and initiated many new projects. The CCDA became a model for many other cities across the nation. Most important for our community, their work allowed the idea of renovating Old Town Clovis to become a reality.
The technical side of redevelopment for the city staff was a very complicated process to wade through. It involves legal, procedural elements plus a broad understanding of how to proceed without conflict.
A specialist was acquired to work on the Clovis project. His name was Rod Gunn, a former planning director for the City of Monrovia. He later founded his own redevelopment consulting business company, Rod Gunn & Associates. Under the agreed contract, he worked closely with planning director Wright. Gunn developed a strategy to implement a plan for the changes to Old Town Clovis.
One of the first social events was the unveiling of the new streetscape held in the old Chamber of Commerce building, now the Clovis Big Dry Creek Museum. Over coffee and donuts, it was this meeting that kicked off what would ultimately be a concept affecting nearly all of the buildings in Old Town. Assistant planner Kroll spent countless hours creating yet another scale model to introduce the visual appearance of the proposed changes.
While this one focused on Parking Lot #1, the large model showed property owners for the very first time what was actually possible with their buildings. That event motivated many of us to make new investments in our buildings. It was exciting to see Dwight’s vision of the “new” Old Town Clovis.
Part Five of this series will highlight some of the individuals from the City of Clovis who worked diligently to bring this redevelopment project from concept to reality.