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Sometimes, with progress comes pain, and that’s certainly the case in downtown Redding as work begins to repurpose the Market Street Promenade.
Demolition of the old Dicker’s department store is about to begin in earnest, and in its place will be a $38 million, four-story building that will combine residential, retail and office space. In a related development, in accordance with the new Downtown Specific Plan, vehicle traffic will be reintroduced to portions of Market, Butte and Yuba streets.
“It’s going to be a game-changer for downtown,” predicts Steve Bade, a community development manager and the city’s downtown liaison. “It will really reopen those streets and bring some life into that Promenade area. Storefronts will be active. It’s what everybody has been waiting for.”
Standing in the way of all that progress and improvements are the concrete pillars and stained-glass panels that date back to the early 1970s and the opening of the Downtown Mall. They’re going to go away, but the stained glass will come back. In a form and at a time that is to be determined.
Bade said a public works crew has begun removing the glass panels. They will be gathered up and stored at the city’s corporation yard. “We’re taking it slow and easy. They’re big and kind of heavy—and they’ve been up there for 40 years,” Bade said.
The historic nature of the columns, and the aesthetic value of the stained glass, caught the attention of Viva Downtown’s Design Committee. The committee is composed of downtown advocates who meet monthly to help with the development of an accessible and inviting downtown. The committee also helps identify and preserve downtown’s rich history.
Bade said he has been working with the Design Committee to preserve the stained glass and, eventually, find a new use for it. “That stained glass has some usefulness to it. We’re hoping an artist will come up with an idea on how to reuse it. I’ve been receiving emails from Design Committee members; their ideas are always flowing. I think there will be a good reuse project that comes out of this.
“There are some unique sizes of it (glass) and it’s kind of nostalgic. There could be some cool uses. I’ve seen it remade into tiles and pavers. We’ll see what folks will come up with.”
Bade said the updated columns and the meandering blue bench at the south end of the Promenade will be preserved. They were refurbished as part of a Renaissance Redding project after the Downtown Mall’s roof was removed.
Some Downtown Mall history
When it opened in 1975, covered malls were all the rage and Redding’s plan was considered cutting edge. Putting a roof over three blocks’ worth of Market Street created a 340,000-square-foot shopping mall. Dicker’s department store, at 65,000 square feet, became the mall’s anchor.
There was little, if any, public opposition to the mall project and most were relieved when several old buildings resting on precarious foundations of rock and crumbling brick were torn down before they fell down.
Progress, however, can be a peculiar thing. The same year the mall opened in downtown Redding, the city approved plans by Southern California developer Ernest Hahn to build the $25 million Mt. Shasta Mall on the east side of the Sacramento River, and the era of big-box retail had begun.
Soon, retailers like J.C. Penney and Sears left downtown to be closer to the interstate, and shoppers joined the migration. Still, the mall’s mix of specialty and high-end shops managed to keep it afloat well into the 1980s. But then retail sales began to wither, shops closed, and government and service agencies began filling up the vacant stores.
Dicker’s closed in 1992 after a nearly 50-year run.
Construction fencing already surrounds the Dicker’s building and workers are busy with lead and asbestos mitigation work. Bade said the developer, K2 Development Companies, wants to get the demolition completed by June 1.
K2 bought the Dicker’s building in 2016 and later unveiled its plans to demolish it and replace it with an E-shaped building that would feature retail and office space on the ground floor and 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments on the top three floors.
Some 56 of the project’s 79 units would be classified as affordable housing and the remainder would be market-rate. Accompanying the project is the opening of Market, Butte and Yuba streets to vehicle traffic. The redesigned 80-foot-wide streets will be showcases of contemporary urban planning with defined pedestrian corridors, shade trees, bike parking areas and room for sidewalk seating and parklets.
K2, in partnership with the Shasta Regional Transportation Planning Agency, applied for and was awarded a $20 million state grant through the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program. The grant includes funding for the Diestlehorst-to-Downtown trail project that is expected to attract more pedestrian and bicycle traffic in the downtown area.
K2 has partnered with the McConnell Foundation and the city to apply for a $20 million affordable housing grant from the state to raze the California Street parking structure and replace it, in part, with a four-story housing, retail and office project.
The so-called Net Zero Affordable Housing Project would replace the northern third of the parking structure. It would also include widening the alley between California Street and the Market Street Promenade to allow for some retail and outdoor dining uses.
Bade said the partners received a letter in late March informing them that their grant application had met the threshold requirements. “We should be getting a response any time now, probably within the week, and we’ll find out how we scored and where it will go next. It’s encouraging,” Bade said.