Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Suisun searches for ways to promote its identity

Suisun searches for ways to promote its identity
By Ian Thompson | DAILY REPUBLIC | October 24, 2008 19:43

The Suisun City Historic Waterfront Business Improvement District recently had 65-foot-high sign painted on the side of a water tank north of Highway 12 to promote the city's downtown. Photo by Chris Jordan

SUISUN CITY - Suisun City's waterfront district wants Highway 12's passing population of commuters to pay more attention to it.

And, by paying more attention, stop and spend some money there eating or shopping.

It's why both the city and its merchants' association is undertaking a series of projects to draw more attention to the heart of that town.

A week ago, the Suisun City Historic Waterfront Business Improvement District painted a 65-foot-high blue sign on the water tank just north of Highway 12 extolling waterfront Suisun City's attractions.

Suisun City Hall is within two months of getting new, more noticeable highway signs from Caltrans that specifically announce to drivers they are approaching the entrances to the downtown.

Plans for two 14-foot-high monuments featuring a ship's captain at the steering wheel of a stylized vessel are in the works to be built at both entryways to the city.

These are all part of the plans to make Suisun City and its downtown waterfront more than just a passing blur to an estimated 2.8 million cars that use Highway 12 every year.

'A lot of people who commute who don't know what they are commuting through,' said Garry Rowe, president of the Historic Waterfront BID. 'That is the challenge of letting them know we have a waterfront with dining and shopping.'

Efforts to get Suisun City more visibility is 'the number one priority,' Suisun City Mayor Pete Sanchez said.

City Councilman Mike Segala wryly said a previous Caltrans sign that stated what services the downtown offered had a nasty habit of getting knocked down by drunk drivers.

Caltrans' replacement signs did little more than simply announce the city.

New Caltrans signs that the city successfully lobbied for will show dining, picnicking and boating services are available. They are expected to be up before the end of the year.

'We needed to get our own identity back on Highway 12,' Segala said, adding the numbered designation to the off ramp exit sign 'puts us on a lot of maps.'

Rowe expects to get about five years of use out of the eye-catching water tank sign before the tank's owner, the Solano Irrigation District, may tear it down.

'It looks great,' said Sanchez who had suggested the BID's sign be even bigger than it is and be more colorful to attract attention. 'We have something that tells people where we are.'

Getting passing drivers to notice the water is difficult because there aren't a lot of advertising opportunities along Highway 12, Rowe said.

These latest efforts and plans for the monument sculptures will help.

Walking neighborhoods during his election campaign, City Councilman Mike Hudson said he realized some Suisun City residents were so used to driving to Fairfield that they didn't even realize the city had a downtown.

'It's part of our commitment to the businesses there to get them visibility,' Hudson said.

'We want people to know there is a downtown area,' City Councilman Sam Derting said. 'Too many people have come along Highway 12 and wondered how to get to downtown.'

The BID's biggest goal is getting all the development done and giving people reasons to come, Rowe said.

The waterfront, with successful restaurants such as La Cabana, Joy of Eating and Athenian Grill, has already attracted more people.

See the complete story at the Daily Republic online.