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Bob Kellar: Live from City Hall

Posted: July 13, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 13, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

Everyone loves a comeback story. As a City Council member and the current mayor of Santa Clarita, some of my proudest moments include the revitalization of our neighborhoods, parks, business centers and facilities for all residents to enjoy.

One of Santa Clarita’s biggest comeback stories is Old Town Newhall. For those of you fortunate enough to remember Newhall circa the early 1940s, the area was the epitome of small-town charm, with a neighborhood market, bank, service station, "dime store," churches and even a soda fountain.

In stark contrast, Newhall in the 1990s was a much different picture with buildings and streets in need of repair and a struggling business community.

In the last decade, public and private investment and the now-historic redevelopment program transformed much of Main Street and surrounding areas in Old Town Newhall, ushering in a new vibe, audiences, businesses and energy.

Property owners have worked with the city to unveil new building facades, providing an updated, refreshed and polished look. The Old Town Newhall Library opened in September of last year and now perfectly bookends Main Street with Hart Park.

The city’s streetscape project created a more walkable area, with new landscaping and benches for rest and conversation.

These improvements were critical in kick-starting the area’s rebirth, and while public and private investments have been the building blocks of change, the Thursdays at Newhall event series, which began in 2011, has been the vehicle to drive community awareness and showcase all that the Newhall arts and entertainment district offers.

In 2011, the city, business groups and individual merchants collaborated on an event series to introduce Santa Clarita Valley residents to the rejuvenated Old Town Newhall. Today, two years after the launch of the Thursdays at Newhall event series, you’ll find Thursday evenings are busy on Main Street with thousands of residents enjoying a unique mix of art, music, food and culture.

Thursdays at Newhall’s monthly event lineup includes a weekly farmers market, Art Slam on the first Thursday and Senses on the third Thursday.

The weekly farmers market is held right on Main Street between Market and 8th from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. The market offers a selection of farm-fresh produce, prepared foods and community and craft booths.

Art Slam was introduced in March and is hosted from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month.

Art Slam isn’t an art walk but an art jam, where the public can see and experience the work of artists as they respond to a monthly theme.

Upcoming Art Slam themes include Car Slam in August, Video Slam in September and Chocolate Slam in October.

Senses is a block party experience unlike any other in Santa Clarita, complete with live bands, food and drinks and activities on Main Street centered on a monthly theme.

In 2012 alone, more than 17,000 residents have come out to enjoy the Senses street party and its unique offerings, from Halloween- and Beach- to Cowboy- and Carnivale-themed events.

On Thursday, July 18, Senses will treat attendees to a beach experience "on the boardwalk," complete with the sights, sounds and smells of a beach-inspired summer night.

Senses themes through October include Odd Ball Sports in August, Down the Rabbit Hole — a tribute to Alice in Wonderland — in September and Chills and Thrills in October.

Thursdays at Newhall was designed to attract new audiences to Old Town Newhall and engage a new generation of residents who embrace the character and charm of one of Santa Clarita’s most cherished neighborhoods.

And after two years of offering this event series and more than 20,000 visitors later, the street is alive day and night with shoppers, diners, kids and families.

In addition, the tax base for Old Town Newhall has increased by 60 percent and more than 22 new businesses have opened in the area.

A great comeback story typically involves nostalgia, some form of decline, and a brilliant revival, and that’s exactly what has happened in Old Town Newhall.

The City Council, local business community and private individuals envisioned the Newhall of tomorrow and made it a reality today.

Mayor Bob Kellar can be reached at bkellar@santa-clarita.com.

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