Downtown Stockton to experience construction, cultural renaissance


JoAnn Sagaral

Young people throw dye powder packs at each other during the Stockton is Magnificent event that was held April 2.

Some Stocktonians cannot point to their city and confidently express their pride. High school seniors graduate and leave without a look back on the city that nurtured them. To see the potential that this city has takes a group of visionaries willing to look past dilapidation and infamy.

David Garcia, Director of Community Development at Ten Space Dev, is part of the driving force of the Open Window Project. The project consists of 12 acres of downtown Stockton that will be renovated. The venture has taken several years of meticulous planning and is finally going to commence at the end of this year.

Construction on new buildings and restored buildings has already begun. Commercial and retail spaces adding up to about 400,000 square feet will make their way into the heart of downtown. More than 1,000 affordable residential lofts will also be incorporated. Waitlists have already begun to fill for these new lofts.

“Mixed-use space” is how Ten Space Dev envisions the downtown area. An individual will be able to work, dine and live all within a walking distance. Garcia emphasizes that the entire project is “very grassroots.” Local engineers as well as entrepreneurs are being centralized as the area is being rediscovered.

Tommy Mogan, owner and chef of Cast Iron Trading Co., has long admired the stories of Stockton’s downtown in its heyday. He and business partner Eric Lee plan on opening a restaurant next month, alongside the Channel Brewing Co. Tim Egkan, late Chief Brand Officer of Ten Space Dev, led the pair through barren buildings, enthusing about the opportunities that the empty lots held.

Mogan described Egkan’s zeal as the “spark” for the duo. “We were ready to make something from nothing.”

Mogan and Lee hope that their entrepreneurial venture will cause a ripple effect in the community. “Art hops, fundraisers, political support systems,” Mogan lists off the possibilities of the restaurant. “The options are really endless.”

Grandiose visions have humble beginnings. Cast Iron Trading Co. was a simple pop-up restaurant that hosted events across the valley. It then became a part of the Stockmarket, a monthly bazaar showcasing local creators of homemade goods and various services. Amy Sieffert and Anne Wilcox, of Goodstock Productions, are the organizers.

They too have decided to take a gamble on the city. They have encouraged artists from the valley and the Bay Area to take a similar risk with vending at the Stockmarket. Modest yet lively, both women point out how humble their marketing is. “We will go around town putting up posters ourselves. Then, of course, there’s social media. That’s where we reach out most to people, get the word around.”

Goodstock Productions will hold their next Stockmarket on April 23. Along with this event, the duo will organize special gatherings, such as “Galentine’s Day” and “March Man-ness.” Each event carries the same goal of unifying the community through a genial atmosphere and mellow entertainment.

Aside from the incoming reconstruction, certain downtown areas will also be getting a fresh coat of paint. Murals dubbed “Postcards from Stockton” have been commissioned by the Downtown Stockton Alliance to engage tourists to document their visit. The paintings will showcase local diversity as well as the city’s history.

Those who have put their faith in the city are paving the way for the next generation. High school seniors will be less inclined to desert their roots. Garcia explains how imperative it is that students leave and gain other perspectives. “People don’t realize how good we have it. Beautiful waterfront, decent weather, we have so many positive assets.”

All of the individuals mentioned in this article agree that a city does not thrive solely on retail. In order to sustain the growth of a safer and booming downtown, the youth have to believe in it as well.
“Stockton is like having a sibling,” Garcia said. “They do stupid things, but in the end you still love them.”