If you have an interest in the future shape of downtown Novato, make sure you go along to the Community Workshop tomorrow (May 27) to review the North Redwood Boulevard (NRB)Planning Study.
The NRB corridor encompasses the majority of the downtown area, from Grant Street northwards as far as Atherton Avenue. The area currently has a mix of land uses, including residential, automotive, retail and industrial buildings, and some vacant and unused lots. In March the City of Novato released an Options Study (large file) that discusses the constraints and opportunities for development in the area. One of the key items on the agenda for tomorrow will be how to promote new retail/commercial development in the area without compromising the viability of existing downtown businesses along Grant Avenue. It will also be interesting to hear views on the impact of the decision not to position a SMART railroad station in the downtown area.
For me, the biggest opportunity to revitalize downtown Novato is to develop more medium/high density housing. Housing creates activity and vitality and supports the development of retail and commercial businesses. It needs excellent planning, to overcome the conflicts with existing non-residential uses, and specific issues in the area, such as freeway noise and flood zones. And it really needs great transit. But with the SMART budget already $150m in deficit, the chances of getting that downtown station back on the agenda are looking slim.
The City of Novato has put up some alternative plans for development of the corridor on its website here.