About the Colony

Downtown vision keeps making gains

Little by little Atascadero’s downtown is turning into a place where both businesses and people are going to want to be.

Work will begin in a few weeks on more improvements to Atascadero’s singular “main street,” known as El Camino Real, the very route of the old State Highway (Highway 101) that ran through so many California communities.

Most immediately work will begin on improvements to the roadway and some drainage boxes, which are treacherous to bike riders.

I’ve often worried that one of those boxes would grab the front tire of my old bike and send me flying over the handlebars. These improvements are between Rosario and San Anselmo roads.

What I’m most excited about is the work planned for the bridge across Atascadero Creek. This bridge was at one time the gateway into founder E.G. Lewis’ civic center.

The bridge was constructed in the first three years after Lewis purchased the 23,000-acre cattle ranch on which to build his model city. It was a concrete structure that featured streetlights molded into the railings.

Those lights were removed in the mid-1960s when San Luis Obispo County widened the bridge to four lanes.Plans for the city’s Phase III downtown improvements show a bridge with lights atop small pilasters and a sidewalk that reflects the overall downtown design theme reflected around the Sunken Gardens, along Traffic Way and El Camino Real and in front of Colony Square.

It will make that bridge more like a piece of art that will only complement all the other improvements that have been made in this area of the community.

These improvements began with the renovation of the Carlton Hotel, when the planted, raised median was built. A second phase led to improvements along El Camino Real near the Atascadero Police Department, including the wall that supports the parking lot of the police station.

Extensive work on the Sunken Gardens further improved the appearance of the area in front of the City Administration Building.

If funding ever becomes available, a sign across El Camino Real would be the crowning touch to recreating the classic downtown envisioned by Atascadero’s founder slightly less than 100 years ago.

I applaud the city (both staff and elected councilmembers) for sticking to a design plan put in place more than 10 years ago.