Downtown Perspective – September 2019

Downtown Perspective – September 2019

By: Bettina Swigger, Downtown SLO CEO

Last month Cal Poly students arrived back on campus and back to Downtown. I had the pleasure of going incognito during WOW, the annual Week of Welcome in which students lead their peers around the community. As the herds of students moved through the streets, I’d follow a few steps back to hear their remarks. “That’s Louisa’s. It’s a killer breakfast spot.” Then they’d cross the street and say “We’re really lucky to have an Apple Store.” Then they began a healthy debate about frozen confections, and while I wasn’t able to hear whether Yogurtland, Doc Burnstein’s or McConnell’s prevailed, it got me thinking about what it’s like to see a familiar landscape through new eyes.


There’s been a lot of change Downtown recently, and that means we all get to see things through new eyes. Two new hotels are poised to open this Fall (more than a dozen years after initial approval), scores of new visitors will wander our streets, and I believe they’ll be surprised and delighted. Our downtown has a healthy mix of locally-owned and national businesses, as well as experiences for any person to enjoy. For example, look at The Junk Girls, turning antiques into eco-friendly home goods and art pieces. Or talk to the folks at Blackwater, who recently moved into a larger, more visible space on Higuera Street. In the mood for browsing books? You can go corporate and find any title you want at Barnes and Noble, or if you want a more meandering trip through the literary arts, step into Phoenix Books.


Want culture? There’s a historic restaurant that features live jazz at Mee Heng Low Noodle House. You can watch solar-powered art films at the Palm Theatre, or catch the newest MCU flick at The Movie Experience at Downtown Centre Cinemas. Into live performance? You can see beloved musicals, plays, and cutting-edge theatrical readings at San Luis Obispo Repertory Theatre, who, incidentally, will be building a new facility that will be attached to a new parking structure at Palm and Nipomo streets. Or visit the SLO Museum of Art to see local art at the highest level. You can see touring live musicians, comedians, and touring acts at the out-of-this-world art deco Fremont Theater SLO, which is in the process of being lovingly restored. And out on the streets, our electrical boxes are painted by local artists because the City of SLO Public Art program cares to make our public thoroughfares beautiful.
And if that’s not enough, there’s a totally amazing weekly street festival—Downtown SLO Farmers’ Market—that takes place every Thursday night. Our market just won the Sunset Magazine’s Readers Travel Choice Award for Best Farmers’ Market in the West.


Downtown SLO has tree-lined streets, friendly people, low skylines, beautiful views, great shopping, fantastic dining and drinking, and there are countless people, myself included, who are proud to work every day on its behalf. There are so many positive stories to tell, every single day, and so much to see, if you just look around.