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Now We Can Feel Pulse of Downtown

June 22, 1995|JEFF MEYERS | Jeff Meyers is editor of Ventura County Life

Life has finally come to downtown Ventura.

No, seriously. The Life section, along with just about everybody else connected with the Ventura County edition of The Times, has moved to Chestnut and Santa Clara streets in downtown Ventura, the old business district now undergoing a massive cosmetic make-over to seduce shoppers and tourists.

A block from our corner building is the axis of both the shopping district and the renovation: Main and California streets. A collection of family-owned shops and restaurants--what small cities used to be before the malling of America--it is now trying to reinvent itself with movie complexes and designer sidewalks.

Downtown renovation won't be complete for a few more weeks, so the city's core hasn't yet been transformed into Charming Beach Town. Even the newly planted queen palms--stately specimens replacing those clumpy Indian laurels--still look ungainly, their graceful fronds bound tightly to reduce transplantation shock.

Encased in plastic and scaffolding, The Times building only compounds downtown's construction frenzy. But rest assured that the wraps will come off soon, revealing a new and improved Spanish-style exterior of what was formerly Santa Barbara Savings & Loan.

Meanwhile, we toil inside our plastic cocoon, enjoying the smell of fresh carpeting and savoring our move downtown. Our old offices on Valentine Road weren't within walking distance of anything other than a cemetery, strawberry fields and several remote industrial/office parks. We were so far removed from civilization that even pizza parlors sometimes refused to make deliveries.

Now we're right in the middle of the action--to better inform our Life readers. Across the street is Ventura Theatre, where top music acts perform. Around the corner is Wild Planet, specializing in youth culture. A few blocks away is Nicholby's, the place to check out local bands and play pool, for research, of course (a possible story: "The Rockin' Pool Halls of Ventura County").

We have sent our restaurant critics down every back alley and side street to find hitherto unknown dining gems. The rest of our writers are getting their fingers on the pulse of daily life. In the quest for knowledge, they're required to visit shops and coffeehouses. For inspiration, they're obligated to play Frisbee across the street in Plaza Park or walk to the beach a few blocks away.

Our new location will enable us to keep a close eye on the progress of what surely will be the city's newest tourist attraction: a proposed quarter-million-dollar public restroom in Plaza Park. Visitors will certainly flock to this copper-topped landmark, so let me set the record straight: No, it isn't equipped with Perrier water.

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