At least you’re not in Woodland

E Street Plaza is a great gathering place, but downtown Davis needs more, says Downtown Davis Business Association administrator Joy Cohan.

E Street Plaza is a great gathering place, but downtown Davis needs more, says Downtown Davis Business Association administrator Joy Cohan.

SN&R Photo By Ken Widmann

Ken Widmann writes about the People’s Republic of Davis.

Last week I spoke with Joy Cohan, new administrator of the Downtown Davis Business Association. For a promoter, I found her to be quarrelsome and far too loose with the ethnic slurs. No, no, she works in PR and her name is Joy! She was predictably pleasant. Thoughtful, too. In June, Joy was hired from a similar position promoting downtown Woodland, where she and her family still reside. In the switch, she saw her annual budget jump from $23,000 in Woodland to $133,000 in Davis. Where does it go? Well, we spoke over the phone from her office in Kauai (actually, F Street).

In some ways, said Cohan, Davis is the easier of the two downtowns to promote, because the framework for doing so—a business-improvement district—is in place, which means that the need for promotion and marketing (her job) is already agreed upon. Plus, this city is a full-service one.

Says Cohan, “You can live in downtown Davis, walk to work, walk to just about every need you have, including the grocery store. I mean, it’s all right here, and it’s bike-able, and it’s pedestrian-friendly and you’ve got the university right there, lots of resources—all within reasonable walking distance.”

So, I asked her, where’s my Wi-Fi? We were promised that the entire downtown would be wired, er, wireless about a year ago, and I can’t even get a signal on my iPhone, let alone my laptop.

According to Cohan, the much-ballyhooed program began before her tenure, and there has been a problem getting enough routers in disparate locations for it to run citywide. Turns out, lots of businesses volunteered to host a router, but they were all in the same few-block radius. So if you want to Google at the farmers’ market, good luck. As a matter of fact, Cohan pointed out, one can’t even get a signal at the DDBA’s offices. According to Cohan, the area around E Street Plaza has the strongest signal right now. The rest, she assured, is coming soon.

Speaking of E Street Plaza, it might become Davis’ first paid-parking lot. Lack of parking is a big complaint, says Cohan, and the E Street lot could be made into a longer, say, four-hour lot, for a fee. She said the technology might be available to pay for it or extend your time via cell phone. So, should it come to pass, you will soon be able to spend minutes on your phone to purchase minutes on your car.

Also on the tech front, among the items she’s looking to deliver downtown are Davis gift cards, purchasable online, that would be valid at all (or many) downtown merchants. One could then shop entirely online yet keep dollars local.

So if she could change one thing about Davis, what would that be?

“Well, I think it would be nice to have some additional communal gathering spots. We have E Street Plaza. It’d be nice to have another one or two additional gathering spots of that type. It’d be nice to have more of a usable plaza over by the train station.” Central Park is off to one side, she explains, E Street Plaza is in the middle, but the east side has no real space for free assembly.

I’ll write that you’re going to bulldoze Ace Hardware, I tell her.

“No!” she laughs. “And I wouldn’t even be in charge of that.”

It seems like she has a great job. She giggles.

“Mostly, it’s fun.”

So what are the headaches?

Sometimes, she says gently, as can happen anywhere, business owners sometimes “kind of take things for granted.” In other words, some don’t realize how good they have it here in Davis. What if, she wonders, “you had to be in downtown Woodland?”