Zaytoona Mediterranean Cuisine

Abdallah Qawadri, wearing blue, stands inside his popular Zaytoona Mediterranean Cuisine in downtown Hanford with members of his staff: Heather Cunningham, Brayden Duinkerken and Rachel Garcia. Main Street Hanford is holding a public meeting Monday night to, among other things, identify specific actions that can be taken to bring more independently owned restaurants like Zaytoona to downtown Hanford.

Sentinel file photos

HANFORD – The state of downtown Hanford is often a topic of discussion on the City Council, but how much does the average Hanford resident care?

Main Street Hanford, the organization specifically funded with local tax dollars to make downtown a successful, vibrant place, is setting out to answer that question.

The organization has been holding a series of meetings designed to get the public more involved on suggesting ways to improve the downtown area and then getting involved to make it happen.

The latest installment is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday at the city of Hanford Training Room, located in the city's office building at 319 N. Douty St.

Main Street Hanford Executive Director Shelly Johnson said she's been encouraged by participation at the first two meetings in the series, the first held in August and the second in January.

She said that while approximately 30 people attending the August meeting, that number doubled to more than 60 at the January meeting.

Talbert said at this third meeting, the goal is to get people to commit to taking action to make the things they say they want to happen downtown actually happen.

For example, she said that at the first two meetings, people identified bringing more independently owned restaurants and eateries to downtown as an important goal.

Talbert said that people who feel that way need to talk to owners at successful restaurants in surrounding cities and ask them directly if they'd be interested in coming to downtown Hanford.

"Give them my [business] card," she said. "If they are thinking about opening a second restaurant, why not open it it downtown Hanford?"

She said that might be effective because it's targeting restaurants that already have a proven track record.

"That's the easiest sell," she said.

She mentioned Zaytoona, the now-popular restaurant on Seventh Street that opened in 2015 and has done well ever since.

When he opened the Hanford location, Zaytoona owner Abdallah Qawadri already had a successful restaurant serving up much the same food in Fowler.

"All members of the community interested in assisting with the downtown transformed into something great are encouraged to attend [the meeting on Monday]," Main Street Hanford said in written statement.

Steve Banister, co-owner of the L.T. Sue Tea Co. Tea Room & Emporium and a member of the Main Street Hanford board of directors, said he's encouraged by the level of participation at the first two meetings.

"I just got enthused that so much of the community was interested in downtown," he said.

Johnson said about 15 goals were identified at the first two meetings.

She said this third meeting will review some of those goals and try to identify specific actions people can take to make them happen.

Johnson said that the controversy about downtown zoning will also get an airing.

The Hanford City Council is considering approving a zoning ordinance update that would relax some of the restrictive zoning policies that have been designed to funnel certain businesses into the city's central core rather than allowing them to go wherever they want in the city, such as the Costco shopping center or the 12th Avenue business corridor.

A public hearing to get input on the proposed zoning changes is scheduled for the next council meeting on April 18.

Banister said the recent turnout at the Main Street meetings demonstrates that a lot of Hanford residents care about downtown.

"I'm really excited about the process," he said. "It centers on involving the community more."

The reporter can be reached at snidever@hanfordsentinel.com or 583-2432. 

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