HANFORD — The residents of Hanford all have different opinions on what they would like to see for downtown Hanford, so Main Street Hanford conducted a survey to gather the community’s thoughts.
“Downtown isn’t for the five board members; it’s for the entire community,” said Steve Banister, president of Main Street Hanford’s board of directors.
Shelly Johnson, executive director of Main Street Hanford, said the organization put on the survey in conjunction with the national Main Street America organization. She said the survey was put out on Facebook and received about 270 responses.
Johnson said she was not surprised by many of the responses, though some were still hard to hear.
When asked what three words they most commonly associate with downtown Hanford, those surveyed responded with words like “historic,” “quaint,” “fun” and “beautiful;” but they also used words like “old,” “boring” and “sad.”
The most common word people used, and the one that made Johnson cringe, was “empty.” Vacancies have been one of the bigger issues downtown has continually faced.
According to the residents of Hanford, what they want are a better variety of businesses, more outside dining areas, entertainment, nightlife and better business hours.
Besides work, Johnson said the three things that brought most people to the downtown area were food, service businesses and special events.
Johnson said people answered that they like to shop after 5 p.m. and mostly on Saturdays, when they don’t have work.
“It just reemphasized some of the things that I had already determined from talking to people,” Johnson said.
But because downtown encompasses various businesses, Johnson said it’s difficult to get an organized set of hours of operation for each business, or to get all the businesses to stay open later on certain days.
It’s an issue she will continue to work on.
Johnson said she was happy to see over 50 percent of those surveyed had shopped in downtown within the last seven days. In fact, she said this surprised her the most and it made her feel good about the progress of downtown.
Going forward, Johnson said it’s Main Street’s goal to form concrete strategies that will transform downtown in the long run.
“We’re finding that if we really want to make a change, it’s going to take some time,” Michelle Brown, Main Street Hanford’s office manager, said. “There’s not a quick fix. We need transformative strategies with long-lasting results.”
One of the strategies will be focusing on the arts and entertainment.
There was a dichotomy in the results, with requests for both family-friendly entertainment and night life entertainment for the adults in their 30s and 40s, Johnson said.
Banister’s ideas include gastropubs and restaurants with outside dining areas where people can relax and enjoy themselves.
Banister also said Main Street now has to figure out how to show potential businesses that Main Street will be there and be focused on encouraging the long-term success of the businesses.
The app was designed specifically for Main Street districts to allow businesses to reach mobile consumers, giving users a direct link to downtown’s businesses, events and activities.
As visitors enter the district, they receive a welcome greeting on their mobile device, which lists area businesses by category with photos and links to call, get directions and go to their social media sites.
As visitors enter a participating business, they receive a personalized greeting, which may include special offers, discounts and promotions.
Brown said the app is doing very well. Hanford has 34 businesses participating, and 500 people downloaded it in the first month, she said.
Even better is that surrounding cities like Visalia, Tulare and Fresno are adopting it, so users can use the app in other places they visit outside of Hanford.
“We can all have more exposure to our neighboring communities, so I think that’s exciting,” Brown said.
As always, Main Street Hanford will host events like Thursday Night Marketplace, which Johnson said has grown over the years. Main Street Hanford encourages the community to give feedback on what they would like to see.
“We’re really excited about the great things that are happening downtown,” Johnson said. “Stay tuned.”