California Main Street Alliance Features Fremont
The California Main Street Alliance (CAMSA) is part of Main Street America, a national coalition of individuals and organizations united by a commitment to preserving and enhancing the built environment, celebrating local history and culture, and creating local economic opportunity through the National Main Street framework. The transformative national movement has been around for 40 years! CAMSA works with communities across the state to foster local economic development and enhance overall quality of life.
City of Fremont joined CAMSA earlier this year, and already our team has benefited from the training and networking opportunities, and access to like-minded municipalities and community organizations focused on revitalizing their commercial districts.
Earlier this month, CAMSA called attention to Fremont’s unique history and diverse neighborhood business districts in their Community Spotlight Newsletter. Enjoy the full write-up below:
Fremont doesn’t just have one Main Street – it has five neighborhood districts that serve as its backdrop. Ranked as the fourth largest city in Silicon Valley with deep roots in the manufacturing industry, Fremont is one of the most dynamic communities in the country. Tina Kapoor, the City of Fremont’s Economic Development Manager, reveals how joining CAMSA will enhance the City’s place-making efforts and help cultivate new projects and initiatives that will strengthen Fremont’s business districts.
Could you provide us with a brief overview of the City of Fremont?
Back in 1956, five individual townships came together to form the City of Fremont. Now recognized as districts, Centerville, Niles, Irvington, Warm Springs, and Mission San Jose meld together to represent the unique characteristics of Fremont. Our city has always been strongly rooted in manufacturing. Since 1960, the automotive industry has produced millions of trucks and cars from Fremont’s assembly lines. On the hardware side, Apple and Steve Jobs chose to open their first manufacturing site here in 1984.
Today, the City of Fremont is the fourth largest city in Silicon Valley, centrally located with a population of 233,000 and 90 square miles. Tesla, Lam Research, Western Digital, and Seagate are some of the most recognizable names that call Fremont home, but there are over 900 manufacturing companies based in our city employing over 30,000 workers. Fremont has developed an innovation hub of high tech, life science, and clean technology firms with accessibility to BART, a world-class workforce, and a vast R&D/manufacturing portfolio (an estimated 50 million square feet of industrial space).
With a rich historical legacy anchored in manufacturing, an innovative mindset, and neighborhood districts that offer a healthy dose of charm and intrigue, Fremont is one of the most dynamic communities in the country.
Festival of the Arts in Downtown Fremont | Credit: Fremont Chamber of Commerce
How have Fremont’s commercial corridors transformed over the past few years? Any challenges?
Given Fremont’s formation from five townships, our city doesn’t just have one “main street,” which comes with its own set of benefits and challenges. We strive to not only preserve, but to celebrate the unique character of these districts embodied in the food scene, public art, local music, and one-of-a-kind stores.
With our City’s five districts as the backdrop, along with the development of a new downtown, our team has been cooking up what we like to call a “weirdification” strategy to attract the brightest talent. We are mixing local businesses with new retail development in our historic districts to create an authentically fresh and storied Fremont that appeals to both young and old and is embraced by all parts of our community.
By cherishing the rich cultural value that these districts bring, Fremont’s economic development efforts extend far beyond urban zoning and mixed-use development. The big challenge for Fremont is striking the right balance between that authentic, “old world” Fremont charm and making the right updates that will bring more visitors, talent, and ultimately more businesses to our thriving, innovative Silicon Valley city.
Retail in Downtown Fremont – Philz Coffee and Whole Foods | Credit: City of Fremont
Name a successful downtown project (a historic rehab or new construction build) that can serve as a model for other communities.
As mentioned above, while there are several “main streets” in Fremont that sprinkle plenty of spirit and flavor throughout our city, there has never been a central location for residents to get together. One of our top priorities is creating a central downtown hub for the Fremont community to gather, shop, eat, and attend events. Planning for downtown was set into motion in 2014, when the Fremont City Council approved the master plan.
Today, there are several private investment projects being developed in downtown including mixed-use residential and ground floor retail along Capitol Avenue–the new central spine for our downtown–connecting two major retail hubs. Downtown Fremont is also a federally approved Opportunity Zone that provides tax incentives for early investors.
But, because building an entire downtown from the ground up takes time, the City has also employed what we like to call “The Burning Man” philosophy to the City’s downtown area – by asking the community what they want to see and what events they would like to attend.
For over a year, we tested out these event ideas at the temporary Town Fair Plaza, a community space driven by a vision to celebrate and cultivate local culture and creativity. Piloting events featuring live music, food trucks, family-friendly games like mini golf and table tennis, community classes, maker spaces, and a beer garden, we gathered valuable insight into what we wanted to incorporate into the permanent plaza. This month, we will break ground on the future Downtown Event Center and Plaza, another exciting step forward in our place-making efforts!
Already home to prominent street fairs such as the Burgers & Brew Fest and the Fremont Festival of the Arts (the largest free festival west of the Mississippi), the Downtown Event Center and Plaza will feature all of the most popular events and gatherings that were once held at the temporary Town Fair Plaza.
Temporary Town Fair Plaza in Downtown Fremont | Credit: City of Fremont
How will Fremont’s Main Street efforts complement the ongoing economic development work happening throughout the city?
Fremont’s economic development team and the Fremont City Council recognize on a fundamental level that each of the city’s neighborhoods and Main Streets keep Fremont unique, cool, inclusive, and most importantly, economically resilient. From acclaimed family-owned restaurants like Kyian Kyian that have gained regional recognition, to the whimsical Dragonfly Market in Irvington District that showcases local artist’s handmade goods, Fremont is chock full of hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. Our unique neighborhoods make Fremont a place that people want to live in and explore rather than just work in or commute through.
The number one need we hear from our businesses is talent. Talent needs place and place needs business. Our job is to support local business owners that have been in Fremont their entire lives as well as to bring in new businesses to achieve the right mix of culture, industry, tradition, and community. The end goal is to cultivate a city where you can go to work, but also enjoy happy hour with coworkers down the block, attend the Halloween Trick or Treat event with your kids, hike with friends along Mission Peak on the weekend, and enjoy a cup of coffee at a local java joint.
With some of the brightest minds that live and work here, we are focused on building a world-class city.
How will collaborating with CAMSA help strengthen the City of Fremont’s Main Streets?
CAMSA membership offers an opportunity to leverage the tremendous resources to enhance the City’s place-making efforts in the districts. Fremont is thrilled to have joined CAMSA this year and gain access to all the benefits the organization has to offer, including networking, access to the statewide annual CAMSA workshop, eligibility for grant programs, personalized coaching, Main Street-specific programming and tools, and other professional development opportunities. Having access to the CAMSA playbook with successful ideas from hundreds of communities across the country, Fremont’s Main Streets are well-equipped to become even more vibrant.
Downtown District Vision Capitol Avenue at State Street | Credit: City of Fremont
What are you most excited about accomplishing this year with CAMSA?
There are many projects and initiatives in Fremont’s business districts that our membership with CAMSA will help us cultivate. We are looking forward to utilizing our CAMSA membership to build upon our partnerships with neighborhood business districts and developing a comprehensive joint branding and marketing strategy to enhance the identity of the districts through marketing, events, and way-finding signage; incorporating a leasing/merchandising plan for property owners and commercial tenants; and improving the public realm.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Fremont is considered a major economic hub of Silicon Valley. With access to two BART stations, less than half an hour from all three of the Bay Area’s international airports, access to Interstate 680 and 880, transportation presents a huge opportunity for businesses located in Fremont. We’re also a diverse community, with more than 50% of our population being foreign born and speaking more than 98 languages. Fremont has ranked first in several categories generated by WalletHub including: Least-stressed city, lowest percentage of adults in fair/poor health, lowest divorce rate, highest median credit score, and happiest place to live. We’re thinking holistically about the needs of future workers, families, startups, small businesses, and high-tech companies and we’re excited to partner with CAMSA while doing so!