Boarded up storefronts and vacant buildings go counter to the potential that Nancy Vossos sees downtown Manteca has to become a robust gathering place for the community as happened in other aging Northern California downtowns such as Healdsburg, Rohnert Park, Antioch, and Cotati to name a few.

It is why she is spearheadeing a drive to beautify downtown as efforts continue toward transforming the central district into an appealing venue with more restaurants, specialty stores, cultural events and such.

“Downtown has a lot of potential,” Vossos said. “There are a lot of beautiful old buildings.”
And to help people realize that as well as to counter negatives created by vacant storefronts, Vossos and the downtown beautification committee is employing art.

To that end a window in the vacant store front at 141 West Yosemite Avenue has had art work on display for more than a year.

The committee has stepped up its game. After securing property owner approval they commissioned an artist that goes by “Kat” to paint a mural over the plywood that helps secure the former night club and billiards hall in the 200 block of West Yosemite.

The somewhat whimsical mural features windows and doors painted on the plywood. Details such as possibly a cat peeking out a window will be made as the finishes touches for the mural are completed in the coming weeks.

The committee includes merchants as well as downtown advocates such as Councilman Gary Singh.

Vossos, whose grandfather moved to Manteca in 1907, remembers fondly how downtown served as the community hub when she was growing up. Her long range goal is to restart downtown concerts using the transit center as a venue or even the old El Rey/Kelley Brothers Brewing Co. that is now being remodeled as an events center.

Vossos said a “really nice upscale dinner jazz concert, wine tasting, and art show would be fantastic for a downtown cultural jolt.”

Right now she is concentrating on contacting the owners of the 12 vacant properties along Yosemite Avenue between Main Street and the railroad tracks to get permission to display arts or — if windows are boarded over — to brighten them up with mural art.

“It’s been difficult to try and get a hold of some of the owners,” Vossos said, adding any information people are able to pass on would be appreciated.

She also wants to line up more art such as handmade quilts to display in storefront windows that are currently vacant.

Vossos can be reached at creeksidecottage@live.com or by calling 1-707-695-2287.