SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The look of Santa Barbara's downtown has been evolving since before the pandemic, but some of the most creative changes are taking place in real time.
They were started during the pandemic with the quickly laid out design to the promenade featuring open-air restaurant areas and outside bars, live music and creative lighting.
In an area between Haley St. and Sola St. cars were eliminated but the increase in bikes and pedestrians has jumped tremendously.
Next up will be an infusion of city and government funds for new lighting strands in about 40 locations and other festive design features, some by the Santa Barbara Downtown Organization, and some by business owners.
Many more plans are in motion along with a long term master plan.
A full schedule of deep cleaning and power washing on a regular basis will be taking place.
The area normally gets a full cleaning after the impacts from the Old Spanish Days Fiesta taking place in early August.
The urgency to capitalize on the summer crowds is apparent as part of the post-COVID recovery efforts.
Every first Thursday there is a specially curated night of events, open houses at art galleries and live performances.Tonight's lineup can be found at: https://www.downtownsb.org/events/1st-thursday
Downtown Organization Operations Manager Erik Krueger said, "this is community. This is everyone supporting each other downtown."
He says the First Thursday events involve businesses over multiple blocks.
"We have 30 venues, a great local band, a market with over 15-20 local vendors," he said.
A visitor from Boulder, Colorado says in her town, live music in downtown open spaces is a big draw
Patti Miller said, "they have it in one spot. There's a stage over here all the bands and people dancing and all of that and over here will be your buskers."
One mom who had a son in the band Glenn Annie says they would love more music in downtown.
Allison Blix said, "he plays a lot around town a lot of venues don't have stages. So if De la Guerra had a stage he would be here in a heart beat. They have a huge following."
In anticipation for Old Spanish Days in August, Krueger said "the Downtown Organization will install 120 Fiesta flags up and down State Street. It is a beautiful, beautiful sight to see. "
He says the downtown members are enthusiastic, "you name it our entire downtown core celebrates with everything they got."