Downtown remains a vital part of the retail and office scene. Located just off Highway 99 with several interchanges, downtown offers many properties with freeway visibility. Freeway locations have attracted tenants such as Costco, Marie Callender's, the Merced Auto Center, and several fast food restaurants.
Downtown is the seat of government in the area, with the county courts, administrative buildings, and City Hall. Downtown is also the finance and banking center for Merced County, as well as the hub of culture and performing arts, with several galleries and two live performing arts theaters. Downtown also retains Merced's largest concentration of fine restaurants, and a substantial share of the professional office market.
The traditional pedestrian core of downtown has attracted over $45 million in new investment in the past five years. More is on the way:
Mainplace Merced, a 13 screen multiplex theater development with shops and restaurants, opened April, 2001. In the first 100 days, over 100,000 customers were served, and the theater grossed $1,000,000.
The University of California at Merced (UCM) opened 40,000 square feet of offices in the Downtown Center. They share part of the Mondo Building with County Bank who also is a predominant force in Downtown.
The Merced Center is the newest development of Downtown. It boasts a 3 level parking garage and mixed use retail/office/commercial spaces accompanied by the Merced College Business Resource Center building. A high-end business and visitors hotel is planned on the same site. It will cater to the Downtown Center for not only accommodations but large scale conferences as well.
The City has been busy building and renovating community centers in the Downtown Center. It built a new Youth Center at 15th and M Streets in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club and the refurbishment of the Arts Center of Main Street. Both appeal to the community and are embraced by its residents.
A little known jewel of the Downtown Center is the ability to go play-going. Beyond what is currently available to Merced residents, the City, in cooperation with the Merced Theatre Foundation have embarked on an effort to restore the historic Merced Theatre. Efforts have been made to secure grants and restore the exterior of the building. Once completed, the Merced Theatre will be a destination for play-going and the arts within the Central Valley.
The Merced Redevelopment Agency is active in promoting revitalization of the area and maintains a listing of available properties and opportunities.