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Downtown vitality keeps getting better

PDA director Laura Olson talks about what's new in Pleasanton's central business district

Thousands jammed Main Street earlier this month for the season's inaugural First Wednesday street party.

And with another downtown event coming June 3 when Concerts in the Park starts at Lions Wayside Park, there was a reason Laura Olson was all smiles during her remarks to local Realtors.

The executive director of the Pleasanton Downtown Association was the guest speaker at the weekly meeting of the Valley Real Estate Network, where she fielded questions by Donna Garrison of Fabulous Properties.

With Fernando's, Redcoats and Stacey's Cafe now closed, Olson was pressed on downtown's viability.

But she said not to worry. Despite the occasional churn, more restaurants are coming and business couldn't be better.

In fact, downtown Pleasanton weathered the recent recession better than business districts in many cities that still have 30-40% vacancy rates, with the highest rate here at 7%. The concern now is that with a 3% rate, she can't accommodate the many calls she gets daily from businesses that want to open in the downtown.

Olson said new restaurants and retailers include Sole Desire, a premier independent women's shoe store; Frontier Spice, offering traditional yet innovative India cuisine; McKay's Taphouse, with a family environment and a variety of food options, including a children's menu; and KJCoutre, a clothing boutique specializing in shapewear.

Starbucks Evening and Sabio on Main opened recently in an architecturally striking new two-story building on Main, and Olson said two other coffee shops will open soon.

Peet's Coffee and Tea already has its name etched in the windows at the former Tully's coffee shop on Main. At the long-closed Round Table Pizza parlor across the street, work is underway to prepare it for Inkling's, which Olson said will be more like a college town-style, independent coffee shop with a stage and offering live music, poetry readings and "quiet" space for resting and reading.

That's not all. Olson said the signs are up with construction starting soon on a unique new two-story restaurant where the Union Jack Pub was torn down in 2007. Planned by Robert Dondero, who lives in Pleasanton, it will have a large ground-floor restaurant with a 1,300-square-foot, second-floor terrace overlooking the Main Street sidewalk.

Around the corner at St. Mary and Peters, the city has just approved plans to convert an old family home on the corner into a small eatery for late-night wine tasting inside or on an 1,100-square-foot courtyard. The Beer Baron, one of Livermore's oldest bars, will take the space Redcoats is leaving.

Also different for downtown will be the construction of a three-story building on the site of the former Panda restaurant at 30 W. Angela St. A 4,000-square-foot restaurant will occupy the first floor with furnished corporate one-bedroom and studio apartments above.

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