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Pittsburg: A Jewel in the Delta


Very Ferry Accessible

» Rock and roll dance bands, food and crafts from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. every Friday, beginning June 1 through August 31 during the Suisun Summer Concert Series at Harbor Plaza on Main Street. Call (707) 421-7309 for information.

» Lazy, hazy summer reading can be purchased at the Benicia Library Book Sale on June 9. Call (707) 646-4200 for information.

» Start those engines. It’s the NASCAR Winston Cup Weekend at Sears Point Raceway, June 21 to 24. Call (800) 870-RACE for information.

» Lucky Number Seven. Vallejo Music Theatre’s production of "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" opens June 30 at the Fetterly Playhouse, 3467 Sonoma Blvd., Suite 10. Call 707-552-ARTS.

The City of Pittsburg is a successful incorporation of the old and the new and the revitalization continues.

Begun more than 25 years ago by city leaders with visions and dreams, Pittsburg’s renewal is like a faceted jewel in the making.

The marina and harbor have and continue to play a major role in the city’s emergence. The city’s Economic Development Department soon will be revealing a new master plan for the marina and in a few months, there will be requests for proposals from developers, said Brad Nail, the city’s new economic development coordinator.

Changes have already begun. For the first time in many years, there is an onsite harbor master, Van dePiero, a long-time Pittsburg resident and boating enthusiast, who formerly owned a tire store in town.

"Already you can see a change. The old junky boats are being cleared out," said Nail. That is only the first step in the improvement plan, he noted. The docks, which now have 22-foot-long boat slips, will be replaced with slips of 32-foot and 56-foot-long slips. With 700 boat slips, Pittsburg has the second largest marina in the area, (Vallejo has 100 more) and has the most covered berths at 300, making it a desirable place to dock. Once the old boats are removed and the docks demolished, the marina will be dredged, making it more accessible for larger boats, and the new slips will be built. The renovation is expected to be completed by the end of 2002.

"Twenty-five years ago the city leaders believed the marina would be the renaissance of the city. We believe this will be the finishing touch of that dream," said Nail.

Pittsburg was known as the New York of the Pacific when it was laid out in 1849, then as Black Diamond to signify the importance of the nearby coal mines. The coal mines began closing in the late 1870s, (today some of them are being restored as part of the Black Diamond Mine Regional Preserve) but the fishing industry prospered. Later, other industry arrived, including a manufacturing company, a rubber company and an electric generating plant, as well as a small steel company. Today, Dow Chemical and U.S.S-POSCO are the two prime industries in Pittsburg.

Pittsburg saw another boon during World War II with the construction of Camp Stoneman, built as a staging area for troops headed for the Pacific, but when the camp was dismantled after the Korean War, a decline began.

Highway 4, the transportation link that runs through the industrial corridor of Contra Costa County from Richmond in West Contra Costa to Antioch in East Contra Costa, provided the access to the major office complexes built in the Central county area beginning in the 1980s. With the jobs came the people and they moved into the affordable East Contra Costa area, including Pittsburg. The city’s population today is in excess of 55,000 and growing.

Pittsburg’s downtown saw a decline when the freeway bypassed it, but city leaders would not give up easily. Realizing that the city’s future required forward thinking and courage on their part, determined city leaders began the process to revitalize the city. Deteriorated buildings, even including some on which homes of the original settlers had stood, were razed on several blocks in the downtown area to pave the way for the rebuilding. Some of the older areas have been preserved and are well-maintained.

The vision for the area was a downtown surrounded by new, upscale housing. Included in that vision are the three properties the city has on hand, portions of blocks along Black Diamond Boulevard, between 5th and 8th Streets, where one residential only development, and two mixed used (live-work space) projects are planned.

Developing the downtown with residential units was part of the plan envisioned by the city’s leaders. During the past 15 years, the plan has been taking shape. Bay Harbor Park and Marina Park, (some of the homes in the latter development have their own dock) were built at the foot of Railroad Avenue. Two more residential developments, one by Hoffman on the east side and another by Olson on the west side, with prices in the $300,000 range, have a "marina flavor."

Seeno, another major housing developer, plans a development above Highway 4.

New, small businesses have moved into the downtown, where there is a new interest in providing goods and services, said Nail. "It will be like a shopping district."

Nearby, Century Plaza has major stores, and there are plans to develop a restaurant row with fast food and sit down dining establishments. By the fall, the first auto dealership is to move into what is expected to be a significant auto mall. There are also plans to increase the use of the available industrial land with new light industrial and high tech companies. And two power plants are under construction and slated to open next year.

"Redevelopment money has been a major tool that the City of Pittsburg has been using for the past 30 years," said Nail. "It has made a huge difference."

The jewel is getting polished.