New business owners hope to revive Downtown Merced

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These store owners are hoping the city's renovations along with their own businesses will bring more people to the area, and help in filling these empty spaces. (KFSN)

These store owners are hoping the city's renovations along with their own businesses will bring more people to the area, and help in filling these empty spaces.

The sound of new business can be heard in Downtown Merced and some store owners are hoping it restores the area to its former glory.

Justin Chen said, "Why not open a coffee shop and bring the vibe back to the downtown because like Merced, downtown is a landmark for Merced."

Justin Chen is getting ready to open Asip Coffee, which will be his second business in Merced. This comes more than a year after Starbucks closed its doors at the same location.

A couple shops down another business is underway, Kheng Xiong is aiming to bring some new cuisine to the area with Aces and Kings Cheese Steaks.

As a Merced native, he hopes it will change downtown, bringing it back to how he remembers a decade ago.

Xiong said, "Downtown was the place to be, it was fun, it was always packed, everybody was walking down the street. Stores were open. Fast forward 10 years and this place was like a ghost town."

Bigger projects are also close to completion city officials say the UC Merced downtown building is expected to open its doors to more than 350 employees early next year.

Other projects like the High-Speed Rail and Ace Train are also bringing in more interest.

Merced Director of Development, Scott McBride said, "We're getting a lot of calls about spaces in the area, about how to start businesses, it's happening consistently, almost daily actually."

But despite the business opportunity, several storefronts along the main street remain silent and boarded up. McBride says the state dissolved a redevelopment agency several years ago, which has made it harder to fill empty properties.

"Since that tool's been gone, those things don't happen so a lot of the things you see downtown they won't change very quickly unless private property owners want to do it themselves, the tools we had just don't exist anymore."

Business owners say they plan to make a change.

"I think this place in the next five years is going to be booming. I really hope that is gets packed like 10 years ago, really active," said Xiong.

As both businesses get ready to open before the end of this year, they hope the new options will bring new life into the historic downtown.

Along with UC Merced, renovations with the El Capitan Hotel and Manzier Theatre are also expected to start at the beginning of next year.

Related Topics:
community-eventsmercednew businessFresno County
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