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    The ACUNA Arts Collective Team (AACT) Project in Downtown Oxnard

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    by Armando Vazquez

    The concept of providing multiple commercial business space in one large building or adjacent building is not a novel idea. Putting together public and non-profits together in a multiservice building has been around for a while as well. What is unique about our idea of opening public space for public good is that it bring private, public and non-profit businesses and organization under one roof in the very heart of a the old downtown commercial sector of Oxnard.  The Acuna Arts Collective Team (AACT) project will be a multi-million dollars, long term, locally administered project that will create vocational school and union training/apprenticeships/jobs, commercial/business opportunities and  start-up incubators, educational partnerships, world class art/cultural programming, venues and events, social services that integrate all of our clients into the everyday civic fabric of Oxnard,

    “It’s as much about embracing the public as it is having commercial spaces and residential units,” says Jeff Blau, CEO of Related Companies, the real estate developer behind the $25 billion Hudson Yards project in New York City.  To a large degree the Hudson Yards project in New York City was the article that I read in Fast Company magazine’s March 2017 edition. Jeff Blau’s Related Companies, is an innovative national development corporation and what they are doing with problematic urban property was what piqued my interest. We wanted our community to take on the idea/concept of community-acquired city of Oxnard property, specifically the old, Social Security building (425-445 South B Street) and envisioned using the basic Hudson Yards project concept as potential point of reference to develop a multi- use, multi-facility, and multi-faceted master plan that is uniquely tailored to the needs, dreams and aspiration of downtown Oxnard.

    In one creative, bold and out of the box collaborative joint development venture The Acuna Arts Collective Team (AACT) in partnership with the city of Oxnard and other key stakeholders could addresses the most pressing and critical local issues facing our residents and businesses in the revitalization efforts in the downtown area of Oxnard. By acquiring this property (properties and lots) we become the franchised stakeholder agents of local change in our community. We believe that the community must be involved, and as the primary stakeholder in the creation the downtown vision and in the subsequent develop; while at the same time, with the strategy of partnering with the city in key areas (think zoning, permits, tax credits and countless other benefits) we relieve the city of a real estate conundrum and make the city officials look like geniuses at the same time.  We bring our vision of creating an arts, educational, housing, retail and commercial multi-use complex that would provide the user friendly and congruent services and commerce to our unique and diverse community.

    The Acuna Arts Collective Team (AACT) will introduce through this design an array of local and national lifestyle services, programs, companies and brands to create a private non-profit development with broad public appeal. The ACCT teams includes locally well–known non-profits and public service groups such as The Oxnard Multicultural Mental Health(OMMH) Collective, KEYS Leadership Academy, One Love Dance Company, El Lustrador Academia, and the Acuna Art Gallery.  In addition we propose to user larger entities such as Oxnard College, CSUN, CSUCI, Montecito Bank, Laborers Union local 585, local SEIU, among other businesses, many of whom have shown interest in this plan.

    Here is a brief very fluid description of how the ACCT Community project can create a new model for urban revival in downtown Oxnard.


    We have been in serious and extended negotiations with local colleges and universities; Oxnard and Ventura Colleges as well as CSUCI, CSUN, and local vocational colleges to partner with us. An obvious benefit to institutions of higher learning is to partner closely with the largest city in Ventura County from which to recruit, enrol and provide educational programs and services. We will utilize educationally solid anchors and their reliable rent to sustain the initial build-up.  We facilitate the schools of higher learning in meeting their core mission to outreach to the Oxnard community.


    The ACCT developer and partners will use its 25 years of providing best practices, nationally recognized programs and curricula to recruit the best practices social services providers to become part of the ACCT court of social services providers to work in synergistic expertise and bring into immediate proximity the population they are charged to serve. Thus: one-stop shopping for local ethnically congruent social service at its cutting edge best, with important ancillary supports by the local government.


    To create spaces capable of drawing an anticipated 1,000 visitors a day, ACCT is working with the Laborers Union 585, local architects, local developers and the city of Oxnard to design the Oxnard Renaissance Zocalo, a multi-use complex that will house arts studios, performance space, and retail gallery and show room space for the artist of the community. Adjacent to the complex, ACCT will work with the city to create El Jardin De Los Artistas, a 5,000-square-foot outdoor art space. The ACCT project location is adjacent and in harmony with current Plaza Park’s public space amenities.


    To further financially anchor our complex, retail space will be offered and available first to local business (Grocery Outlet, 5150 Designs, Café on A (internet), Acuna Books, as well as others small local businesses. We will also recruit large business retailers which have a history of community service and support, such as Patagonia, among others.  (A balance of small and locally owned business must be complemented by established retailers so that we are assured of a smooth funding stream.)


    15% (a fluid approximation) of the site will remain open public space which creates a private non-profit development with broad public appeal. This means that simple needs such as unisex public restrooms, working faucets, comforting benches, and green space (a priority) are available. The ACCT project gives the city of Oxnard residents a once- in- life- time opportunity to visualize and create a progressive user friendly multi-use complex unique to Oxnard.  


    Oxnard has one of the greatest variety of foods and restaurants in the state. These great local restaurants create some of the best cuisine in the world. We will recruit (initially) locally- owned restaurants and then recruit larger established restaurant businesses that have demonstrated a commitment to social service to the community. We want our residents and visitors to have a holistic guest positive experience that nurtures and encourages folks to stay a while and then return to our user-friendly space in the heart of downtown Oxnard.


    Space (multiple spaces) will be provided so that our children feel and are loved, well- taken care of and nurtured. These spaces will take into account the needs of the modern nuclear family and the various and challenging needs facing the children, parents and the families of our community. We will have an active, state-of-the- art childcare facility (free of charge) for our local residents while using our center, receiving classes, social services, dining and recreating in our complex. Our children must be safe and nurtured, and the adults must be given the time and support they need to maximize a transformational experience each and every time they visit our complex.

    This initial concept just presented is, of course, fluid and subject to change as we continue down the path of acquiring the Social Security building and the adjacent lots that surround this SSB location. As visionary urban development leaders in Oxnard this project is designed in such a way that acts as an important blueprint for other cities throughout the country to emulate. Finally, please feel free to think of this document as a rough blueprint to be used by you, the local stakeholder, in this exciting project. We look forward to your input so that we can dream, visualize and create an ideal space. Together we can do it! If you have any interest in getting involved in this proposal please call me at (805) 216-4560 or at my email [email protected]. Junto Si Podemos! Together we can do this!

    Armando Vazquez, M.Ed.  is Executive Director of  Acuna Art Gallery/Café on A, Executive Director for The KEYS Leadership Academy and Chairman of the Oxnard Multicultural Mental Health/coalition


    The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.

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