The six blocks of Front Street along the San Lorenzo River are undergoing a drastic overhaul.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
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Morning Lookout: Touring downtown’s ambitious makeover; Benchlands clearing continues

Hello, friends and neighbors. It’s Wednesday, Sept. 21, and lingering showers are possible around Santa Cruz County earlier in the day, with more sun later and temps in the 60s and 70s.

Of note for Thursday: Cal Fire has a prescribed burn scheduled off Empire Grade:

I’ve got plenty of news to deliver, but if you’re the type to strike out on your own, please do.
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The ambitious makeover underway in downtown Santa Cruz is our big headline this Wednesday, with Wallace Baine taking us on a tour of a six-block area around Front Street where six big buildings are under construction or in the planning stages. We’ve got renderings, before-and-after sliders, maps and a glossary, so well worth a look.

Across the San Lorenzo River, efforts continue to clear the county’s largest homeless encampment. Max Chun reports on phase 2 of the process at the Benchlands, where about one in three residents is moving to the National Guard Armory as offered by the city.

Before we get to the headlines, though, I wanted to let you know about a great chance to support both local journalism and a great local organization. Become an annual Lookout member now and 10% of the price of your membership will support the O’Neill Sea Odyssey’s Adam Webster Fund, a program that funds educational experiences for individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities. This program needs our help in ramping back up after being hit hard by the pandemic. It gets better — that donation will be matched by O’Neill Sea Odyssey donors. Click the links below for more info and to join Lookout.

And now, about those headlines ...

Downtown redo aims for 1,000s of new residents, 6 multistory buildings — and revived riverfront

You can see the big new building fast rising at Front and Laurel in downtown Santa Cruz. That’s just the first wave of massive redevelopment that will change a big swath of downtown — and heralds even more high-density development to come. Wallace Baine takes us on a tour of the vision that is fast becoming reality.

MORE ON DEVELOPMENT: ‘Skyscrapers’ in Santa Cruz? 17-story building plans moving forward as city tackles its housing problem (Lookout)

Phase 2 of Benchlands clearing done, but only one in three people leaving is moving into armory

Phase 2 of Santa Cruz's plan to clear the Benchlands homeless encampment took place Monday.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Phase 2 of the City of Santa Cruz’s efforts to clear the Benchlands homeless encampment began and ended Monday, with about 50 individuals being forced out of the area east of the San Lorenzo River. Shelter space is limited as is, and there are at least seven more zones to be cleared. If shelter options run out, the city will have to pause the clearing process. Max Chun reports.

NEXT STEPS: Beyond the Benchlands: Under lawsuit threat, Santa Cruz sets plan to clear homeless camp. What happens next? (Lookout)


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And that’s about all I know this hump day morning. Well, one more thing I know: Lookout has more coming, and I highly recommend you follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay current. You can also click here to sign up for text alerts and all of our other newsletters, including Weekender, Wallace Baine’s guide to Santa Cruz County’s arts and culture scene that hits inboxes on Thursdays.

Community support is an essential piece of this whole puzzle, so if you’re not already, please consider becoming a Lookout member.

Have a safe, healthy Wednesday — see ya next time!

Will McCahill
Lookout Santa Cruz