Downtown Hanford is in for a major face lift by 2024, courtesy of a $20 million transit system which is about to enter the design phase. Angie Dow, director of Kings Area Rural Transit, said the organization has outgrown its existing transit center, an open-air transfer station on 7th Street between a gym and the Amtrak station.
A study looking at improving the existing location found that the railroad made the location too loud, restricted the movement of buses and, more importantly, prevented KART from expanding service into transportation “deserts.” “The new transit center will ultimately allow for growth of our transit system, which will be of tremendous value to a significant population of our city that are dependent on public transportation,” said City Manager Mario Cifuentez.
KART selected a property between 7th and 8th streets and Brown and Harris streets, amounting to about four acres of land. Dow said while the transit center will allow them to expand service and increase frequency of routes, the department is hoping to make the project work in the downtown area broadly. The new structure will be a transfer center and administrative building for KART, as well as commercial space, Dow said. They also plan to keep the downtown style and have all buses running out of the back side of the property so transit activity cannot be seen from 7th Street. Michelle Brown, executive director of Main Street Hanford, said her organization is hoping the new center, which is taking over a previously blighted property, will contribute to the overall revitalization of downtown.
While some business owners in the downtown area were nervous when the project was announced, Brown said KART’s plans to match the historic look of downtown, keep 24-hour security and have mixed-use spaces could increase interest in filling vacancies in nearby buildings. “We want to hopefully engage other developments around us,” Dow said. “Transit is a place where we move people through … there’s a lot of movement. We’re trying to design a facility that’s more geared around being a place people want to be.” On top of incorporating commercial space, Dow said the new center is being designed to serve as a cooling center. She said the switch would help the city save money because the transit center’s hours match cooling center hours, and they’ll have more amenities which residents might want while waiting for temperatures to drop. Dow said the center will also include solar power generation, electric vehicle charging, park-and-ride lots, bike lockers, parking for ride-share services and connection to Amtrak and other regional transit services.
The center will allow KART to get feedback from riders more readily, as the administration building and transit center will be in the same place and they may be able to integrate more technology to survey the public, Dow said. Dow said the planning of the center is not yet complete and they are still looking into tenants and options to add affordable housing. Having a transit center near population centers, like the neighborhoods downtown, will make Hanford more attractive in competitive loan applications, she said. KART will be awarding a design firm contract on Wednesday, starting an 18-month design period. Dow said they expect the project to be completed no later than 2024. KART is looking to fund the construction phase with grants.