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Mapping the Attractions of Petaluma


Certain Petaluma old-timers, accustomed to thinking of the city in terms of east side and west side — and who’ve only recently gotten used to the phrase “Theater District” for that the one single-theater slice of our downtown — will now have to buckle down and learn a few additional names.

That’s because a brand new visitors’ map has been developed by Petaluma Star (the city’s economic development agency) and the Petaluma Visitor’s Center, and it breaks up Petaluma into eight distinct color-coded “districts” with descriptive names — Adobe, College, Downtown, Maker Alley, Midtown, Oakhill-Brewster, Waterfront and Western - with the Downtown area further divided into sub-districts: Theatre District, Warehouse District, and Historic Downtown.

According to Ingrid Alverde, Petaluma’s Economic Development Manager, the new map was conceived as a way to represent the city’s true character a bit better than maps have have tended to do in the past.

“The work we do in Economic Development is to support our local businesses, and to attract outside business,” she says. “So we spend a lot of time developing information and marketing content to describe what’s great about Petaluma, why someone might want to move here, and why they might want to move their company here.”

Originally, she says, the plan was to launch the map in the form of a smartphone application, one that would showcase various things to do in Petaluma. Eventually, the plan evolved from “app” into a “microsite,” which functions like a website when accessed on a laptop, but works like an app when logged onto through a smart phone. Accompanying the microsite are actual “hard copy” paper maps that purposefully fold up to the exact dimensions of a smart phone.

“In addition to the online version,” says Alverde, “we wanted a ‘pocket map’ that visitors could use, and that local HR managers can use in recruiting employees.”

The map’s eight different neighborhoods, she explains, were designated to help non-residents people get an understanding of the geography of Petaluma.”

The printed version includes an actual walking map of the Downtown district.

All of this, she explains, can be a vital tool introducing Petaluma to newcomers in a clear, attractive, appealing way.

“I’m relatively new here, myself,” Alverde says. “I moved here six years ago from Southern California, and for a while, all I heard was east side Petaluma and west side Petaluma. But I don’t think that helped anyone from the outside understand the area. And it also felt like there was this tone when people said that, implying that east side is the bad side, and west side is the good side — which was also not helpful.”

From such discussions came the notion of highlighting what makes various parts of the town distinct from each other, what is historically or culturally significant about them.

Some names arose organically, such as the Oakhill-Brewster district — designated a historic district by that name in 1990 — and the Waterfront District, defined on the map as everything between the Petaluma River and Lakeville Avenue, extending North to the turning basin and south to the Marina.

A bit more whimsical — some might even say Harry Potter-ish — is “Makers Alley,” it being the industrial areas to either side of McDowell Blvd. between Corona and Redwood Highway.

“That one just seemed to make sense,” says Alverde, citing such burgeoning businesses as Lagunitas Brewing Company, Sonoma Coast Spirits and Griffo Distillery, Winekeeper dispensing systems, and even non-alcohol industries such as Mesa Boogie, Fast Signs, Whole Spice and others.

“The businesses in that area have really taken to the idea of being in Maker Alley,” notes Alverde. “Some of them are planning on working together to brand themselves as being located in Petaluma’s Maker Alley.”

As for the College District, East of McDowell and North of Washington, Alverde says that many residents of the area — primarily made up of homes constructed around the Petaluma Campus of Santa Rosa Junior College, Alverde says the name gives an identity to an area that has been thought of as merely a distant corner of Petaluma.

Says Alverde, “I’ve seen people open the map, find their neighborhood, and say, ‘Hey! We live in the the College District! That’s co cool!’ ”

Whether or not such names become commonly used by future College District and Adobe District residents, or the denizens of the Western District, Midtown, or Oakhill-Brewster, Alverde says the map’s overall purpose has already been achieved.

“We’ve heard that visitors to Petaluma stop by the Visitors Center, ask for a map, and after opening up, say, ‘Wow! This looks like a great town.’ That’s the purpose of the project — to tell the story of everything that’s going on here in a way that’s clear, direct, and kind of fun.”

(Contact David at david.templeton@arguscourier.com)