Over the years, Escondido has been — and has tried to be — a lot of different things.
For example, in the early days, Escondido was very rural and agriculture was the name of the game. During this time, the area around Grape Day Park and Grand Avenue started to slowly develop and become the emotional heart of the city — a home to many community gatherings and celebrations, and a hub of activity.
Decades later, the eastward expansion happened, which created the East Valley corridor. With it came a variety of shopping centers and suburban developments, some of which have already disappeared or morphed as time marches on — remember The Vineyard and the Escondido Village Mall? For better or worse, this suburban expansion also meant the end of much of Escondido's agricultural industry as vineyards and orange groves were replaced by houses.
Downtown continued to grow into a more active urban hub, but over the years, even that changed as the I-15 freeway drew traffic westward. Undeniably, the new freeway, coupled with the opening of North County Fair mall in the southern part of the city, significantly changed the character and energy of Downtown Escondido, which had since become only one small part of a much larger urban core.
In response, city leaders and community members suggested and implemented a variety of projects and redevelopment inititatives designed to revitalize Escondido's urban core. These included the development of the city hall / Center for the Arts complex, sidewalk and landscaping improvements on Grand Avenue, and a general emphasis on the arts and cultural attractions.
Which brings us to today... Escondido has grown from a population of nearly 65,000 in 1980 to today's population of almost 150,000. With virtually no vacant land left on which to grow and develop, redevelopment and reinvention of the city's large and older urban core continues to be a popular topic. Various proposals have come forth, including a Chargers stadium, a minor league baseball park for the Padres, a hotel adjacent to the arts center, science and technology business parks, and the creekwalk proposal.
It all begs the question... Who are we?
Are we still an agricultural community at heart, even if our vineyards are now gone? Are we primarily suburban? Are we an urban oasis, with Grand Avenue, Escondido Boulevard, and the core of downtown acting as North County's budding equivalent to San Diego's North Park or Little Italy? Are we an artistic and cultural capital? Are we ripe for reinvention via major redevelopment projects like stadiums and business parks? Are we a destination for visitors, or a place for those of us who live here regularly? Or, are we just fine as-is?
Or maybe the answer is "all of the above," and maybe that's the point — that Escondido is a large and diverse place, that we can be all of these things to some extent, and it's this diversity of people, history, and neighborhoods that really makes us great and sets us apart from our fellow North County communities?
This week in Topics, we're posting only this article because we want you to have a chance to answer the question "who are we?" Whether you're new to Escondido, or if your family has been here for generations, let the world know what Escondido is to you, and what you hope for it to become, by commenting below. As always, all constructive viewpoints and ideas are welcome.
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