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It was the Southern California land boom of the 1880s that gave birth to the town of Escondido. Then, the Escondido Land and Town Co. used $200,000 to entice a railroad to come to Escondido. Founders laid out a town site, opened a model home, sold lots at auctions, and built the town's first hotel, as well as a few churches.

Today, the Planning Commission advises on land issues, developers still build model homes--there are a few vacant lots left--and Escondido has the perfect site for a boutique hotel. The railroad tracks that once carried land speculators from the coast to inland Escondido soon will carry passengers on the new Oceanside to Escondido Rail Project terminating near downtown Escondido.

Unlike other Southern California cities, Escondido boasts a traditional downtown that resists suburban sprawl. Perhaps it's because a Business Improvement District has been operating downtown since 1989. Perhaps it's because Escondido believes its downtown is more than just bricks and mortar, it is a place for social gatherings and business. Or, perhaps it's because the Business Improvement District, stewarded since its founding by the Downtown Business Association of Escondido, has aggressively pursued revitalization with on-going public and private partnerships.

Escondido's Business Improvement District encompasses 71 blocks and nearly 800 retail, professional, financial and service businesses. Considering the Business Improvement District consists of many family-owned and operated businesses like the H. Johnson Furniture Co. and La Tapatia Family Restaurant; art galleries and studios like Joan Irving's Glass Studio, the Lillian Berkley Collection and the Michael Collins Gallery; plus the recent addition of the Escondido Children's Museum, it's no wonder people are looking at downtown Escondido in a new light. Perhaps it's the proximity of the California Center for the Arts to Grand Avenue or maybe it's the city's business-friendly environment, but ask Martha Longenecker of the Mingei International Museum why she is locating the museum's first satellite in Escondido this summer. She'll probably tell you why.

For more information, contact Suzanne Strassburger, CEO of the Downtown Business Association of Escondido at suz-dba@pacbell.net or (760) 745-8877.

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