Loomis: Revitalizing its Downtown

DESPITE ITS SMALL SIZE, THE TOWN OF LOOMIS — just off I-80 in south Placer County — looms large when it comes to the region’s history. In the mid-1800s, settlers came to Loomis for gold mining along the rivers.

Then along came the railroads. “Loomis was named in 1884 by the Southern Pacific for James Loomis, the local railroad agent, express agent, postmaster and saloon-keeper,” Erwin Gudde writes in California Place Names.

In the early 20th century, the Central Pacific Railroad set the stage for Loomis’ future in agriculture. Local peaches, pears, plums and other fruit was shipped out of its packing sheds to the east in wooden boxes with brightly colored labels, helping to put Placer County on the map.

In the mid-’50s, during the golden age of autos, Loomis was a stop along historic Hwy. 40, the nation’s busiest transcontinental highway. I-80 has replaced Hwy. 40, but Taylor Road is still the heart of downtown Loomis, with historic fruit sheds such as High Hand and Blue Goose, other longtime businesses such as Main Drug and imaginative new ones such as LBB Gastropub & Smokehouse.

New $2.4 Million Streetscape

Now downtown Loomis is entering a new era: It is constructing a new, $2.4-million streetscape, designed to preserve its past and prepare its downtown for a prosperous future. It is redolent of a project that has helped revitalize downtown Lincoln, another town whose roots date back to the Gold Rush.

“We’re excited to be replacing the sidewalk on Taylor Road between Horseshoe Bar Road and Oak Street,” says Britton Snipes, the town’s engineer and public works director. “This project will make our downtown area more pedestrian and bicycle friendly in a way that honors our history and values.”

The long-awaited plan calls for new sidewalks, curbs, gutters, street lights, high-visibility pedestrian crossings, bike paths, and parking along Taylor Road between Oak Street and Horseshoe Bar Road, a core part of its downtown. New landscaping also is in the works. Future work could include expanding the streetscape to King Road and Sierra College Drive along Taylor Road, as well as from I-80 to the train depot on Horseshoe Bar Road.

Loomis business owners and civic leaders hope it will encourage locals and visitors to walk down uniform sidewalks going from High Hand Nursery, High Hand Cafe and its historic Fruit Shed to Horseshoe Bar Road, past numerous local merchants. The sidewalks also will be ADA accessible.

In a nod to its past, Loomis’ new downtown sidewalks will have tiles depicting local historic crate labels (20 different ones have been chosen), creating an historical walk. The crosswalks will include stamped asphalt with lights in the pavement.

Loomis is well known for its small-town character and historic structures, and city planners have been careful to ensure that the project is unique. The town’s motto is “A small town is like a big family.”

Loomis’ street improvement project began in June and should be completed in late September, assuming no unforeseen complications. The town chose Martin Brothers Construction, which completed the streetscape improvement in Lincoln in 2015. Martin’s bid was the lowest, at $2.4 million. The project is being funded with a $1.4 million state grant, and the remaining funds will come from the town of Loomis.

The Loomis Basin Chamber of Commerce has launched a special website to keep locals informed about the project’s progress. It is at www.IdigLoomis.com. Downtown Loomis hopes to have the project completed in time for the Eggplant Festival on October 7. This year marks the festival’s 30th anniversary, so it is a fitting time to complete a major public-works project that marries Loomis’ past with its future.

What’s Up in Loomis

The home of High-Hand Nursery and Cafe and the historic fruit shed. One of our area’s best dining and shopping experiences.

The largest tack store in Northern California in the heart of downtown.

An old-fashioned burger and shake shop.

A popular craft brewery and now a gastropub in a second location.

Thursdays near Taylor’s, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.

October 7, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Loomis Train Station Plaza.

(Photo: Peter Oakes)

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