ENCINITAS is still considered an “unspoiled and unchanged reminder of the era of Hwy 101.” The downtown area is reminiscent of the quiet, natural beach towns that existed prior to World War II and has the feel of earlier times, retaining its beachy, artsy, Hwy 101 culture.
Encinitas 101 MainStreet was originally formed in 1982 as the Downtown Encinitas Merchants’ Association, a Main Street Program in 1998, following the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street Revitalization Program. Across the United States the MainStreet program encourages imaginative use of business and government resources to support local downtown and neighborhood commercial district revitalization efforts.
But in the 21st Century, it also has the bustle and boom of top retail shops, fine dining and cultural events and attractions that bring visitors from all over the region.
The downtown district has stories to tell about its past, present and future that are defined by its natural resources and buildings. The current route through the Downtown Encinitas district uses the historic Coast Hwy 101, which was succeeded in the mid-1950’s with the construction of the 800-mile long Interstate-5, the most important highway in California, connecting the state from the rural extremes of the north to the vastly populated urbanscape of the south.
Regardless, the “old highway” remains home to the culture of the past and innovation of the present and future. The earliest structures date back to the 1880s, but the most prolific decade of construction was the 1920s, after water became available from Lake Hodges Dam and ushered in new prosperity. When the stock market crashed in October of 1929, the cheerful optimism of that period faded abruptly and it would be years before the economy rebounded. But in true Encinitas spirit, those hard times fostered a neighbor-helping-neighbor mentality and the community as a whole remained optimistic.
Today, Coast Hwy 101 offers those who venture off of the main thoroughfare of the I-5 Freeway an opportunity to walk, bike, or drive around Encinitas, Leucadia and Cardiff-by-the-Sea. Visitors will discover a downtown that blends the unchanged and unspoiled with the modern hustle and bustle of a thriving seaside community.
In 2004, Encinitas 101’s success was recognized by the national organization with its highest honor, The Great American Main Street Award.