City officials gather to kick off the Town Center southern gateway project
By Andrea Swayne
After years of planning and many delays, city officials hosted an official groundbreaking ceremony on November 27. The event officially kicked off one of the first planned improvements in the Dana Point Town Center Revitalization Plan—the southern gateway project.
Brad Fowler, public works director, was first to address the crowd from a podium at the triangle median marking the southern entry to Dana Point’s downtown area as cars whizzed by, headed up Pacific Coast Highway and down Del Prado.
“A lot of hard work from many community members has gone into the project and we are so happy to be kicking off Town Center with this south gateway project,” Fowler said, as he presented the architectural renderings by project designers ROMA Design Group.
Fowler called the gathering a momentous start to the city’s efforts over a number of years to look at the Town Center, come up with strategies to make it better and make plans from the public side to improve infrastructure and facilities for existing businesses and to entice new businesses into town.
Completion of the southern gateway project is expected to be completed by the end of March depending on the weather, Fowler said, adding that the city does not intend to begin construction during the holidays and will hold off until the beginning of the year.
The rendering shows date palms, agave and an approximately nine-foot-tall hedge in which the Town Center signage appears to be floating.
The hedge will provide attractive cover to the chain link fence and blue buildings housing businesses at the point where Pacific Coast Highway and Del Prado split.
“The median will be cut back and the turnaround will be moved to allow for the extra space needed to complete the project,” Fowler said.
Mayor Lara Anderson, who served as vice chair of the Town Center Subcommittee, was next at the podium.
“This is a momentous occasion. Not only are we looking at this beautiful drawing but we are also looking at the remodel of the old Hollywood Video building across the street. That’s going to be spectacular as well. What a nice entrance into the Town Center to see our feature here, that building done and hopefully some more improvements as we progress and people start getting more excited about the project,” Anderson said. “I have to say ‘thank you so much’ to our Subcommittee, Planning Commission and Council for getting this through the California Coastal Commission. There have been numerous plans attempted over the years that never happened. We are approved; we’re on the ground now. We’ve got easements and we’re ready to go. I am grateful that we are taking this first step now, to get this ball rolling as the economy recovers so we can expect more projects like that beautiful building happening in the future.”
Attendees then donned hard hats and gathered near the ceremonial jackhammer for a series of photo opportunities to commemorate the occasion.
Also among those in attendance were Mayor Pro Tem Steven Weinberg (also a Town Center Subcommittee member); Council members Scott Schoeffel, Bill Brough and Lisa Bartlett; Subcommittee members Ronna Kincaid, Kirsten Reynolds, Jim Miller and Planning Commissioner Liz Claus; Boris Dramov and Bonnie Fisher of project designers ROMA Design Group; John Tilton, city architect and interim development director; Matt Sinacori, city engineer; Assistant City Manager Mike Killebrew; City Manager Doug Chotkevys and other community and city staff members.
Chotkevys expressed his satisfaction with the fact that the gateway project was so expeditiously approved by the Coastal Commission and called it a testament to the work of the community.
“This is a project that was designed by and for the people, and as a result of the tireless public outreach this project was literally approved in minutes by the California Coastal Commission,” Chotkevys said. “Most projects of similar size and scope take years to get through the Commission.”
City Council voted in April to transfer $350,000 from a fund of approximately $800,000 for use in beginning the gateway project.
The full revitalization plan, estimated to cost $19 million, was approved by the Coastal Commission in 2008. In November 2011, the Dana Point Planning Commission voted in favor of approving the final Environmental Impact Report.
The complete plan includes changing the downtown stretch of PCH and Del Prado into two-way streets, added parking, signage, traffic signals, mixed-use buildings, landscaping and beautification—all intended to make the area more business and pedestrian friendly.
Although the question of funding the entire project remains, especially in light of the economic downturn of recent years, officials say the gateway is an important step toward ensuring the plan maintains some forward momentum. Officials have also said should complete funding be secured, construction would be expected to take one year.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Anderson’s last as mayor as she has reached the end of her two four-year term limit on City Council, she expressed satisfaction with seeing this project get off the ground.
“We spent so much time planning and getting it through the approval process and to see the Town Center project finally being transformed into a reality will really be spectacular,” Anderson said.
Planning Commissioner Claus concurred, expressing her delight with the project.
“This is so nice to see that we have finally come to the beginning of this great project that has taken so many years,” Claus said. “We know that the city is going to continue to get better and better and better every day.”