Work on Dana Point’s long-awaited Town Center project to begin September 9

After 20 years of talks and nearly a decade of planning, Dana Point’s revamp of the Town Center corridor appears to be running on all cylinders. Construction on underground utilities and the storm drainage system along Pacific Coast Highway is slated for a September 9 start. Photo by Andrea Papagianis
After 20 years of talks and nearly a decade of planning, Dana Point’s revamp of the Town Center corridor appears to be running on all cylinders. Construction on underground utilities and the storm drainage system along Pacific Coast Highway is slated for a September 9 start. Photo by Andrea Papagianis

By Andrea Papagianis

After decades of discussion and planning, construction work on the Town Center project is slated to begin on Monday, September 9, with shovels in the ground as early as the following day, officials with the South Coast Water District confirmed.

The largest public works project in the city’s 24-year history, to transform the Del Prado Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway corridor into a pedestrian-friendly center, will begin with the South Coast Water District’s work to replace existing underground utilities along the latter roadway.

“I’m excited to finally see a shovel in the ground and progress being made toward our goals that were set for Town Center nearly a decade ago,” said Mayor Steven Weinberg.

At a meeting last week, the district’s board of directors unanimously approved a contract with a construction management firm, marking a last step before phase one work on the five-phased project could begin. The project partners the water district and the city of Dana Point to complete utility and street-scape work throughout the downtown area. The two are working in a phased approach with the water district completing utility work before the city begins street-level improvements.

Construction crews will be replacing water, sewer and storm drains along PCH between Silver Lantern and Golden Lantern first, with the water district’s utility work on PCH stretching through January, said Linda Homscheid, SCWD spokeswoman.

The city will follow with street-level work on PCH, expected to last until October 2014.

At the end of the city’s construction on PCH, the now one-way road will provide two lanes of traffic in each direction. As noted in city plans, work will include the addition of medians, bus pullouts, widened sidewalks, landscaping and new street signage.

Once the utility work on PCH is completed, the water district will switch gears to Del Prado Avenue. District work on Del Prado is expected to begin in March. In both infrastructure replacement phases—along PCH and Del Prado—the water district will install new sewer lines, storm drainage systems and water mains. Similar roadwork completed on PCH will also take place on Del Prado.

Work will begin with the sewer line and storm drain installations, as they lie deepest below the street’s surface, said David Youngblood, the district’s director of engineering. The storm drains are actually the city’s responsibility, but due to the water district handling underground work, the two entities have an agreement where the district will handle the construction and be reimbursed the estimated $800,000 cost.

The water district approved a contract with the Escondido-based CCL Contracting for the first phase of work along PCH, estimated to cost $2.5 million. The district’s most recent contract agreement is with the Irvine-based RBF Consulting firm to handle construction management. The two companies worked together on a previous facilities relocation project in the city and Youngblood said this working relationship prompted the newest agreement.

History of the Project

Discussions on revamping Dana Point’s downtown corridor began in the early- to mid-’90s, with plans to create a pedestrian and business-friendly atmosphere—to promote new development—in motion for nearly a decade.

A rendering of how Pacific Coast Highway is expected to look upon build out. Courtesy of the city of Dana Point
A rendering of how Pacific Coast Highway is expected to look upon build out. Courtesy of the city of Dana Point

The city hired a San Francisco-based firm, ROMA Design Group, in 2004 to create a plan for Town Center and a community advisory committee was formed the next year. In 2006, the City Council approved plans for the estimated $19 million revitalization project, with the California Coastal Commission following suit in 2008. Movement on the project came to a halt shortly thereafter with the economic climate change, but was jumpstarted last year by a citizen coalition, the water district, city staff and members of the City Council.

Since January, the city and water district staffs have reimagined their construction approach in order to streamline street-level and underground work. Both the city and district governing bodies approved a phased construction plan earlier this spring. In May, during the city’s budget talks and authorizations, the City Council unanimously approved allocating $9.2 million for the PCH portion of the project.

At the same meeting, members of the Del Prado business community expressed concern that their portion of the project would be forgotten, as money was not set aside. City staff has said they expect the street-level work along Del Prado to be pushed along by developers.

A total project work timeline is expected to last through 2015.

“Constructing our Town Center downtown project is the most significant achievement since city incorporation,” said Councilman Bill Brough after the water district’s announcement of breaking ground on the project.

“I am proud to have escalated the stalled project to the forefront last December and pleased to be part of the coalition of business and community leaders and council members who supported building now to benefit residents, businesses and visitors,” Brough said.

For now, Homscheid said the city and water district are working together to disseminate information to the public.

Youngblood said weekly meetings throughout the four-month utility work will help keep everyone on track and on the same page. As construction moves down PCH, he said businesses and homeowners will be notified and additional street signage will inform drivers of work being done and any anticipated delays.

Schedule of Work Slated for Town Center

PHASE I: The South Coast Water District will being construction to replace underground water and sewer utilities along Pacific Coast Highway between Copper Lantern and Blue Lantern streets on Monday, September 9. At the same time, the hired construction firm will reconfigure the city’s storm drainage system. Work is slated to last until early next year. Two lanes of traffic are set to be open throughout.

PHASE II: Once the SCWD wraps up its first phase of construction, the city can begin work along Pacific Coast Highway to add medians, bus pullouts, widened sidewalks, landscaping and street signage. The city is expected to place directional signage throughout the approximate 0.8-mile stretch and allow business owners to put out temporary signs during the estimated eight months of construction. When completed, vehicular traffic will flow in two directions, rather than the one-way traveled now.

PHASE III: As soon as the SCWD completes phase one work, the district can begin redoing the sanitary sewer, water and storm drain systems along Del Prado Avenue between Blue and Copper Lantern streets. Work could begin as soon as February of next year if construction along PCH stays on track. As with the first phase of construction, two lanes of the three-lane roadway are expected to stay open.

PHASE IV: Currently, the city has no timeline set in place for the final phase of Town Center work along Del Prado, due to the need to allocated funds for this portion of the project. According to city staff, talks on funding could begin next spring. Construction along Del Prado will include new medians, sidewalks, bus stops and pullouts, landscaping and street signage. As with PCH, once construction is completed, Del Prado will become a two-directional roadway.

Information provided by the South Coast Water District and city of Dana Point.

Stay tuned for updates on the project.

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