Last night was the first Public Workshop for the Civic Center Project. Nearly 50 residents attended to provide input for the initial visioning workshop.
Attendees had an opportunity to provide the Master Plan consultants (HMC Architects) with their impressions of the existing civic center - issues such as roadways, ingress and egress, trees,park settings, garden paths, facilities, ease of access, parking, facades, architecture, high-speed rail, library services, police services, building and planning services, coffee cart, post office services, public works, meeting spaces, gathering spaces, children's library, site look and feel, and more were all brought to the table. HMC offered attendees a "tabula rasa" approach - wiping the slate of everything but the trees and the railroad tracks...and then asking - what would you like to see in your civic center?
First, a bit of overview history since Atherton has been at the redesign of its Civic Center for many years now. In recent years, two separate paths were selected for the Library and Civic Center that ultimately culminated in two ballot measures
For the Library, a tremendous amount of advance work was done, to include a Library Needs Assessment and a proposal evolved to build a new Library in Holbrook-Palmer Park. For the Civic Center, again, a tremendous amount of work was done to create a space needs assessment and a design competition for an architectural schema. Both issues were ultimately put before the community in the form of ballot measures addressing one component or another of the projects. With the Library, the issue was whether the Library should be placed in the Park. Residents answered no - the Park was not to be the place for the new Library. For the Civic Center, the issue was funding source. Residents answered that the design and construction of the new Civic Center should be from private donations. (Funding for a portion of the Civic Center may come from existing "facilities construction funds" for the building and planning departments. The remainder, must come from private donations, per the ballot measure.)
The results of the ballot measures set the stage for the new Library to become a part of the new Civic Center (separate funding sources of course). But while some of the environmental work envisioned the potential of the Library being in the Civic Center, the Town really did not have a Master Plan to address the issues that would inevitably arise during the design and development of a full Civic Center, to include the Library.
The City Council decided that a Master Plan was essential to development of the site given its multitude of issues and importance. In addition, the City Council believed that the Civic Center Project would be one of the most important and far-reaching projects the Town would undertake. Public engagement would be vital to its success. HMC was engaged to help the Town put together that Master Plan and engage the public in the discussion of what they would like their Civic Center to be. Once HMC started work they incorporated and updated the Library Needs Assessments as well as validated the work done by earlier design competition architects and the Blue Ribbon Committee for the space needs for the Civic Center. Some of the work needed to be updated to ensure that current space needs were accurate but most carried forward.
That has been the focus of the early work by HMC and the Civic Center Advisory Committee (CCAC). Now that that work is nearly complete, HMC and the CCAC has begun the public outreach and engagement phase of the project. There will be two major Public Workshops (the first held last night) separated by 5 Neighborhood Meetings. These meetings will focus on what the residents want to see in their Civic Center. Finding out what's important in terms of access, use, and desires. These needs are balanced against functional and operational needs. Following the first public workshop and the neighborhood meetings, HMC and the CCAC will refine the Master Plan to incorporate the feedback from the community. After that, final options and alternatives will be presented to the community at the second Public Workshop - set for December. Feedback from this Workshop will feed into the City Council adoption of the Master Plan.
Concurrent, but separate, from the Master Plan is the community's fundraising efforts. By law, neither the Town, the City Council, City staff, the CCAC or the involved architects can engage in fundraising efforts to support the design and construction of the Civic Center. These efforts are led independently by members of the community. Funding for a portion of the Civic Center may come from existing "facilities construction funds" for the building and planning departments. Funding for the Library portion of the Civic Center will come from Library funds. The remainder, must come from private donations, per the ballot measure.
The Master Plan process that the Town is currently engaged in is unlike any process that has been undertaken before with respect to the Civic Center development. Public input is important and critical to its success. Your thoughts as users and residents on what you would like to see your civic center become will be fundamental to the City Council's decision on the Master Plan alternatives. Single-story, two-story, underground parking, open space, outside gathering spaces, meeting spaces, reading areas, children's reading areas, pathways to service delivery areas, one-stop permit centers, separate or combined police facilities, trees, historic concerns, screening, greening, and more. Your voice is important to what's next!
Hope to see you at the next meeting! If you cannot attend a meeting, please send your comments, suggestions, and feedback to any member of the Civic Center Project Team. Contact information for the project team is located on the Civic Center Project webpage.
Town of Atherton