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City’s got civic center vision thing

Submitted by on 1, March 9, 2010 – 5:50 am13 Comments

City leaders are moving forward on a plan to revamp Alameda’s civic core that could be put in motion in the next 15 to 18 months, Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant has said.

The plan envisions new uses for the former Chun gas station, Towata Flowers and Carnegie library, and for the space now occupied by CVS. It also envisions a host of new residential, office, retail and parking along civic center corridors; parks where some of the city’s existing parking lots sit; and better pedestrian access and lighting in the areas that surround City Hall.

Some specific uses proposed during a presentation to the Community Improvement Commission (read: City Council) last Wednesday include additional parking and a five-screen extension of the Alameda Theatre & Cineplex or a hotel where CVS now sits and retail, restaurant and office uses on the gas station and Towata sites that would retain the station’s canopy and Towata’s iconic sign. Housing could front new parking along Lincoln Avenue.

Planners from Urban Design Associates also suggested putting public parks where the City Hall parking lot and Parking Lot C (across from the theater) sit now. And their plan envisions better pedestrian access, more street trees, better lighting and public art in the city’s civic core.

Gallant said the council would get a second presentation in April that will lay out how the city will make the plan a reality.

Council members, business leaders and history buffs alike said they’re excited about the plan, which they see as the final piece of a long-running effort to rejuvenate Alameda’s downtown. Wednesday’s presentation marked the first public outing for the plan, though leaders of the Park Street Business Association, Alameda Architectural Preservation Society and other “stakeholder” groups were contacted for their input before the plan went before the Council.

“Looking at this, it’s hard not to get excited,” Councilwoman Marie Gilmore said. “I want to ask Ann Marie where’s the money coming from and when we can get started.”

Gallant said she has some “immediate transactions” lined up that could help finance the proposed improvements and that the city is working on grants to fix up the former fire station behind City Hall and the Carnegie building. She said more specifics can be available in the next 30 to 45 days.

“This is stuff we can definitely start doing in the next 15 to 18 months,” Gallant said.

The planning process got underway in July 2009, after Councilman Frank Matarrese asked the council to consider putting the Alameda Museum in the long-vacant Carnegie. City staff came back with the suggestion that a broader plan for the city’s civic core be pursued.

“That corner out there with the gas station – I’m telling you, I’m ready to have a lunch out there under an umbrella,” Matarrese said.

13 Comments »

  • Sue T. says:

    You can actually have lunch at the old gas station on Wednesdays and Fridays, when Jon’s Street Eats food cart is there. The food is amazingly good — better than most of the chow you can get in nearby restaurants!

    Also, the CVS at Oak & Santa Clara seems pretty popular and is the only large drug store in the neighborhood. A hotel would not be as useful to the people who actually live and work in central Alameda.

  • Mark Irons says:

    Huh? Is CVS going under? In the past I heard Longs was one of the larger tax contributors to the district. It would be ironic if after having the larger parking lot /theater design shot down because Long’s pulled out their support, that we would end up with five more screens there. If theater business is that great can we have union projectionists now? During the original Park Street Visioning I put out the idea of lot C being used for open air vending stalls and walk through open space, but it seemed then like parking was a premium. Even with the new garage, lot C is very heavily used. Ms. Gallant hasn’t mentioned using redevelopment money which is becoming a second third rail around here. Are we supposed to park at the new garage to get permits at city hall? Never say never I guess. I like parks, but I’m scratching my head on this one.

  • AD says:

    Huh? times two! There is/was a Civic Center Plan, probably still sitting and gathering dust in the planning department somewhere. It got shoved in a bottom drawer when the theater/garage idea cropped up. I remember there was a plaza/ gathering space involved by widening Oak and utilizing the Longs/CVS lot and the old gas station. Then the ugly garage came and ate part of that. The city would be wise to dig that up and see what can be salvaged, rather than starting from scratch yet again.

  • AD says:

    Just flipped through the presentation. It’s a little late for all these pedestrian enhancements, considering where we have a garage now. There was a midblock pedestrian access, right between the old theater and the Video Maniacs lot. It got subsumed into the theater complex. It kills me to see all these details we keep losing coming back in the form of “new” ideas and pretty drawings, the disparity between intentions and the results we end up with. Sure, I’ll work on my attitude.

  • Tony Daysog says:

    Message from Tony Daysog, candidate for Mayor of Alameda

    As an Alamedan, I’d love to see our downtown to continue to improve. This is a plus for everyone. But, as a former city official and a candidate for Office of the Mayor, sometimes you have to say things that, well, snap us back to reality. We need to focus on Webster Street. There, I said it.

    We need to take the same amount of enthusiasm and, frankly, city-dollars to produce a road-map that takes Webster Street from “point A” to “point B”.

    When I say this, I’m not saying this in the way of “Webster Street as an after-thought” – a view that posits that Webster Street will get better . . . when the Point gets going. Or, Webster will get better . . when Alameda Landing gets going. . . . Or when the Willie Stargell Boulevard comes on line soon. We need to be more pro-active when it comes to Webster Street, like we are elsewhere in town. Enough of this “trickle-down” planning for Webster Street.

    Maybe this isn’t a “winning issue”, since, speaking frankly, the vast bulk of residents RIGHTFULLY love Park Street and South Shore. But that’s one thing I really hope to accomplish in this election: to say things that need to be said, even if they are unpopular. But, then, that’s called leadership: some times you have to raise your hand and say, “Whoa Nelly, wait a moment here — we got to be fair to Webster Street, too.”

    By the way: I am doing my part for Webster Street: I bought a house near Webster and Haight Avenue. I love the fact that I get the Farmers’ Market twice a week. Love being able to walk around the corner to Wes Cafe, or the Aria Supermarket that’s Bosnian-owned. So when we focus on Webster Street — let’s remember to build on the strength and diversity that’s already there, to make it even more of a unique multi-cultural local retail and services area.

    So, let’s continue to plan our quality of life — and when we plan something big for Park Street, then let’s also do something big for Webster Street.

    Tony Daysog
    candidate for Mayor of Alameda
    http://www.daysog.com

  • Richard Bangert says:

    If the corner setback for the building proposed for the CVS lot were to mimic the setback across the street at the old gas station, it would enhance the civic usefulness. Even though the drawing shows a considerable open space area in front of city hall, people are not being invited to sit down and relax on the city hall lawn.

    An open area with benches, trees and perhaps a fountain on the CVS lot would give the entire corner more of a civic gathering area feel. Designing the CVS building right up to the corner seems a bit overly commercial.

    Plus, a generous setback could allow for more umbrellas under which to sit, eat and drink if a restaurant located there, which in turn would contribute a sense of economic vitality to the area.

  • dlm says:

    This is pretty cool. What role does public comment have tho, and when does that take place?

  • Scott says:

    Tony I too have a hunger for change for the better of Alameda. My family and I live on the west end as well, and support the restaurants and shops along webster as much as my wallat will allow. The west end has so much potential to benenfit all of Alameda. With providing quality restaurants and retail on the west end of Alameda you can get people from Berkeley, Oakland, Piedmont and Emeryville spending their money because of the easy access the west end provides. Once the point starts to be developed you are going to start getting residents of san francisco as well as tourists coming over by the ferry and thats when Alameda really starts to make money. You can already see and feel the changes spreading across the west end spreading like a wild fire. The more Alameda embraces and encourages the changes the better it will be for all of Alameda not just the west end.

  • Karen Bey says:

    This is exciting news! I’d love to see a boutique hotel on the CVS lot, and a park on Lot C. I also love what they are proposing to do at the gas station. A hotel and housing will mean more foot traffic on Park Street— and more tax dollars!

    This project will be a great model for the North of Lincoln and Webster Street developments.

  • Always thought the gas station was a natural location for a little cafe, designed to utilize the existing building and awning, but don’t see any point to converting a revenue source into public space, particularly when so many citizens rely on it for their medical and other needs. This is particularly true after AC Transit finished trashing bus stop access all over the island thereby nudging us back towards auto dependence.

  • Mike O says:

    The exit from the parking garage on oak street is extremely dangerous to pedestrians and any improvements to the block of Santa Clara Ave and Oak St should include the installation of a gate or speed bumps when you exit the parking garage. With so many posts by politicians, I hope someone takes notice.

  • Betty says:

    I think we should get rid of the parking garage and start all over. Parks would be great and nice to spend time there (without having to look at that ugly parking garage)I won’t park there…even if I have to walk a mile.
    If we have to keep the garage why can’t we plant trees around it and have vines hanging from the top so we can hid it?

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