Plans for a pedestrian bridge in downtown Atascadero are marching forward.
Last week, the City Council gave the go-ahead to finish design and bid documents for its project, which features a walking bridge over Atascadero Creek, a plaza and a creek path.
The proposal is expected to be put out to bid by the end of the year, and then construction would take place next spring, said Nick DeBar, the city’s public works director.
The council approved a contract with Paso Robles-based North Coast Engineering in an amount not to exceed $136,962.
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The total cost of the project is estimated at $3 million.
“We’re hoping to have this thing done in a little over a year, a year and a half,” DeBar said.
The idea behind the infrastructure, which would connect the city’s downtown Sunken Gardens park with the Colony Square shopping center, is to create a scenic walking environment for pedestrians in the heart of town and spur the “redevelopment of important downtown properties,” according to a city staff report.
“With a new owner now considering development of a portion of Colony Square, and restaurants beginning to take shape around the downtown area, the timing is perfect to complete this important link,” the report stated.
We’re excited with what we see coming.
Atascadero Mayor Tom O’Malley
Besides the bridge, the project will include improved downtown parking facilities and additional spaces, a creekside pedestrian trail from El Camino Real to Lewis Avenue on the Sunken Gardens side of the creek, creek restoration and interpretive signage; upgraded access to the historic Colony House and improvements to the city’s traditional Tent City/Colony Days location, and handicap-accessible parking for City Hall and the Colony House.
Not all city residents, however, are on board with the project. Tyler Pendley said in public comment at the meeting last week that the project is unnecessary.
“I’m opposed to it,” Pendley said. “I’m really opposed to it. I know the general scope is to approval retail and connectivity between Sunken Gardens and Colony Square. I don’t believe it will help retail at all. Really, what would this be connecting? An empty City Hall building with an empty rundown building that seems like it needs to be taken out.”
Mayor Tom O’Malley said he’s confident the pedestrian bridge will enhance a growing, developing downtown area that has seen the addition of the nearby Galaxy Theatres complex, a new transit center and an improved Rite Aid parking lot in recent years.
I don’t believe it will help retail at all. Really, what would this be connecting?
Tyler Pendley, Atascadero resident
A private investor has shown interest in further developing the business area around the bridge, O’Malley said.
“We’re very excited that the L-shaped dirt lot, where this bridge is going to land, somebody just bought that,” O’Malley said. “When this walking bridge is completed, they’re interested in putting a restaurant in at the other end.”
O’Malley said city has sought to provide infrastructure, including the transportation hub and more parking, to incentivize development and attract retail businesses.
“We’re excited with what we see coming,” O’Malley said.
Councilman Bob Kelley echoed O’Malley’s comments.
“We’ve been talking about this for years — having a vibrant downtown with different businesses,” Kelley said. “In order to get that, you have to be pedestrian friendly. I think this bridge is the link to make Colony Square and downtown pedestrian friendly.”
Kelley said opening foot traffic from Colony Square will encourage more events at Sunken Gardens, as well as new business.
“A lot of us were contacted by developers,” Kelley said. “One of the first things they talk about is ‘When is that bridge going to get built?’ ”
The project will be funded through available money from Atascadero’s 2010 City Lease Revenue Bonds. The new bridge and plaza were identified as a priority for use of funds once the City Hall renovation was completed.
The city had completed some of the design work in 2011 but shelved the project because of loss of funding from the dissolution of the Atascadero Community Redevelopment Agency because of state legislation enacted in 2012.