Work is underway on what I consider the most significant improvements in Atascadero’s downtown since the Sunken Gardens improvement project about 15 years ago.
The Centennial Bridge and Plaza Project, when completed, will result in significant improvements around the area, from the newly completed Atascadero Middle High School to El Camino Real, including Atascadero Creek and Colony Square.
It goes without saying these improvements will only enhance the work completed on the historic City Hall, which turns 100 next year.
Most significant will be a pedestrian bridge that goes from East Mall across the creek and ties into the sidewalk next to an existing building that was once the bowling alley complex and temporary city hall.
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That pathway connects the city’s downtown park with the commercial development that includes the movie theater and smaller shops and restaurants.
I walked all through the project area last Sunday morning, following the orange temporary fencing to see where the bridge will be located.
It begins just past the Hattie Prather Rose Garden, which is maintained by the Historical Society. The contractor has already removed a number of small trees and bushes so that improvements can be made to the city’s existing parking lot. The Historical Society’s Colony House sits in the middle of all this activity. New pathways will go in front of the Colony House running from the vehicular bridge on Lewis Avenue west to El Camino Real.
It appears that the old school buildings that once served as classrooms and district administration offices, and most recently were used by the contractor who rebuilt our City Hall, will be removed to make way for additional landscaped parking.
It would be wonderful if by some strange way a large bulldozer could accidentally knock down the little old office building that sits in the middle of all these improvements.
This structure, moved from the original Chapel of the Roses mortuary (caretaker’s cabin), also served as the headquarters for Atascadero Main Street. The Colony House, by the way, was moved from about where the Rabobank parking lot is located to its present location in 1965. The original Colony House was donated to the society, which had it moved.
This new bridge, parking improvements and landscaping will go a long way in making downtown inviting to pedestrians.
I’m often asked if Atascadero has a theme for its downtown. The answer is no, unless you consider “Mid-Tijuana” a design theme.
I’m optimistic that these upgrades to the central core of the community will drive other projects currently in the planning stages.
There will be a groundbreaking ceremony for this project at the corner of East Mall and the “green” bridge at 2 p.m. this Friday.
By the way, the parking lot closes this Thursday and won’t be available to the public, school traffic or even city employees until later this summer or early fall. According to the Historical Society, the contractor will leave open a “path” to limited parking on Wednesdays and Saturdays when the museum is open.