Currently known as Oakley Plaza, or the CentroMart property, the City Council announced last week that it will seek public input for renaming the plaza, which is to undergo renovations next year. As part of the facelift, La Costa restaurant will get a new home, Carpaccio’s Italian restaurant will relocate from Antioch to a new two-story building, and a fountain-accented patio plaza will be installed.
Mayor Jim Frazier encouraged the public to e-mail city planners with ideas for the new plaza, including a name, as the council continues to offer input as to how the plaza will look when completed.
At last week’s meeting, the council, sans councilmember Pat Anderson (who was absent due to an injury), discussed proposed elements for the soon-to-be-redeveloped area, including a fire pit. Mayor Frazier said the fire pit was a nice thought, but not something that belongs in a public plaza, as it could be a liability to the city if someone were to fall in. Councilmember Randy Pope was open to the idea of a fire pit. He noted that some fire pit designs offer an elevated blaze protected by guardrails so that people can enjoy the heat of the fire without risking personal safety.
Councilmember Carol Rios remained on the fence. “The kid within me says ‘I love the fire pit,’ but there’s the safety issue,” Rios said.
Councilmember Kevin Romick, who sits on the downtown ad hoc committee that has been meeting with designers and architects, said the fire pit might become irrelevant in a few years if the California Air Resources Board increases its restrictions, so the area might be better suited for a public art element.
Pope noted that natural-gas fire pits, such as seen in Lake Tahoe, might be feasible. But Frazier wanted to prevent the fire pit from becoming a camping ground. “I don’t want them camping out,” Frazier said of those who might want to congregate around the fire pit. “I want them in the stores.”
The council also discussed façade improvements to the CentroMart building and the cluster or stores at the rear of the shopping center, as well as parking and road improvements to make the plaza user friendly.
One element of the plaza still taking shape is the proposed fountain, which is to be located directly across from City Hall’s water feature. Rios pictures a fountain that children can splash and play in, and Frazier favor a fountain with a shallow basin so kids can toss in coins and make wishes. Pope suggested jets that shoot water from the ground, but Frazier and Romick said that element would be more appropriate for a park where play is encouraged. Frazier again emphasized the safety factor, warning that the city could be liable if someone were to slip and sustain an injury.
Pope proposed that the designers look into a standard fountain design combined with a playful element for kids to enjoy. City Manager Bryan Montgomery urged the the council to research fountains of interest that could be presented as examples at a future meeting.
While public input was taken into consideration during the initial processes of developing a downtown specific plan, which was eventually approved in 2010, Montgomery said the public is still invited to share input with city staff and the council regarding what they’d like to see in the community plaza. As the design is constantly evolving, Montgomery urged the public to send their ideas in now to provide the council enough time to look over all the options.
For more information about the progress of the Downtown Oakley Project, visit www.oakleyinfo.com.