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Proposal would revamp Downey's civic center
$14 million plan would create green space and add a parking structure outside City Hall.
WRITTEN BY :   Christian Brown, Staff Writer

DOWNEY — In an effort to draw more residents into the downtown area while correcting deficiencies in the civic center design, the Downey City Council adopted a $14 million master plan last month that proposes reorganizing the library’s parking lot, constructing a new one-acre park, and reconnecting Dolan Avenue to Third Street.

The proposed plan, which was drafted by city staff in partnership with the Southern California Association of Governments, analyzes the utilization of the 13 acres surrounding City Hall and provides a blueprint for an updated civic center.

Separated into two phases, the civic center master plan focuses mainly on increasing parking near City Hall and improving the flow of traffic and pedestrians around the downtown area.

Phase I, which incorporates the majority of the improvements, includes plans to rearrange the Downey City Library parking lot by narrowing its current lanes to create additional parking spaces. After reconfiguring, the total amount of parking spaces will increase from 727 to 840 spaces.

City officials will also add two pedestrian walkways through the lot that will connect the library to Firestone Boulevard and the First Baptist Church of Downey.

Dolan Avenue, which currently runs alongside the Embassy Suites Hotel will also be redefined, according to the master plan. The roadway will become a public street again that extends from Firestone Boulevard to Third Street.

The highlight of Phase I is the addition of a new 1.16-acre park that will extend from the greenbelt between City Hall and the library to the intersection of Dolan Avenue and Third Street. The park is expected to include open green space, a bandshell, tot-lot, and restroom facilities.

At the east end of the park, facing Brookshire Avenue, the city will relocate the historic 33-ton cement archway, which served as the entrance to the Downey Grammar School for 40 years. The monument currently sits on the corner of Civic Center Drive.

On the north side of the library, the city is proposing to add a coffee shop and a 5,500-sq.-ft. plaza with a public fountain. Likewise, between the Embassy Suites Hotel and the Downey Civic Theatre, city staff propose an extension of outdoor seating for the hotel’s restaurant.

Phase II of the civic center plan starts with the demolition of the parking lot west of the Downey Police Department to make room for a three-story parking structure with 366 new parking spaces. Along the southern edge of the structure, the city will also build a 3,000-sq.-ft. liner building that will be used as a new community venue.

The master plan also includes recommendations on how to improve the Downey LINK transit system, which city officials originally considered moving from Nance Street to the civic center.

However, due to the cost of moving the Depot versus the minimal benefit gained by the relocation, it was determined to leave the Downey Depot at its current location, said Brian Saeki, director of community development.

Nonetheless, the proposed improvements include granting signal priority for buses, improving Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) access, providing a direct stop at the Metro Green Line station on Lakewood Boulevard, and abandoning the current loop system in favor of a two-way transit system.

City staff believe the switch with allow increased service in all four quadrants by connecting commuters with the Metro system while continuing service to local schools and parks.

Councilmembers approved the master plan on June 25, voting 4-0, noting the absent of Councilman Roger Brossmer.

The civic center plan is just one of many master plans the city is currently drafting in order to help secure potential funding sources for future projects.

Officials could not estimate when construction would begin on the new civic center, but maintained the city is working on securing the funds.

Published: July 18, 2013 – Volume 12 – Issue 14

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