In its current ramshackle condition, the Richards Boulevard tunnel — the gateway to downtown Davis — fails to communicate anything about the truly vibrant character of the community, its history or its aspirations, local business leaders say. Greg Rihl/Enterprise file photo


Entrance to our downtown needs a major upgrade

Get involved

What: Davis Arch project workshop, featuring site plans, docent-guided tours, public input work stations and more

When: 1-3 p.m. Saturday, March 15

Where: John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 First St.

By Michael Bisch and Joshua Chapman

Is it time to widen the Richards Boulevard tunnel? We think not! But we have long held that the primary entrance to our community is in desperate need of aesthetic, functional and safety improvements.

Does anyone really think the existing entrance provides visitors to downtown or campus a positive initial impression? The “gateway” in its current ramshackle condition fails to communicate anything about the truly vibrant character of our community, our history or our aspirations. Surely, we can do better — much, much, better!

With that in mind, imagine a welcoming, safe and community-oriented entrance with architectural, landscaping and artistic elements worthy of our community. And, in fact, a private sector-funded project team has been diligently working to do just that.

Inspired by initial design concepts from Stephen Nowicki, a Davis artist and pediatrician, the project team consisting of artists, engineers, construction contractors and surveyors has spent the past year studying the project area straddling Richards Boulevard between Olive Drive and First Street.

The team has identified three long-standing community priorities that can be furthered significantly by an improvement project in this area: community values, safety and economic development.

* Community values: Landscape design extending the reach of the adjacent UC Davis Arboretum; artwork, signage and modern design to showcase the historic “Davis Subway,” also known as the Richards underpass; use of public/private funding options;

* Safety: Safe routes to schools and downtown for Olive Drive residents, bike tunnel on east side of the Richards underpass; bridge with modern Davis Arch for pedestrians and cyclists and lighting for increased visibility;

* Economic development: Publicity and marketing opportunities; welcome more visitors to shop, play and stay in Davis; connecting planned hotel and conference center and Downtown-University Gateway District; increased downtown parking; and further develop downtown as an arts and entertainment district.

The project team has developed preliminary design concepts for public input and refinement. Everyone in the community is invited to an interactive community workshop from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 15, at the John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 First St. downtown.

The event will have site plans, docent-guided tours, public input work stations and more. We look forward to a broad cross-section of the community actively participating in this significant community improvement project.

The Davis Arch Project, from start to finish, has most definitely been powered by the people. Many thanks for the inspiration, creativity, hard work and financial support of the Davis Chamber of Commerce, Davis Downtown, Buzz Oates Enterprises, Ramco Enterprises, the city of Davis, artist Roger Berry, Cunningham Engineering, Project Management Applications, Frame Surveying & Mapping, Morrow Surveying, URS, Teichert Construction and the UC Davis Arboretum.

— Michael Bisch is president and Joshua Chapman is vice president of Davis Downtown.

Special to The Enterprise

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