The first of two phases of renovations for Central Park in Davis is nearing completion, and next on the agenda is the contentious issue surrounding an old building along with something less divisive — a new playground.
The first wave of construction included a new restroom, a handicapped ramp into the sycamore grove, installation of LED lights and upgraded electrical service to the park, which covers two square blocks between Third and Fifth, B and C streets in downtown Davis.
The upgraded electrical service and bathrooms are expected to be finished next week, the handicapped ramp is slated to be in use by the end of this week and the LED light conversion was completed last summer using grant funds.
“There have not been any delays in the project construction,” said Anne Brunette, the city’s property management coordinator. “We have been very fortunate with the weather.”
The plans for development at Central Park began in 2010. There has been no argument on the necessity of this initial set of upgrades.
Randii MacNear, manager of the Davis Farmers Market, which takes place Wednesday afternoons/evenings and Saturday mornings in Central Park, is especially looking forward to having the new bathrooms in place. She believes the placement of the restrooms is much improved.
“For a while, there has been a great need for more restrooms in Central Park,” MacNear said. “It’s a very often-used and well-loved park, and it will be wonderful to have restrooms centrally located.”
The discussion will then resume on whether to save the old restroom building or demolish it — to be replaced with a public plaza. Debate over the fate of the structure began when the City Council consented to the latter, back in November 2011.
During the meeting at which demolition was agreed upon, city staff claimed the old restrooms had become the site of illegal activities. Davis police and MacNear had testified that the configuration of the building adjacent to the Hattie Weber Museum made it unsafe.
While exact numbers on citations and arrests in close proximity to the bathrooms cannot be accurately tracked — as most bear the address of the larger Central Park — the building still carries the threat of crime, according to Davis police Lt. Glenn Glasgow.
“Certainly, it makes it difficult to conduct thorough patrols,” Glasgow said. “There are areas that an individual could conceal themselves from public view.”
But the City Council has since considered another option for the building. Museum representatives have been adamantly opposed to demolition of the building, and instead suggested preserving it and turning it into a storage facility.
Dennis Dingemans, the museum’s director, said it would be tragic for this historic building to be removed. The bathroom building, constructed in 1937, was the first facility in Central Park and was funded in part by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration.
The Historic Resources Management Commission found that the restrooms did not rise to the level of preservation on historical merit, but recommended that the building be kept intact for the museum’s purposes.
In lieu of this, City Council approved a motion on May 1, 2012, to direct staff to explore options for the retention of the building. After not hearing an update in the past 10 months, Dingemans once more brought it to the attention of the council in a letter earlier this month.
The council is awaiting a staff report containing expenditures, revisions and challenges associated with keeping the building. Costs should not be of concern, Dingemans said, given that an anonymous Davis citizen pledged $40,000 toward the renovation.
There is no date set on when the plans for the old bathrooms will be detailed. Brunette said it likely will take place when the council reviews the second phase of the Central Park project, which involves an expansion of the playground.
A universal play area is planned, providing play equipment specially designed to accommodate children with a wide range of disabilities.
“The area incorporates elements which stimulate all the senses,” Brunette said. “(It) includes play equipment which accommodates a child in a wheelchair, allowing them to be loaded on the equipment and experience the sense of rocking or moving.”
There are only two existing universal play areas in the Sacramento region — one in Roseville and the other in Sacramento. Brunette anticipates that the Davis playground will become a popular regional draw.
Both the old and new play areas will have a low fence enclosing the area, she added, to encourage full interaction with all children. The fence also will provide safety from the passing traffic on Fifth Street.
Brunette explained that the stylization of the space will conform to the history of local agriculture and the Davis Farmers Market. As an example, there will be small booths for kids to host their own child-size farmers market.
“We couldn’t be more pleased (with the plans),” MacNear said. “It’s such an honor, and also so important that there is interactive things for children to do that relate back to agriculture.
“It’s going to be a state-of-the-art universal playground, and we’re very proud they chose Central Park for it.”
— Reach Brett Johnson at email@example.com or 530-747-8052. Follow him on Twitter at @ReporterBrett