ATASCADERO — The Atascadero City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 10, discussed the Housing Element plan and made some big decisions on the incoming Atascadero Mall Plaza. It will be built in the lot just south of the La Plaza building that is currently in the final stages of construction.

Council voted unanimously to approve Kirk Construction’s bid of $819,344 for constructing the Mall Plaza and instructed the City Manager to take two of the five cost-saving steps presented to the Council. The Atascadero Mall Plaza project is the third step in the rebuilding and revitalization in the Atascadero downtown area, working hand-in-hand with the Downtown Infrastructure Enhancement Plan and the development of La Plaza and the Block Shops.

According to the Council’s agenda, “The Atascadero Mall Plaza is envisioned as a multi-use public space with an open-walled shade structure that closely ties into new La Plaza improvements as well as the downtown El Camino Real corridor.”

Initially, the Mall Plaza was part of conditional approval for the La Plaza development. However, in early 2019, it became clear that the Mall Plaza cost would exceed the amount of fees that the La Plaza project could expect to receive and became an impediment to the project itself. This prompted the City to begin looking for new ideas.

On March 26, 2019, the Council reviewed two new Mall Plaza concept plans, one with a large pergola and one without, and agreed to have the City move forward with the park concept that included the pergola.

The new Mall Plaza concept also identified eight essential design requirements in the preliminary process that included maintaining visibility of City Hall from Highway 101, maintaining visibility through the site and tunnel to reduce transient activity, and providing a large concrete area for events.

That June, the Council approved $475,000 in Parkland Impact Fee Funds to pay for the construction of the Mall Plaza.

“The preferred design in March 2019 was a concept plan approval and final design didn’t begin until the second half of 2019,” Public Works Director Nick DeBar stated. “The final design includes preparing construction plans and developing more detailed cost estimates. The $475,000 estimate was based upon a concept design, as well as escalating construction costs for this type of work.”

Tuesday night, City staff brought the Mall Plaza’s final designs, and due to the costs above budget, prepared a bid analysis that included all bid items costs from all the contractors. This was done to see if any small bid items may have disproportionately affected the cost.

The City found that the bid would not come down significantly without design revisions and presented those five options to the Council.

The options included removing the pergola from the center of the space, substituting concrete with asphalt, replacing the proposed low concrete seat walls along the southern perimeter (between La Rosa’s and the project), substituting stamped concrete from brick pavers to match the downtown aesthetic and eliminating a small decorative fence separating the businesses on the north side from the Mall Plaza.

After much deliberation, the Council agreed to remove the seat wall, which would have run around the planters, in favor of benches and all removing the fence that would sit along the North perimeter and replace it with easily removable bollards.

Removing the seat walls is estimated to save around $75,000, while the fence would save $15,000.

Initially, the Council was split on whether or not to use brick pavers or stamped concrete. Mayor Heather Moreno, Councilwoman Roberta Fonzi, and Councilwoman Heather Newsom favored preserving the brick look that would bring together the downtown and require no upkeep.

Councilmembers Charles Bourbeau and Susan Funk initially favored the stamped and painted concrete that would save from $30,000 to $45,000 but converted without much convincing.

The project went out to bid on Aug. 7. Eight bids came in, with the top two coming from local construction companies, Kirk Construction and Wysong Construction Co.

Kirk Construction provided the lowest total bid at $819,344. According to the City of Atascadero, the additional $616,700 will come out of the City’s remaining Parkland Impact Fee’s fund, which currently has around $700,000 remaining.

The City Council also approved the final draft plan for the new Housing Element and will file before the end of the year.

Getting through this together, Atascadero