PITTSBURG -- City leaders gave the final go-ahead this week for a vacant downtown lot to be turned into a town square.

The City Council approved a $2.13 million contract Monday with Novato-based West Bay Builders Inc. to start construction on the 1.34-acre park, located on the block off Railroad Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets.

With the approval, work will begin in mid- to late-August and be completed by spring, City Manager Joe Sbranti said.

Based on community input via a survey and meetings, the project will include expansion of the existing plaza for sitting and dancing, an interactive mist fountain, large central grass area, amphitheater seating, primarily open space, a playground and piping for an ice skating rink in the winter months. A pair of bocce ball courts and a bocce utility building were not awarded because of funding constraints.

The total cost for the park with all of the features is estimated at $2.86 million, of which $1.25 million has been allocated from park dedication fees, Sbranti said. With no discussion, the council approved a staff recommendation to cover the difference with $360,000 from a capital improvement fund, $300,000 from a fund for streetscape improvements and $400,000 in loans each from the city's municipal power company and sewer funds.

The council also made changes to planning documents that change the block's zoning from mixed-use to park.

"I think it is very important that we create the situation that reminds everybody that this is meant to be a public park forever," Councilwoman Nancy Parent said.


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The city block was originally slated to be part of the Vidrio mixed-use project in the mid-2000s but went awry when developer AF Evans hit financial trouble, stopped work and defaulted on the project in 2009.

Mayor Sal Evola added that he and Parent first talked about the idea when Vidrio "was going through its hard times." Since then, the consensus in the community has been the concept could boost commerce and foot traffic much like Concord's Todos Santos Park.

"What we're looking forward to there will be the heart of downtown. It will be the heart of Old Town for events," Evola said. "I am so pleased the with the design that it will be a flat park, and it will be done as soon as possible."

Pittsburg postponed an item that would name the new park Donato Square in tribute to longtime former City Manager Tony Donato, as Sbranti said he had not spoken to the honoree.

Several residents suggested in May that the park be named for Donato, who spearheaded many of the efforts that created Pittsburg's large redevelopment agency and led the way for the city's downtown revitalization.

The city's land use and community advisory committees support the park naming.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.