ANTIOCH -- In a move aimed at allowing for more input from interested residents, city leaders this week agreed to extend by 10 weeks the deadline to receive bids for a downtown project.
Antioch is soliciting developer proposals to build market-rate houses on roughly three acres of city-owned land on West Second Street -- including a vacant lot, the Antioch Senior Center and the Nick Rodriguez Community Center and Theatre.
If it pencils out, plans would call for the demolition of the buildings and construction of a new 10,000-square-foot senior center on city property elsewhere.
Bids were slated for this week, but the City Council Tuesday pushed that date back to Oct. 31.
"We have some time now. A lot of people thought we were moving too fast," Mayor Pro Tem Mary Rocha said.
At Rocha's request, focus groups will be held "as soon as possible." Those meetings will gather input from the seniors, those with interest in the theater, and downtown residents and merchants.
Given the timing it takes for adequate public notice, those groups would meet in early September, City Manager Steve Duran said.
"It doesn't mean I'm for or against anything, but I want to understand the whole picture," Rocha said.
Since the City Council's June approval to solicit requests, a growing number of residents, many who live downtown and favor a town square on the lot, want to halt the process to allow more community discussion.
About a dozen residents, many of them seniors, addressed the council at Tuesday's meeting.
William Chapman, who calls bingo at the center each Monday, said most seniors live in the Rivertown area and use it to cool off in the hot summer months.
"The senior center is a safe spot; it provides commonality and community. It should be talked about with the seniors, and not to the seniors," he said.
Lifelong resident Susan Dragon said that the community rallied together to create the Nick Rodriguez center after Sears left the space, with theater ticket money going to support it.
"It's a gem. It's very important that we keep this," Dragon said. "We need to get this community involved. People don't even know that this is happening. The community has a right to be involved in the decision that is being made for this center."
Lee Ballesteros, owner of downtown business Indigo Skin Design and head of theater group The Drama Factory, said Wednesday she is grateful the extension was granted, but saddened the council didn't take a full pause.
"I don't think they understand the gravity of the situation, and they are trying to appease us," she said.
The extension gives the interested parties downtown a chance to put together a proposal for an event center at the vacant lot.
What everyone agrees on is something must be done to bring life into the languishing Rivertown area, though there have been differing views on what the catalyst could be.
"If we are able to come to some kind of solution without knocking heads, I think we may be able to do something for the city of Antioch, and I think that's what we're all looking to do," Councilman Tony Tiscareno said.
Antioch is in the midst of putting a $427,000 state grant toward preparing a long-term plan for the area, with a goal of making it a transit-oriented community.
Delaying the initial bids for the project on the old lumber yard will likely push back the city's selection process of a developer until early next year.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.