Six years after Santa Rosa settled on a plan to reunify Old Courthouse Square, the city is no closer to being able to afford turning the bifurcated plaza into a $14 million downtown “living room.”
It has, however, recently published an environmental report describing in the greatest detail yet just what it would take to pull off a remodel of that magnitude.
Traffic would be rerouted off Mendocino Avenue, dozens of trees would be removed, contaminated soils would likely be uncovered, and nearby businesses would be disrupted during construction, according to the draft environmental report released earlier this month.
Courthouse Square Reunification
But once the dust settles, the heart of downtown would be restored to its original layout with a unified central plaza suitable for concerts, art shows, farmers markets and a range of other public activities, according to the report.
Mayor Scott Bartley said he started out a skeptic of the project but has since “done a complete 180,” fully supporting reunification and the design chosen by a city committee in 2007.
“My feeling is we've got to make this work, and I'm absolutely confident it's workable,” Bartley said.
The good news from the report is that there were no major surprises, with most of the impacts foreseeable ones common to major public construction projects, Bartley said.
The bad news is the city doesn't have any money to actually build the thing.
A few years ago, the city was counting on the sale of the former AT&T building for about $2 million in seed money toward construction of the first phase of the project.
But since the state dissolved redevelopment agencies, the money from that sale, if consummated, will be dispersed to other taxing districts, such as the schools.
“That money all went up in smoke,” said Rick Moshier, the city's director of Transportation and Public Works.