Unanimous approval for improvements to open space area near Community Hall

The Piedmont City Council is shown some images of what amenities in the freshly approved Outdoor Recreation Department Preschool and Public Space near the Community Hall could look like. Pictured taking part in Monday's council meeting are, from top, Public Works Director Daniel Gonzales, Recreation Director Chelle Putzer and Parks and Project Manager Nancy Kent.

The City Council this week approved spending about $231,000, including almost $185,000 in grant funding, on an upgraded open public space area immediately south of the Community Hall.

This to-be-developed space is viewed as a place to host various Piedmont Recreation Department programs, and perhaps for facility rental by the city for parties and other small gatherings, including Scout meetings, and sometimes just as a place where people could eat lunch in peace and quiet.

The improvements – its rough plans approved Monday night by a 4-0 council vote, after Mayor Teddy Gray King went home sick – are envisioned as providing a site for a popular PRD outdoor theater program, as well as the Outdoor Explorers and Camp Cottontail summer camps. The space would give PRD’s preschool program much-needed space, as well, said Chelle Putzer, Piedmont’s recreation director.

She said more details about exactly what this space’s amenities will look like have yet to be worked out. But the proposed project has two main elements: 

  • The “main activity zone” of approximately 400 square feet, including a plaza and tiered seating, a “mini plaza” using permeable paving that lets water seep through, that creates a level activity area , and tiered seating terraced into the hillside surrounding the mini-plaza (perhaps like a small amphitheater); and
  • An oak woodland exploring area, covering about 900 square feet), with walk-on mulch and seating for small-group activities under the oak tree canopy.

The idea is for a removable fence to be put around whichever of these areas are hosting young children’s activities at a given time, Putzer said. This fencing would be removed when the classes and/or rec programs are done.

Of the grant money received, about $178,000 was funded by Proposition 68, the Parks and Water Bond Act of 2018, approved by state voters that year to authorize $4 billion in general obligation bonds for parks, water and environmental projects. Another $6,980 comes through an adjunct to that program specifically for urban communities.

The city had to provide $46,233 in matching funds, 20 percent of the total project cost, and budgeted that from the city’s Facilities Maintenance Fund.

Councilwoman Jen Cavenaugh asked whether the $231,000 price tag was at least somewhat high, given that other significant parks-related projects over the past several years had smaller budgets, more robust work or both. Daniel Gonzales, the city’s public works director, said the seemingly high price tag for this project is mostly a function of the current construction bid climate, which he said has raised the cost of such projects as much as 50 percent from even two years ago, likely because of COVID-19-related issues.

Cavenaugh also said she hopes the city seeks more input from the community as to how this soon-to-be-improved space should be used. 

Contact Sam Richards at sam.richards4344@gmail.com 

3 thoughts on “Unanimous approval for improvements to open space area near Community Hall

  1. This idea definitely needs more input from the community. What other options have been proposed for this area? I have not seen other ideas. There is currently a tiered area very nearby that only gets used for occasional weddings. Why add another? The entrance to the community hall and Tea House have been serving multiple uses very nicely of late. Why is it necessary to take away the natural hillside?

    • Agree. And why not use facility maintenance funding instead on that existing amphitheater and leave the rest green. Does anyone know if this grant funding could have been used on the existing amphitheater? If so the city lost an opportunity to fix facilities without tapping into the maintenance fund.

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