Open spaces to pop up soon 

One downtown site was nearly doomed to be fenced off with barbed wire while another sits secluded and almost forgotten, but both are on the road to becoming attractive public spaces for locals.

Construction is under way on a strip of land between the post office and Tarboosh restaurant on Jefferson Avenue, which will be transformed into a public walkway for pedestrians who want to get from the parking area behind City Hall to the shops, restaurants and theater on Broadway.

When it’s finished, the area — called a paseo — will sport wrought-iron fences, public benches and outdoor dining for Tarboosh, Redevelopment Manager Susan Moeller said.

The project will cost an estimated $454,437, money that will come from the city’s downtown, public open spaces and redevelopment contingency funds, according to Moeller.

Meanwhile, plans are afoot to turn a 30,000-square-foot park hidden behind the Main Library on Middlefield Road into an open green space that connects downtown, the library and the Stambaugh-Heller neighborhood. The library has already added patio tables, a coffee cart and piped-in music to the space in front of the library, but wants to do more to make it — as well as downtown — a friendly place to be.

"In a downtown that’s more dense and urban and there’s no space for parks, everything is a public space that becomes part of your experience of walking downtown," Moeller said.

Tarboosh manager Ike Martinez asked the city to create the paseo after learning that the post office planned to fence off the alley with chain-link fences and barbed wire.

"It used to be just grass, and the pavement is uneven — it’s ugly on that side," Martinez said. "It’s time to make it look better."

The walkway should be finished by the end of May, after which Tarboosh will add its own finishing touches, such as dining tables and chairs, in June, Moeller said.

Architects are working on new designs for the library park, after which those designs will be taken to the public for review, library Director Dave Genesy said.

"The way [the library park] was designed, it’s hidden — you can hide behind hills, and the lighting is poor," Genesy said. "We want to find out what people are looking for, and we’re keeping [the design] open to suggestions."

In recent months, crews have put the finishing touches on the plaza in front of Courthouse Square, added decorative lamps along Middlefield Road’s "Theatre Way" and created a new streetscape around the retail-cinema site. But as officials push for a denser, more urban downtown, they are also looking for opportunities to create small parks and public spaces that people will enjoy.

"The downtown is getting more and more comfortable," said John Anagnostou, owner of the Fox Theatre.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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