South San Francisco officials lauded plans for the new Civic Center campus which was recently redesigned in an attempt to establish an iconic and unique community facility.
The South San Francisco Planning Commission provided feedback Wednesday, May 29, on designs for the project comprised of a new library, parks and recreation center and City Council chambers. No decision was made during the meeting.
The discussion arrived in advance of consideration by the South San Francisco City Council, which can approve plans next week and push the project proposed at the intersection of Chestnut Avenue and Antoinette Lane into the next stage of development.
Vice Chair Alan Wong said he appreciated the designs unveiled last month by officials who were dissatisfied by previous iterations of the facility.
“I think this is a big improvement from the original rendering that we saw,” he said, according to video of the meeting. “I really do like the updates to it. I think it is a little bit more unique and I guess more iconic than before.”
The project is roughly the same size as the previously planned facility, and officials are hopeful it falls within the $210 million budget, though ultimately construction bids expected next summer will determine the final price tag. The proposal is already projected to cost about $60 million more than was originally expected. Financing for the project is available primarily through a recent sales tax hike approved by voters.
While the size and budget of the project are generally in step with previous plans, the new design marks a significant departure from the earlier drawings.
The most recent renderings display a facility encased in fritted glass featuring transparency control which can be adjusted to serve the different uses throughout the building. Meanwhile, the exterior of the building will be comprised of a steel wrap intended to celebrate South San Francisco’s tradition as the industrial city, officials have said.
The proposal also abuts a park planned to serve the community as well as a new police station, which is moving through the approval and construction process ahead of the Civic Center.
Viewing the entirety of the proposed campus, commissioners were hopeful the park could be constructed simultaneously with the central building, but the project designers suggested the timeline is contingent on available grant funding.
“It could be the final step to an excellent building,” said Commissioner Norm Faria, referring to the park’s completion in time for the building’s grand opening.
Commission Chair JulieAnn Murphy lauded designs for the park, suggesting the open space would be an asset for residents while also making the campus more inviting to the community.
Assuming the project timeline stays on track, the police station would go out to bid in the fall and the rest of the campus would follow next summer. Officials are hopeful ground will break on the police station in January and work on the rest of the project will start about nine months later.
While officials were largely supportive of the proposed designs, some suggested improvements could be made. Commissioner Alex Tzang said he would like the central lobby and entryway to have a greater presence, while others raised questions about building maintenance, especially for the glass component, as well as traffic management strategies.
Yet despite the detailed concerns, most officials appreciated the redesign. Commissioner Robert Bernardo said he especially enjoyed the symbolism of wrapping the civic center in glass, alluding to the need for transparency at the city government’s seat.
“I like the design,” he said. “It’s very European.”
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