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City converts downtown block into temporary park during construction


Photo By: Town Crier File Photo
Last fall’s successful “Groovin’ on the Green” concert demonstrates how State Street transitions from busy thoroughfare to urban park and pedestrian-friendly multiuse space.

Downtown Los Altos visitors can see something unusual this summer on State Street – grass, or, more precisely, fake grass.

According to Los Altos Economic Development Manager Kathy Kleinbaum, the city plans to turn the block of State Street between First and Second streets into a temporary public gathering area during First Street streetscape construction this summer.

Kleinbaum said the idea resulted from the city’s need to close the intersection of State and First for construction in mid-July, after the Arts & Wine Festival. To prevent motorists from traveling toward the dead end at the closed intersection, the city planned to close the one-block State Street section to traffic anyway, she added.

The city is working out details to convert the block into a temporary social gathering area, with an artificial-turf surface and seating among the amenities, Kleinbaum said. She noted that the city is still finalizing a specific date for opening the temporary park area and is exploring the possibility of the merchants’ sponsoring the project to reduce costs.

“Everything’s still conceptual at this point … but the basic condition (of the State Street block) would be an urban park, a grassy area,” said Kleinbaum, adding that the project is slated to cost less than $10,000.

She said the city is collaborating with merchants to plan a variety of summer events in the urban park, which could include live acoustic music performances, merchant-sponsored speaker presentations and activities for youth, such as a children’s story hour. Last September’s “Groovin’ on the Green” concert, staged on State Street with an artificial-grass surface, drew a large crowd.

“We’re trying to plan events that are low-key,” she said.

On a day-to-day basis, Kleinbaum said, the area could serve as a social gathering spot for downtown visitors and employees during the four to six weeks the intersection is closed for construction. She noted that several State Street merchants have greeted the concept positively, despite the impending construction nearby.

“I can’t imagine any objections to doing something nice like this,” she said of the urban park. “People seem to be very pleased that the city is trying to do something positive during the (intersection) closure.”

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