A cluster of buildings around a central courtyard, a combination library-children's center that arches over Civic Center Blvd, and plenty of room for sports fields were a few features of the site plan the Elk Grove City Council chose for the city's new civic center Wednesday. But councilmembers still seemed befuddled by the sleek, contemporary designs presented by contractor Zaha Hadid Architects, which one resident during the public comment period likened to "an octopus and a starfish."
They also asked architects to refine their vision to something more practical and less costly.
"It's a beautiful concept. I think it's off the chart what it will cost to build," said Mayor Steven Detrick in voting to approve the more densely concentrated version of the two options presented, which passed 5-0.
Councilmembers were voting simply on how to lay out the buildings on the site; the actual building designs will be presented at a later date.
The site plan included several features that took into account the current recession. The project would be built in phases, with public buildings added first and those that depend more heavily on developer funding—like stores and hotels—to be added later. A revenue-generating restaurant would be added to the library complex. Energy would conserved by using the same elevators to carry diners, readers and other visitors to different levels of the soaring building, which extends from the rest of the project like, well, a tail.
"We wanted to create an iconic design—something that would be very strong, very bold, and very representative of the city of Elk Grove," said Zaha Hadid representative Bozana Komljenovic.
The design would also provide something sorely lacking in Elk Grove: a public gathering space—in architect-speak, an 'outdoor living room'—where locals could drink coffee, people watch, or just shoot the breeze.
"This will be the center of our city," said Vice-Mayor Jim Cooper. "People will want to come here."
In opting to group buildings more densely on the site, councilmembers also had the city's finances in mind. The plan leaves space for a sports complex on the south side of the property, which several councilmembers said could become a regional draw, bringing more dollars to the city.
Homeless Advocates Plead for Funds
Speaking of dollars, representatives of homeless assistance groups told councilmembers Elk Grove's growing unhoused population is putting a strain on their resources, and asked for more city support.
"Our homeless population now numbers over 100. These aren't chronically homeless but former neighbors of ours who have lost their jobs or had their hours cut," said Mike Retzlaff of Elk Grove Food Bank Services.
Retzlaff was one of over a dozen people who pressed the case for various non-profits as the city made its annual decision about which community service organizations to provide grants to in the coming fiscal year. The Elk Grove Fine Arts Center also asked for $18,000 to help with rent costs, saying workshop registrations and gallery sales have declined along with the economy.
Citing budget woes, the council denied the funding to the arts center and allocated about two-thirds of the money requested by the food bank. The largest grants next year will go to Elk Grove's Senior Center ($100,000) and Teen Center ($60,000).