Downey’s citywide renovation project nearly complete

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Wave Staff Report

DOWNEY — After more than 18 months of construction, the citywide, $50 million upgrade is nearing completion.

The City Council April 13 formally approved the completion of two multi-million-dollar project, upgrading Wilderness Park, and the main library in the Civic Center. A number of municipal buildings and parks have been upgraded, including the police station, the Downey Civic Theatre, 8425 Firestone Blvd; and Fire Stations 1 and 3.

Work on Fire Stations 2 and 4 is expected to be completed this summer, a department staffer said. Personnel from those stations are working out of a temporary site on Bellflower Boulevard.

Fire fighters from Stations 1 and 3 used the temporary site while their buildings were enlarged and upgraded. They have since moved back to the sites, the staffer said.

Council members formerly accepted as complete:

• The restoration of two ponds at Wilderness Park, including demolition, grading and concrete upgrades and electrical improvements; landscaping and irrigation.

• Approved the final contract to temporarily remove wildlife, drain two ponds, remove sludge and return wildlife such as migratory birds and fish.

• The City Library modernization project, which included the cost of all issued change orders to the original construction contract.

Work at Wilderness Park started in August 2019, funded by proceeds from Measure S and a $1.6 million grant from the San Gabriel Rivers and Mountains Conservatory.

Park improvements, besides the two ponds, included new restrooms, an expanded parking lot, upgrades to the park trail for the handicapped, three new picnic shelters with tables, benches, grills, trash receptacles and a drinking fountain.

Also constructed was access to the 28-mile bike trail along the San Gabriel River on the west side of the park and educational signs pointing out wetlands and native habitat information, Assistant City Manager John Oskoui said in a previous report.

The city also apent $100,000 to upgrade and replace lighting damaged by vandals during construction, said Public Works Director/City Engineer Delfino Consunji.

The Measure S sales tax hike, approved by voters in November 2016, is estimated to bring in $10.2 million annually.

Of that, $5 million was used to make annual payments on the $50 million loan to upgrade all four city fire stations, the police station, the Civic Center area including the library and Civic Theatre and numerous parks including Wilderness.

Work at the library included interior and exterior renovations with a shade structure over the cafeteria on the north side of the buildings, plus an up-to-date library operating system.

During the year-long closure, library patrons were served from two temporary sites and a book mobile obtained to deliver materials to homes.

The library could reopen in May, depending on the COVID situation, a city employee said.

Likewise, the Downey Civic Theatre, 8425 Firestone Blvd. remains closed to the public with no live performances scheduled pending the lifting of county and state restrictions, a staffer there said.

The 50-year old, 700-seat theater was renovated inside and out to include an outside elevator taking patrons to the second floor.

The patio west of the main entrance was enhanced with a fountain and landscaping, the staffer said.