How did this project come about?
As part of the San Anselmo Flood Risk Reduction Project (SAFRR), the County of Marin has scheduled building demolition (building at 634-636 San Anselmo Avenue) and flood flow improvements in the existing San Anselmo Creek channel within Creek Park in 2020 (dates still tentative). This will greatly impact the current park. The initial intention by the County was to put Creek Park back to its current state after demolition/construction is completed. However, the Town of San Anselmo decided to seize this opportunity to reimagine Creek Park into a new downtown “commons” that both embraces and capitalizes on a revitalized creek-front setting. Our hope is that this new civic gathering place will energize the heart of San Anselmo and reconnect our downtown to the park, the creek and beyond.
What is the idea?
Urban spaces periodically need to be rethought and renewed by their communities, especially ones that have historically turned their backs on existing waterfront (creek-side in our context) settings. The Town of San Anselmo has this unique opportunity to revitalize the heart of its downtown, a challenge that so many small towns now face.
San Anselmo usually has limited levers to materially influence its economic vitality. Reimagining Creek Park into new civic commons is the most powerful and immediate lever the Town can use to boost economic vitality and give our downtown a significant community-gathering place.
We believe Creekside Commons (potential new name) will inspire people from all over San Anselmo, Marin and the Greater Bay Area to come, enjoy the space, and experience all that our beautiful downtown has to offer—shopping, dining, entertainment and leisure.
Why a competition?
Seize the moment of disruption created by the County’s flood control project and turn it into an opportunity for our Town to reimagine the whole space into a commons; which now will also incorporate the west side of the Creek along San Anselmo Avenue (where buildings are to be removed). Energize the whole area, connect the park-side area with the downtown and highlight the Creek, our unique Town asset. Given a tight timeline, determined by the County’s project, and the charge to have it funded through private community donations, an idea formed to engage the top landscape/urban design talent in the Bay Area to help us reimagine this space.
Once the demolition is complete, San Anselmo will have a major cavity in the center of Town. Along with the County’s work, Creekside Commons will be San Anselmo’s lone chance to fill that cavity with a public asset that will be transformative to the character, sociology and attractiveness of our Town.
How did the competition work?
The premise of the competition was simple; blend San Anselmo community input with best-in-class landscape architects and create a commons that will last for years. By having the project led by the Reimagine Creek Park Community Advisory Committee (CAC), we rooted the project within our community. Next we reached out to our stakeholders through two surveys – to our residential community and also to our business community. We distilled this feedback and poured it into the competition brief which informed the design firms.
This was a unique design competition. There wasn’t any prize money. (According to the contest rules, the winning design firm can enter into a mutually acceptable design services contract that is approved by the Town Council and to make a sizeable impact on our wonderful Town. This is now underway).
We began with a Request For Qualifications (RFQ) process that was open to all professional design firms.
What was the result?
We were so pleased to receive 15 submissions from an incredible group of design firms and thrilled to have selected 7 firms who entered into the design competition. The Town’s hope was to inspire and harness the creativity and depth of experience of these firms to project the potential for what Creekside Commons, the heart of our downtown, can become. This was an interesting challenge – it’s a public space and the process is subject to many variables, both known and unknown. The process ensured that we have a design that reflects the past, present and most important, the future of San Anselmo.
What is the budget for the Creekside Commons project? Is the project funded by tax dollars?
Creekside Commons will be revenue-neutral for the Town of San Anselmo. Design costs will be funded by private donations. The County project was already planning to rebuild the creek area that will be affected during the removal of the building at 634-636 San Anselmo Avenue. The Town anticipates working with the County to use SAFRR project funds earmarked for recreation facilities for the reconstruction of the Park area destroyed during the building demolition staging. All construction cost above and beyond this funding will be raised through private donations/sponsors/grants and donations from the community. There is not a parcel tax associated with the Creekside Commons project.
What is happening to the existing elements of Creek Park?
The design firms have been charged with taking into account many aspects of the current park and imagining the future for a lasting Commons. Competition evaluations will consider how successfully the submissions accommodate, balance and prioritize the many program, features and activity possibilities to achieve the goals. Some of these are:
- Highlight the Creek. San Anselmo Creek bisects our Town. While it courses through its downtown, the creek has never been integrated as an asset or capitalized upon as an important feature of the Town. San Anselmo has a once-in-our lifetime opportunity to transform its downtown into a truly vibrant civic space and regional destination unlike any other place in Marin.
- Better space utilization. Creek Park is an underutilized open space in the center of San Anselmo. The intention is to engage a qualified design professional team to steward the reimagine process and work with the Town to bring a revitalized Creek Park to life as Creekside Commons. Our community loves to come together downtown, with events ranging from Concerts in the Park (including the popular Beatles in the Park), to Picnics on the Plaza, to Country Fair Day and beyond. It would be wonderful to have a space that can comfortably welcome and facilitate our community gathering.
- Accessibility. This is an opportunity to update the area to provide barrier-free access and ADA compliance – to welcome and accommodate all of our community and all visitors.
- Parking – what is needed now and in the future. The existing park is surrounded on two sides by diagonal parking spaces, accessed by a circulation road that also provides service, delivery, and emergency access. Parking in San Anselmo at peak times can be challenging. At the same time, there is a lot of disruption in this area and society is rapidly moving to alternative modes of transportation. Part of the charge of this and every downtown project is to consider if parking spots are the best use of this space, now and in the future.
Who is the Community Advisory Committee (CAC)?
Town Councilmember Brian Colbert presented the idea to the Town Council to create the Reimagine Creek Park Community Advisory Committee (CAC) of local townspeople with varying areas of expertise. The Town Council adopted a resolution establishing the Reimagine Creek Park Community Advisory Committee at its February 12, 2019 meeting. This group of volunteers is hard at work making sure the competition is run smoothly and fairly, communicating to our community, and securing fundraising, all under a tight timeline.