Grass Valley could bid out Mill Street project next month |

Grass Valley could bid out Mill Street project next month

Mill St. pedestrian plaza strides to final design


Back again with a short list of alternatives for conceptual approval, Atlas Labs Inc. — hired to advise the Grass Valley City Council on transforming Mill Street into a pedestrian plaza — fine tuned options to guide the council to select a final preliminary concept.

Kimberly Garza, Atlas landscape architect and urban design consultant, told the council on Tuesday about the three conceptual designs presented a month ago. Elements of two of those designs were clearly favored by residents and council members —Downtown Promenade, highlighting composition of the roadbed; and Downtown Mill, aiming to craft urban parlors customized with wood and metal.

City Manager Tim Kiser said Tuesday’s meeting was aimed to gauge council member comments.

“The next step is to complete what is a 30% preliminary plan, so it’s still in the preliminary process, and then bid it out to a design/build contractor, probably toward the end of October,” he said. “Not until we select a design/build firm will we know when we break ground.”

Garza said Atlas received great feedback online about the project.

“We learned the designs people loved, put priority on openness, a cohesive ground-plane, with materials keeping with the historic character, flexibility for businesses along with performance space and public art,” said Garza.

Atlas then got down to specifics.

A uniform, flush curb paving is proposed for across the street. It would have a 15-foot space in the center that would be comprised of brick pavers or permeable concrete.

Atlas also designated patio areas, essentially creating invisible lines extending from the business out to the promenade area where property boundaries exist right now.

“That shows where that particular business’ potential lease space is,” said Garza. “Following that, we’ll have planters that can be removed supporting these boundary lines.”

Some planters in the public space of the promenade will include wrap-around seating of wood or wood composite with backrests. Atlas will also identify appropriate modest-sized trees to highlight fall and spring colors. There’s also an option for patios.

“Lighting will be key,” Garza said.


There is space to host events. Cornish Christmas will welcome a multitude of vendors, and the promenade accommodates 60 tents for the Thursday Night Market. A performance space will be at The Union building. And at intersections without trees there will be a space for sculpture, art panels and hanging art. For Main Street businesses that expressed interest, Atlas proposed patios on sidewalks. It identified Neal Street for a loading zones, and Main and Bank streets for parking.

Council member Tom Ivy said he liked the general theme and idea of planters.

“Only thing I’d really like to see is our history, in the form of Felix Gillet, preserved in the form of the planters, maybe one or two,” he said.

Ivy was referring to the French horticulturist who lived in Nevada City starting in 1869. He cultivated his home-grown nursery stock and experimented with grafting and hybridizing. He continuously published articles about horticulture while raising his own walnuts, figs, strawberries, grapes, peaches and cherries.

Council member Bob Branstrom asked about the permeable paver and wondered if they eventually clog up. Kiser said the pavers are a part of a whole drainage system beneath the bricks. Water is able to seep beneath them into a gravel system. Water is then put into pipes and transported.

Mayor Ben Aguilar brought up the issue of the wooden benches, asking if they could avoid using a synthetic wood type of material. Kiser said Atlas found a product made of pine that is infused with a resin that makes it very hard, similar to teak, which is extremely durable and requires little maintenance.

William Roller is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at

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