H-SANTA MARIA

May 3, 2012 10:07 PM by Ariel Wesler, KSBY News

City to beautify empty lot in front of Town Center Mall

A longtime eyesore for the city of Santa Maria could soon be gone this summer.

The Recreation and Parks Department wants to landscape the corner at Broadway and Cook, in front of where the Gottschalks Department Store used to be.

The mall keeps hoping to replace it with a Regal multi-screen movie theater, but so far, noone will talk about any definite plans.

"Thousands of people pass by the corner of Broadway and Cook everyday," said Mark van de Kamp with the city of Santa Maria.

And for years, they've seen a rundown, vacant lot.

I think it makes the city look bad. They ought to do something. it's been up for so long," said Richard Dydell of Santa Maria.

"Funding these days is not as easy as it was. So, the lease is still in place. The theater is still coming," said Amber Lease, Assistant Property Manager with the Santa Maria Town Center Mall.

But in the meantime, the city still wants to put its best foot forward. Recreation and Parks is working with the Santa Maria Town Center Mall to transform the rundown corner into what's called a "pocket park."

"[It] will be cut diagonally across that corner. We'll be using some drought-tolerant plants, some public artwork," van de Kamp said.

When and if construction starts on the new movie theater, the city will move the materials and the plants from the "pocket park" to other parts of town.

"We aren't really sure when that project is going to see construction occur," van de Kamp said. We have been going through this unfortunately for several years."

While the mall maintains a theater is on the way, they realize first impressions are important.

"Anything from the outside just allows you to visualize a better inside," Lease said.

The project will cost about $100,000. City leaders plan to pay for it with federal money.

The city is considering a partnership with students at Allan Hancock College to create public art for the project. Van de Kamp says students have been involved in past projects like putting up artwork on some of the freeway overpasses around town.

The city expects to complete the park sometime this summer.

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