The concept plan shows a small trail system connecting to the business district and permanent water features that would be located within the floodway. Other features include a small outdoor amphitheater with lawn seating, a covered pavilion and a garden area. Pedestrian bridges would connect the trails across the water area, while river bank vegetation could be planted in the area.
City Manager Sylvia Carrillo said the project could revitalize the city’s downtown area with opportunities to promote the city’s environmental stewardship and to incorporate local art installations, performances and other attractions for both locals and out-of-town guests.
“It's essentially a beautification of what is the floodway,” Carrillo said. “You can't do a whole lot within a floodway, so you make a park out of it; you make some walking trails and beautify the space with things that are waterproof and visually appealing.”
In 2020, City Council approved $30,000 to create the plan, research regulations and restrictions on the Upper Cougar Creek area and conduct community engagement related to the development of the property. The concept plan was created as a starting point by the city’s engineering firm, Freeland Turk Engineering Group and Brent Luck with the Luck Design Team.
“What we're seeing now is the results of the engineering company’s work to do a preliminary site evaluation,” Mayor Marc Bruner said. “The [$30,000] task order includes additional public outreach and feedback as part of that, so this is really just the very beginning of the process. This is where we're understanding what can we develop there.”
Bruner said nothing within the plan has been finalized, and the option shown is not necessarily what will be pursued with the space.
Council Member Wanda Reetz said the project could help connect all three retail centers in the city. Its central location between Ernest Robles Way and Brodie Lane would also make it easy for residents to use as a gathering spot, she said.
Council Member Rudi Rosengarten agreed and said it could help local businesses.
“I like this idea very much,” Rosengarten said. “I've thought for years that we needed to have activities around the retail center to draw people to our center and [make them] want to stay around and do more shopping.”
Bruner said the next step is gathering public feedback on the proposal through a possible town hall or community meeting later this year.
Upper Cougar Creek is one of multiple small, undeveloped properties owned by Sunset Valley. In 2020, City Council reviewed a plan for the undeveloped Uplands tract located south of W. Hwy. 290 near the Toney Burger Activity Center. Council Member Karen Medicus said she hopes the city will revisit past Uplands concept plans and look at both projects as part of a whole picture for the city.