Wednesday, May 25 , 2016, 12:39 pm | Partly Cloudy 68º

Santa Barbara Moves Forward with $3.9 Million Downtown Library Plaza Project

As officials look to 'activate' the space with events, the council on Tuesday is expected to spend $106,000 for final design services

By Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @JECMolina |

Santa Barbara's Library Plaza sits snug between the Central Public Library and the back of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

The patch of grass, fountain and walkways are just footsteps away from some of Santa Barbara's most iconic places — the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, State Street and the Granada Theatre.

Rather than living as a bright spot among Santa Barbara's palette of attractions, the plaza has become just a place to breeze through en route to somewhere else.

But the mood is about to change.

"We are going to reconfigure it so that it will be a much more functional, architecturally beautiful and inviting space," City Councilman Gregg Hart said. "This is a great project. We want more events that will change the atmosphere of the existing space."

The Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday plans to spend $106,000 on a consultant to help with final design services for the project. The city has already spent about $200,000 on design services, and officials expect the final project will cost about $3.9 million.

Officials are considering removing the fountain and the grass and "opening up" the area to allow for gathering for special events. Many of the bushes will be removed, and reflecting pools could be added. The Museum of Art may even show movies on the back wall, which currently is blank.

The council's expected action on Tuesday is just the latest move in a process that dates back several years. The city has long wanted to jazz up the area and make it more inviting.

Homeless people frequently camp out at the site, or sleep outside the doors of one of the library's main entrances. People also often use the area as a place to smoke cigarettes or just pass the time.

The council wanted to act as early as 2010, but when the state moved to abolish redevelopment agencies, which would have acted a a key revenue source, the city found itself without the money to move forward with the project.

The city also plans to work with the Santa Barbara Museum of Art to collaborate on a design that's best for the public.

"We are absolutely delighted with the plan," said Larry Feinberg, the museum's executive director. "It should make it a much more active community space, in addition to being beautiful. The space will be open and much more flexible to accommodate a range of events."

Feinberg said the museum hopes to show movies and find ways to "activate the space."

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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