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Today: Atherton to unveil plans for new civic center

March 21 meeting is at Holbrook-Palmer Park

A milestone in the effort to build a new Atherton civic center will be reached on Monday, March 21, when the town holds a special public meeting to unveil the design recommended by the town's Civic Center Advisory Committee.

The joint meeting between the City Council and the advisory committee will start at 5:30 p.m. in Jennings Pavilion in Holbrook-Palmer Park, 150 Watkins Ave. Wine and hors d'oeuvres will be served.

After the meeting, the advisory committee will meet once again on April 4 to discuss any changes prompted by the public meeting, before forwarding the design to the City Council for approval either on April 20 or May 4. In addition to the plans, the council will receive an estimate of the cost to build from the project managers, consultants Mack5.

Planning for the project was kicked off in 2010, when a volunteer Town Center Task Force was formed to look into replacing the town's cramped and aging offices, which don't meet seismic, fire, or other building codes.

In 2013 the council formed the Civic Center Advisory Committee and started work on a master plan for a civic center. The master plan was adopted in March 2014, and the town hired architects WRNS Studio in late 2014.

The town has always said most of the money to pay for the civic center will come from donations, and in the November 2012 election more than 70 percent of the voters approved a measure that said the town must "primarily use private donations to construct and design a new Town Center."

The measure specifically ruled out using general fund or parcel tax money to pay for the project. Money already set aside for new building and planning offices, and property taxes that can only be spent on the library, can be used, however.

Atherton Now, the group that has formed to raise money to pay for the new civic center is hoping that once Atherton residents see the design, it will be easier to raise funds. As of March 8, the group reported commitments of $5.27 million of at least $25 million in contributions that are estimated to be needed.

In an email sent to Atherton residents, Mayor Elizabeth Lewis, who has been involved in planning the civic center since the beginning, said the plans show a new "heart of Atherton."

In addition to offices for city workers, the civic center has a number of indoor and outdoor gathering places, a new library and new council chambers. The historic building that currently holds the council chambers will be remodeled and made an auxiliary to the library.

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