In a decision that didn’t seem to make anyone happy Jan. 18, Brighton City Councilors held their noses and voted to approve work finishing Bridge Street’s Founders Plaza.
“I think what is common up here is that this is not the original vision of the council that’s sitting here today,” Mayor Greg Mills said.
Councilors voted 6-2 to accept a $613,810 bid with Arrow J. Landscape and Design for the work. The current plan calls for enhanced colored concrete in the events area, picnic tables and a shelter, festooned lighting and seats and trees around the edges.
Councilors said they didn’t agree with the project but didn’t have any better uses for the space at the corner of Bridge and Main streets.
“We do need to complete the project, and move on. So I will be supporting the project,” Mill said. “But, I know this is not the full vision.”
The city completed the plaza’s first phase in 2020. Plans for the second phase did away with several expensive options that were part of the original plan, such as a children’s play splash pad, a portable hockey rink and restrooms. The new design also dispensed with a raised stage for downtown performances because it would have required significant ongoing maintenance.
Councilors Jan Pawlowski said she wishes it had been a parking garage for downtown businesses.
“That’s the part that bothers me the most. This should have been a parking area, not recreation,” Pawlowski said. “It’s just an unsafe area. But since we’ve spent all this money, I will support this as on of those unfinished project we just need to finish and get it out of the way.”
City Councilor Matt Johnston reiterated his dislike of the project.
“If this was at the ballot and voters had to vote, where would this end up?” Johnston said. “If one councilor up here could sit here and tell me this would not be a 70% loss for us. If we sent this to ballot to spend any money on any single piece of this park, we would get a 60 to 70% vote from the community saying ‘Dont’ do this.’ And yet it keeps getting pushed forward.”
But Johnston said he found one bright spot in the installation of a wall along Bridge Street designed to keep plaza users and traffic apart.
“That’s a big deal,” Johnston said. “We would have had to station police officers to keep children from playing on that wall. That’s been my biggest fear.”
Councilor Peter Padilla said it might be a horrible idea.
“A plaza at the corner of Bridge and Main may be the worst possible use of that space, except for all of the other options for things to do on that space,” Padilla said. “It’s not big enough for a parking lot, a parking garage makes no sense and the building that was there was crumbling.”
The original planned called for $1.6 million in work at the plaza, but the city pared the work down to $613,810. The City received a grant for $385,000 grant from Adams County to pay for part of the work.
Councilor Tim Watts had an idea for paying for the rest of that work.
“If you want another avenue to pay for this, have the first event at this space be a dunk tank for this council,” Watts said. “I will volunteer to be the first one in it and we can probably raise the $276,000 in an afternoon.”