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Citrus Heights will build City Hall, knock down civic center

Shown in 2003, the rose garden at the Citrus Heights Civic Center (site of the old Fountain Square Nursery) was nationally recognized. The civic center will be demolished this fall to make way for a new medical center. Many of the roses went to the historic Rusch House, but the public was also invited to dig plants out and buy them.
Shown in 2003, the rose garden at the Citrus Heights Civic Center (site of the old Fountain Square Nursery) was nationally recognized. The civic center will be demolished this fall to make way for a new medical center. Many of the roses went to the historic Rusch House, but the public was also invited to dig plants out and buy them. Sacramento Bee file

Both ends of Fountain Square Drive in Citrus Heights will soon be transformed into construction zones as the city builds its new city hall and demolishes its old civic center.

The city broke ground in July for its city hall at Stock Ranch Road. Down at Greenback Lane, demolition is slated to begin in September on the former civic center complex, which will be replaced by a new medical office building occupied by Dignity Health.

Work continues despite a lawsuit filed in Sacramento Superior Court by a citizens group, Preserve Our Civic Center, which is trying to get the size of the medical center scaled back.

The City Council voted in March to approve the approximately $53.2 million dual project. Included is a three-story, $31.2 million medical office building to be constructed by Panattoni Development Co. Under terms of a ground lease, Dignity Health will pay $6.9 million to the city over 15 years, with the option to purchase the property for $1 at the end of that period.

The lease revenue is to go toward constructing the new City Hall building on a 10-acre parcel owned by Rancho Cordova-based Capital Partners Development Co., which is building the $22 million City Hall.

The city left its Fountain Square buildings in July. Most employees are now working out of the Grand Oaks shopping center at 7927 Auburn Blvd. They will stay there for up to 14 months.

200-plus the number of people who purchased plants, pottery, benches and other items from former civic center site during a “Cash and Carry Day”

The old civic center, originally the home of Fountain Square Nursery, has been taken apart bit by bit over the summer. In July, the city held a community sale, giving the public an opportunity to purchase plants, pottery, benches and other items associated with the nursery, which was known for its roses.

Monica Alejandrez, assistant to the city manager, said the sale wasn’t intended as a moneymaker for the city but rather as an opportunity for residents to participate in preserving and recycling items from what, for many, was one of the community’s most cherished venues. She said more than 200 people took part.

“It was amazing,” Alejandrez said. “We had people there all day long, getting things out.”

Those buying plants had to dig them out of the ground.

The Sunrise Recreation and Park District took several trees to transplant in its parks, and many of the roses from the rose garden will be planted at the historic Rusch Home, Alejandrez said.

The city issued a request for proposals for salvaging palm trees on the site, but unearthing and transporting the trees proved cost prohibitive for potential contractors, Alejandrez said. To avoid destroying the palms, the city donated them to a nursery that was willing to remove them at its own expense, she said.

Koi in a pond at the civic center site were donated to a koi farm in the Auburn/Grass Valley area, Alejandrez said.

The now vacant buildings, constructed in the 1970s, have been used in recent weeks by Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District crews and the Citrus Heights Police Department’s SWAT officers for training exercises.

The City Council on Thursday night approved a $442,700 contract with Anaheim-based AMPCO Contracting Inc. to demolish the buildings. City officials said the city will pay for the demolition but will be reimbursed by Panattoni Development once the ground lease for the medical building is executed. Demolition is scheduled to begin in early September and to be completed by mid-October.

Norman Hill, a spokesman for Preserve Our Civic Center, which initially sought to prevent the project, said the group is now focused on obtaining modifications to the medical building to reduce its environmental impacts. The group has challenged the adequacy of the city’s environmental analysis for the project, and a hearing on its petition for a writ of mandate is scheduled for Feb. 19 in Sacramento Superior Court.

Hill said the group has met with representatives of the city, Panattoni Development and Dignity Health since filing the lawsuit, proposing a two-story rather than three-story building, and that it be set back farther from Greenback Lane. To date, no agreement has been reached, but Hill said he hopes for further conversations.

“Very often, builders find they have difficulty getting loans when litigation is pending,” he said.

Grading is underway on the new City Hall site, and Alejandrez said construction likely will begin by late October. Under a ground lease with Capital Partners, the city will make lease payments totaling $7.6 million. Once the building is completed and occupied, the city will have the option to purchase it from Capital Partners for $14.4 million or make lease payments over a 30-year term.

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