George Reed Inc. was the lowest bidder on the Fourth Street makeover project.
It was also the sole bidder but that didn't stop the Ceres City Council from offering the local paving contractor the job. Last week the council had the option to award the bid or rebid it and potentially put the project off for another year. After being told by City Engineer Daryl Jordan that the bid was a fair price, the council opted to go with the firm to push the project moving forward this summer.
Reed bid $3.19 million for the work, which will include installing infrastructure such as water, sewer and storm drainage and streetscape changes. Two existing Fourth Street roundabouts will be removed, trees will be planted in spaces now occupied by parking stalls and artistically designed arches will define the two main entrances into the downtown Ceres district. The city is hopeful that the new look will entice private investment into Ceres' oldest shopping district.
Jordan said he spoke to four other local contractors and they are so busy with work that they wouldn't be able to get to construction until fall and then face winter rainfall setbacks.
Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra said even though the Reed bid was a little higher than the engineer's estimate, "my concern is ... there is a lot more activity going on construction wise and there's no guarantee that we'll end up with a lower price." He called it an important project for the city with many people looking forward to it.
The city will be investing $2 million to $2.5 million on the renovation from proceeds of the bonds sold by the now defunct Ceres Redevelopment Agency in addition to other pots of money set aside for infrastructure.
Mayor Vierra said if the city expects downtown to become more robust, the city project is necessary to create excitement. Vierra said that he has been in talks with business people who are considering opening businesses in Ceres who are "very excited to know we are looking to invest in the downtown area."
Wells said the city wants to create a "very unique and special environment that's different" for downtown, adding that palm trees are unique from any other downtown in the area. The idea of moving trees out into the street would enable 10-foot-wide sidewalks to be utilized for outdoor café dining or latte drinking. He said trees - possibly palm trees - would be planted nine feet out from the existing curb. He said Silva Cells will be installed underneath the permeable asphalt to allow the trees to receive enough water to sustain them.
The transformation of downtown is expected to take a decade or longer, said Wells, based on his experiences in helping to renovate new downtowns for Livermore and Turlock.
"It doesn't happen overnight, but we're really setting a foundation of infrastructure for that growth and that potential," said Wells.
The city hopes to start construction in June and finish by the end of the year.
The concept calls for Fourth Street to be striped so that bikes and cars share the same thoroughfare, similar to what one sees in beach communities, Wells said. Expect Fourth Street to become narrower to slow traffic.
Wells said downtown will never change unless private parties invest in downtown for new buildings or renovation of old ones and bringing new businesses and new life. Wells said several properties in downtown changed hands with new eyes on downtown.