Cover Story - December 7, 2011

Re-imagining Atherton's Town Center

by Barbara Wood

Atherton residents are being asked to weigh in on a decision that could affect the public face of the town for decades to come: How should the town's new Town Center complex be designed?

Members of the Town Center Task Force want Atherton residents to look at the designs and qualifications of the firms competing for the job and share their opinions with the task force.

Two design concepts for a new Town Center have been presented by architects as part of a competition sponsored by the town. While the public is being asked to comment on the designs submitted, once an architect is chosen, the firm or firms will come up with a new design for the Town Center based on input from the community and town staff.

These firms have submitted the two proposals:

• Two firms — Siegel & Strain Architects and Goring & Straja Architects — proposed two one-story buildings totaling about 12,000 square feet, with an uncovered walkway in between. The design singled out the majestic oak tree in front of the current administrative building as the centerpiece of the redesigned civic center.

• The firm Nichols Melburg & Rossetto proposed two, two-story buildings connected by an arched loggia and including a community center with a rooftop terrace. The buildings would total about 20,000 square feet, according to architect Les Melburg.

In January, the task force plans to make its recommendation to the City Council and ask the town to spend some of the $1.8 million it has set aside for new department offices to begin the design process with public outreach.

The funds won't go far toward the construction. A few years ago it was estimated that the new complex will cost a minimum of $10 million. Atherton officials hope to raise most of the money through private fundraising.

The architects

Nichols-Melburg & Rossetto is a 44-year-old firm with 62 employees and offices in Redding, Chico and Sacramento. The firms has designed public buildings for the cities of Monterey, Temecula, Shasta Lake, and Redding.

Locally, the firm has worked on a master plan for the NASA-Ames Research Park, the Palo Alto Arts Center, the Sacred Heart Schools campus, and more than 200 projects for Stanford University.

Siegel & Strain , founded in 1985 and based in Emeryville, has a staff of 17. The firm has designed city halls, libraries, community centers, visitor centers, fire and police stations, emergency operation centers, and schools.

Goring & Straja, founded in 1995, has offices in Berkeley with seven employees, and in Milan, Italy, with 24 employees. "Our goal is to create buildings that are down-to-earth but not ordinary," the firm's presentation says. "Aesthetics and sustainability are given equal weight."

Projects the two firms have designed include the Portola Valley Town Center, Yountville Town Center, Orinda City Hall, Yosemite Environmental Education Center, and the Yosemite Institute.

What's your view?

Atherton residents are invited to:

• Visit to see the design concepts online.

• View the concepts at the Atherton City Council Chambers, 94 Ashfield Road in Atherton, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday though Friday, through Dec. 30. Town offices, and the chambers, will be closed on Monday, Dec. 26.

• Visit the web link above to let the town know what they think.


Posted by Fiscally responsible, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 7, 2011 at 9:15 am

Why are we spending money we don't have on design for a town center, when we don't have the money? Shouldn't the money be raised first? Doesn't make any sense, especially when the town Just laid off every non-police employee.

Posted by Poster, a resident of another community
on Dec 7, 2011 at 11:35 am

These conceptual designs were provided by the architectural firms at no charge to the town of Atherton: Web Link

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