Lytton Plaza -- the shabby but prominent gateway to Palo Alto's main retail strip -- is slated to be demolished and rebuilt before this year's holiday season.
As part of the project, which the City Council unanimously backed Monday night, the famous egg-shaped art piece "Digital DNA" will be moved away from University Avenue and toward the back of the plaza, along Emerson Street.
Trees and lighting fixtures will be removed and replaced, and stone walls along the perimeter will be taken down. The plaza will also be adorned with a new fountain and an assortment of new lights, tables and benches.
The project has been spearheaded over the past two years by the nonprofit group Friends of the Lytton Plaza, which is composed largely of downtown business leaders and property owners. The group has raised $348,800 for the project and has shepherded it through the city's application process. Palo Alto is contributing $348,800 from its own coffers for plaza renovations and adding another $50,000 for sidewalk repairs.
The council enthusiastically approved the expenditures at its meeting Monday night, with all seven attending members voting in its favor.
Former Palo Alto Mayor Leland Levy, member of the Friends group, said Monday he expects the project to be completed in 10 days and finished before the holiday season.
Levy said the concept of renovating the plaza has been under deliberation by city officials for more than a decade. But the project didn't really get off the ground until private interests and city officials joined forces to make it happen, he said.
Lytton Plaza, one of the city's most visible public spaces, was built in the early 1960s by banker Bart Lytton and was acquired by the city in October 1975. A new staff report denotes its "proud history" as a "freedom of speech area," dating back to Vietnam War protests in the early 1970s.
Currently, peace groups regularly try to engage the public at the plaza.
The new improvements will include energy-efficient lights and landscaping designed to use minimum water. Total costs are estimated at about $748,800, which includes about $637,272 for construction.
The council approved the project Monday with no delay or debate. Mayor Peter Drekmeier said he looked forward to seeing the improvements at the plaza and expressed surprise at the ambitious timeline.
"If this is done by the holiday season, I'll be very impressed," Drekmeier said. "I'll even do some extra shopping to reward the community."