With just weeks to go until the finish line, the reconstruction of California Avenue hit another milestone Tuesday afternoon when workers lifted the veil off the street's new fountain sculpture.
"Confluence," a slender, vertical sculpture created by artist Michael Szabo, made its debut around lunchtime at the new California Avenue plaza near the Caltrain Station. The 14-foot-tall sculpture replaces the traditional bowl fountain that has long graced the plaza near Park Boulevard.
Though the old "bird bath" fountain had been cracked and damaged for years, its old-time charm had plenty of admirers. In 2011, city officials sided with the Public Art Commission in accepting the Szabo proposal over a more traditional bowl-shaped one. The decision went against an online opinion poll in which a traditional design was favored by Palo Alto residents who voted, by 130 votes to 208.
The new sculpture is one of the last remaining components of the ambitious $6.9 million streetscape project on California Avenue. The street, often referred to as the city's "second downtown," now has a freshly paved street and sidewalks, colored crosswalks, new bollards and trash cans, fresh landscaping and two lanes for traffic rather than four.
The project began a year ago and was initially slated to be completed in December. Construction experienced some delays because of complications involving the replacement of a water main under the street. The city also ran into an unexpected hiccup when pedestrians began complaining that the glass shards embedded in the sidewalks protruded too far for comfort. The city agreed to smooth things out with some cement slurry.
City Manager James Keene said Monday that officials are planning to celebrate the occasion on May 7, with a 2:30 p.m. celebration featuring area merchants, city officials and a ribbon-cutting.
Keene said it will take about two weeks to put the final touches on California Avenue, which includes new lighting, landscaping and the new fountain.