Burlingame exploring town square plan

The Kanz family on Tuesday did what most people do in downtown Burlingame — they walked around Burlingame Avenue, a popular destination despite being devoid of an open space for pedestrians.

Greg Kanz, his wife and two kids — both in strollers — left downtown and crossed California Drive and the Caltrain tracks to Washington Park on Tuesday afternoon.

“We needed a place to go where we could walk around in the area,” said Greg Kanz, his wife nodding.

The Kanzes and the droves of other dog-walkers, stroller-pushers and window shoppers on Burlingame Avenue may not have to leave downtown for a lush new town square open space to enjoy in a few years, possibly complete with an excavated creek.

As a special task force of residents, city officials and independent consultants explore a plan to map out the future of downtown Burlingame,the two long-rumored ideas are gaining momentum.

“We’re trying to create a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere in downtown and create more of a feeling that it’s a pleasant place just to walk through in general,” said Community Development Director Bill Meeker.

One possible town square location would be on the triangular block between California Drive, Howard Avenue and Highlands Avenue, Meeker said. The plaza could also be placed near the intersection of California Drive, Lorton Avenue and Bellevue Avenue. A new underground parking garage could be built underneath the open space, he said.

Excavating Burlingame Creek, which runs underground through the area, would allow for a minimum 9-foot deep and 20-foot wide body of water.

The creek may run through an eventual town square or between a pair of walkways, or the park could include an unnatural body of water. The plans are still in the brainstorming phase.

Approving public open spaces in that area has been difficult recently for Burlingame as it faces a tight budget. An $800,000 centennial plaza next to the Caltrain station and a $700,000 bandstand in Washington Park were both nixed by the City Council within the last year.

Funding for the town square and creek excavation would be the city’s largest concern, Meeker said.

“A lot of people are interested in the idea and think it should be explored. On the other side there are people who think it’s totally unrealistic,” said Charles Voltz, co-chair of the Citizens for a Better Burlingame group.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

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