Millbrae may get archway one day, but who will pay?

Decade-old plans to construct an arch over Hillcrest Boulevard are being revived in an attempt to attract more shoppers downtown, officials said Thursday.

A decade ago, the city looked into putting an arch over Hillcrest Boulevard at El Camino Real, to bring more shoppers to retail districts along Broadway, Victoria Avenue and El Camino.

The chamber has now asked the city’s Downtown Process Committee to take another look at the issue, particularly with many new developments getting under way near the Millbrae BART station, Chamber of Commerce President John Ford said.

“We want to see whether it makes sense to revisit that issue, so we can help identify our downtown,” Ford said.

City Manager Ralph Jaeck said the first set of plans and renderings for the Art Deco-style arch with “Millbrae” emblazoned across it were completed when the city was evaluating making improvements to downtown.

The city was ready to open the bids when the City Council decided instead to forego the arch in favor of new trees and storefront revamps. Jaeck was unsure how much the design consultants cost then, but estimated it was approximately $12,000. Ford estimates the arch project itself cost some $100,000 then.

Now that the city has dusted off the old plans, Jaeck said it will have to re-budget the project, determine whether funds are available and evaluate whether the technology to build the arch is outdated.

Millbrae is not the only city to seek to set its shopping district apart. Burlingame already has its own arch over Broadway, and San Mateo Mayor John Lee has made a new gateway to downtown one of his top priorities this year. He hopes to bring some kind of development or at least two small parks to two long-empty lots at Third Avenue and El Camino Real, but said Thursday that he’s still in discussions with the property owners.

Dan Lui, employee at Suzanne’s Cake and Pastry on Broadway, said he was very supportive of an arch to give downtown more of an identity.

“I would absolutely support anything to make downtown more visible,” Lui said.

The downtown process committee is set to meet early next month to resume the discussions.

tramroop@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocalPeninsula

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