PITTSBURG -- A vacant lot in the city's Old Town area will be transformed into a park that would start with a large open space and evolve to include such amenities as a bocce ball court, a playground and an interactive water feature.

City Council members approved the plan by a 5-0 vote Monday for the 1.3-acre lot next to Old Town Plaza between Fifth and Sixth streets to become Old Town Park. That vote clears the way for construction drawings to be made up so bids can be solicited for the project in the spring of 2014.

The total cost for the park with all of the features is estimated at $1.8 million, of which $1.25 million has been allocated from park dedication fees, a city staff report said. That leaves a $555,000 deficit to fully build out the park as called for in the conceptual design.

A group of men enjoy lunch together at Old Town Plaza in Pittsburg on Aug. 21, 2013.
A group of men enjoy lunch together at Old Town Plaza in Pittsburg on Aug. 21, 2013. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Staff file)

Plans call for the open space element to be built first, with a proposed timeline calling for that phase to be finished in time for the 2014 Seafood Festival in September. Additional features would follow as funds become available for them.

The conceptual design adopted by council members was among three concepts presented at two neighborhood meetings to get feedback about what residents would like to see in the park.

About 88 percent of approximately 200 respondents who participated in an online survey or sent in paper comments indicated a large open space was important or very important for the park, followed by 65 percent for a playground, 62 percent for an interactive water feature and 52 percent for a bocce ball court.

Before the vote was taken, there was a discussion on the bocce ball court element. Greg Osorio questioned whether they should be included.

"Very few people suggested they wanted to see bocce ball courts," he said. "It's a limited space in the core downtown that should be for general use."

"I don't see anything where you have a basketball court," said Willie Mims. "You have some children there. They play sports. Maybe you don't want any sports there."

The two courts would take up less than 10 percent of the overall park space, as called for in the conceptual design.

Planning Commissioner Patrice Belleci-Shipe said bocce ball is a multicultural sport, as evidenced by a wide range of people who play the game at the six courts at Buchanan Park.

"At Buchanan Park, they will see every nationality there, not just Sicilians or Italians," she said.

Councilman Ben Johnson, who has played the game for almost 20 years, said there a lot of bocce ball players in Pittsburg.

"I see a number of players come to the bocce ball courts at Buchanan Park," he said. "It's grown immensely by people understanding (the game after) coming out and watching them play."

Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.