As cars rumble down Laguna Canyon Road, visitors and residents alike will at last be greeted by an entrance to the city of Laguna Beach three decades in the making — construction on the Village Entrance project is over.
The $11.3-million revitalization project of the city’s primary inland thoroughfare was dedicated on Friday in a virtual ribbon-cutting event attended only by City Council members and city staff.
“The city has succeeded in delivering a safe, beautiful area for our community to enjoy while delivering the project on time and on budget,” Laguna Beach City Manager John Pietig said in a statement Thursday.
The project focused on enhancing pedestrian safety and circulation and improving traffic flow along the stretch of Laguna Canyon Road between Forest Avenue and the Art-A-Fair grounds. It also provides new public open space.
“After nearly 30 years of planning and public input, this project took only two years to complete the construction phase,” Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen said Friday. “The Village Entrance project will be a project that lives in our community and is enjoyed by generations for decades to come.”
Discussion on the project often grew contentious, with residents, local organizations and council members hotly debating what the Village Entrance should look like, if the sewer digester should be preserved, what public art should be displayed there and whether or not there should be a parking structure.
In 2013, the Daily Pilot reported that $1 million had been spent over 18 years on studies and designs as it related to the Village Entrance project.
Included in the updates were renovations to parking lots, installation of decorative fencing along the drainage channel, addition of electric vehicle charging stations, demolition of the aging marine safety and police support buildings and subsequent construction of replacement buildings.
“The project’s new bridges, wider multi-use trails and paved access roads improve pedestrian, bicyclist and driver safety at one of the busiest and most visible intersections in town,” Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis said.
Wide multi-use trails were also added to create a pedestrian-friendly environment that includes bicycle racks and seating. Extensive landscaping was also done in the area, which included the planting of 75 new trees, 3,250 shrubs and placement of 50 flats of ground cover.
“The Village Entrance project’s new pedestrian walkways, benches, bike racks and beautifully landscaped green spaces create a first impression to the city of Laguna Beach that we can all be proud of,” Whalen said in a statement.
“And at a time when outdoor activity is so important to our community, this project’s completion comes at the perfect moment,” he added.