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Davis, California

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Local residents propose renovation of downtown tunnel

Michael Bisch, co-president of the Downtown Davis Business Association, and Dr. Stephen Nowicki, a local pediatrician, have conceptualized a new archway to replace the one that beckons drivers off the Interstate 80 and into Davis.
“Michael Bisch was the inspirational force behind this idea,” Nowicki said. “He had the idea to convert the roadway into a mechanism to pass into a more child-friendly environment, like taking a step back in time. He asked me if I’d be willing to sketch some ideas.”
The two would like to use the renovation of the archway to bring back the history of the town.
“Welcoming arches were once common amongst cities. Davis itself had one in 1916, but the piece was lost through demolition,” Nowicki said.
The remodel would employ a structural element called the Gabion archway, which is a sort of wire composition many architects use for homes.
“A sort of wire cage is constructed and filled with rocks, corks, wine bottles or other objects,” Nowicki said. “This gives flexibility for you to make a statement about your town. For example, the cage could be filled with bike parts.”
Bisch, who is also the owner of Davis Commercial Properties, and Nowicki envisioned the incorporation of ideas such as Huck Finn, live music, and other images symbolic of the transition into Davis. Still, they would like the community to get involved in what they would like to see in the arch.
The two have met with several city organizations to garner support for the project, but no plans to start have yet been created.
“We met with the Civic Arts Council and the Historical Resources Management Commission. All the feedback that we’ve gotten from the city has been positive so far,” Nowicki said. “We need to first identify some pitfalls, then we can get into specific plans.”
The community seems to be responding well to the proposal.
“The civic arts commission voted in favor of the project 5-1. It’s a large arts piece that would be a beautiful segue,” said Community Services Supervisor and Civic Arts Commission Liaison Carrie Dyer. “They’ve got a great concept, and I’d be interested to see what happens with it.”
If the project continues to get good responses from the community, Bisch and Nowicki hope to explore opportunities for funding.
“We have a really good idea; it’s just a matter of going through the process to see if there are obstacles, and tackling getting the public on board, as well as financial support,” said Nowicki.
Katherine Hess, administrator for the city’s community development department, said that before plans can be set into motion, the city would have to approve it.
“The proposal initially was to give the art piece to the city,” Hess said. “We’d have to make a decision if we want to do that.”
The city would have to evaluate whether the art piece detracts from the historic integrity of the arch, since it is considered a historic item.
“We met with Rand Herbert, chair of the Historical Resources Management Commission, and he liked the idea,” Nowicki said. “He didn’t want to cover up the archway, but if we have a feature there that people will observe, it’ll be an important structural element for our city.”
Hess, too, sees a bright future for the project.
“There’s an effort on a number of fronts to improve the city from an arts perspective, and this could contribute to that,” she said.

EINAT GILBOA can be reached city@theaggie.org.


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