By Ken Williams | Editor
The groundbreaking for the much-anticipated Civita Park is scheduled for this month and will add 17 acres of public parkland in Mission Valley, the developer says.
Near the crest of the multi-level park — which rises over 165 feet — will be a large man-made waterfall that will be part of a “new creek” cascading down the hillside and through the heart of the massive Civita development north of Friars Road and east of Mission Center Road, stretching all the way to Interstate 805.
The park’s southern edge will be anchored by Celebration Plaza, a large space for public gatherings. Nearby will be an 8,000-square-foot Civic Center, which will include community meeting space as well as a museum to showcase the history of Mission Valley and the nearby San Diego River.
In the middle of the park will be another public plaza, complete with a comfort station and an homage to the neighborhood’s past as a mining quarry.
Work on the park is expected to take up to 10 months, and then there will be a two-month wait to allow the new landscape to take root. The park’s opening is estimated to be a year away, said Marco A. Sessa, senior vice president of Sudberry Properties, and the principal/partner in charge of all aspects of the development process for the Civita mixed-use community.
“Civita Park will have something for just about everyone,” he said.
Sessa rattled off a list of park amenities, including an amphitheater, a military memorial, a playground for children, a couple of tot lots, meditative nooks, climbing walls, basketball and volleyball courts, life-size chess game, picnic areas, a community garden, and display gardens based on color, scents and attractions for butterflies and bees.
Walking and jogging trails will connect the green areas to the various communities surrounding the park. Each community in the 230-acre urban village will have “finger parks” leading directly to Civita Park.
Another 10 acres of green space devoted to easements will feed into Civita Park, bring a total of 27 acres of open land, Sessa said. This “central park” will be the key element unifying the various communities within the Civita development, he added.
“It was important to us because it creates public access from our neighborhoods to our park,” Sessa said.
Civita Creek — the man-made stream that will mark the western boundary of the park — is designed to be a “dry creek” during times of drought or when there is little runoff from Serra Mesa, the neighboring community on the northern rim of Mission Valley that overlooks the Civita development. “It is designed to look nice even when it is dry,” Sessa said.
Originally, Civita Park was going to have a large recirculating fountain as its signature attraction. But the Audubon Society and other environmental groups, Sessa said, “challenged us to think outside the box” because a recirculating fountain is not practical during a drought.
Instead, Sessa described an engineering marvel that will allow the creek to function as a bioswale to deal with some of the water runoff coming from Serra Mesa. Work to create the creek and waterfall has already begun. He said the runoff is separated into three sets of pipes: a small one, a medium pipe for normal runoff, and a large pipe for heavy rains typical during late winter and spring. The engineers will not utilize the large pipe, which will remain underground and funnel heavy runoff to the San Diego River to avoid flooding in the Civita communities; nor the smaller pipe containing “urban slobber,” as he put it, which comes from commercial uses such as car washes and laundries. Sessa said Civita Creek will only utilize the middle pipe, containing the cleanest runoff.
The runoff will go through several purification steps during its journey to source the waterfall, then flow downhill via the creek to what Sessa called a “reclaimed water treatment plant” at the foot of the development along Friars Road. He said the idea is to create a dam, which will look similar to Old Mission Dam in Mission Trails Regional Park, to capture the water for recirculation.
“We will use 250,000 gallons to cover our irrigation needs,” Sessa said.
The waterfall is expected to become a landmark for the Civita development and a main attraction in the park, but because of its steepness will not be used for cooling off on a hot summer’s day, he said.
The city of San Diego Parks and Recreation board has approved the design for Civita Park, Sessa said, adding that he is in final negotiations with the park’s designer. The exact date of the groundbreaking was still up in the air at press time.
—Ken Williams is editor of Mission Valley News and San Diego Uptown News and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 619-961-1952.