Originally published September 25, 2012 at 6 a.m., updated September 25, 2012 at 3:30 p.m.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held today for a long-awaited waterfront park next to the County Administration Building.
"Now is the time to turn this property -- which is owned by the citizens of San Diego -- to turn this into the type of public space that can be found in the great cities not only of this country, but the great cities of the world,'' said Ron Roberts, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, who turned over the first shovels of dirt to mark the start of construction.
The park, expected to cost more than $40 million to establish, was included in the plans for the county's main office completed in 1930s. But the park was never built. The idea was revived about a decade ago.
"To be able to create parks at a time when virtually no government agency has any money, it's just really an enormous accomplishment,'' said Lou Smith, chairman of the Board of Port Commissioners.
Supervisor Greg Cox said when the project is completed in a couple years, "people will come here from across the region. Residents will walk here from their downtown homes that they have and condos, folks from Chula Vista, El Cajon and Poway will come down here for special events and tourists will walk here from their hotels and they will all come away amazed at how our waterfront has been transformed.''
The park will feature an 830-foot-long fountain with water jets, a splash area for children, themed gardens, and open green space for picnics and civic events. The project includes an underground parking structure.
"These 16 acres between Ash Street and Grape Street will have been transformed,'' Roberts said. "We'll be able to host both large and small scale civic events.''
Some preliminary work has already taken place, including the removal of a building that housed offices for the county Health and Human Services Agency.
Before the groundbreaking, the supervisors unanimously voted to increase spending on the project by $2.3 million to cover costs of amenities in the fountains and gardens, and to improve lighting.
City Councilman Kevin Faulconer and Walter Ekard, the county's chief administrative officer, were among other officials at the ceremony.