SAN DIEGO -
A groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday 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. The project was first proposed in 1908, but 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.
For kids who play on the lawn by the county building, the addition of a new park is great news.
"I think it might be fun and we can get a lot of energy out," said 11-year-old Trevion Wade.
"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.
"It's an unbelievable day. You have these things where you hope and you pray that this is going to happen … and then it comes to fruition," Roberts said. "This is going to be a very special place for San Diego," Roberts said.
Supervisors said part of the project will be paid for in cash. The rest will come from bonds, financed at a low interest rate "thanks to the county's strong credit rating," according to Supervisor Dianne Jacob.
The scheduled completion for the overall park is in late spring of 2014.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. City News Service contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.