Rendering of new George F Canyon Nature Center in Rolling Hills Estates. (Photo courtesy of Roesling, Nakamura, Terada Architects/Spurlock Landscape Architects)

After significantly downsizing the project, Rolling Hills Estates is giving the community one more opportunity to review plans for the $1.7 million George F Canyon Nature Center.

The Nature Center, at the corner of Palos Verdes Drive East and Palos Verdes Drive North, is considered a gateway to the city and to the 51 acre George F Canyon Preserve and the Stein/Hale Nature Trail.

The final design of the center, pared back significantly from $2.7 million, will be unveiled at a virtual meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 9 at 5:30 p.m.

The project includes a meeting room that will double as a Nature Center classroom and a meeting space for local organizations.

“This is kind of our last look at our final conceptual design concept," said assistant city manager Alexa Davis. "We wanted to bring it once more to the community and receive input with some of our city bodies.” Davis added that more alterations may occur before final approval from the City Council.

Over the years, the Nature Center has been the hub for education events and activities such as monthly nature hikes, bird walks and night hikes, Davis said. The current building, dedicated in 1996, would be demolished to make way for the new one, said Davis.

The center is a city facility operated by the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy. PVPLC is a land trust focused on acquiring and restoring open space with an emphasis on education.

Adrienne Mohan, the PVPLC’s executive director, views the center as an important and integral community resource. By partnering with the city of Rolling Hills Estates, said Mohan, PVPLC will be able "to introduce the uniqueness of the Peninsula with the community at large and students who come on buses from all over for field trips in the canyon."

The Nature Center project has been in the works for more than two years and initially had a significantly larger footprint. In June 2019, according to a city staff report, the city’s architects proposed a 5,500 square-foot-project with a price tag of $2.7 million. The initial plans called for two buildings, one of them with two stories as well as an outdoor classroom and view deck.

City Council formed a subcommittee to look at less expensive alternatives, according to the staff report. After revisions with city staff and the architects, the final draft with the $1.7 million design was reviewed.

The new design was pared down to 3,355 square feet and is one-story.

“The revised concept maintains the same architectural design and landscape/parking features as presented in the initial version,” reads a Oct. 19, 2020, staff report. “The revised design also shares the same goals as the previous version: a welcoming gateway to the City, considerate of the surrounding neighborhoods, and emphasis on the canyon, trails and native habitat.”

According to Davis, the George F Canyon Preserve area, which is 36-acres of open space, was donated to the city by Robert A. Stein, Ronald Stein, Sandra Stein Haveson and Arthur Hale Sr., in memory of David N. Stein, Francis H. Stein and Marie D. Hale, in December 1982.

The city also purchased an adjacent parcel of land from the former Metropolitan Water District located parallel to Palos Verdes Drive East. The land ultimately became the Nature Center, parking lot, and the main trailhead, according to Davis.

The George F Canyon Preserve was dedicated in May 1993 as a natural park land and natural reserve. The one mile Stein/Hale Nature Trail, for walkers and equestrians, was named after donors.

Davis said Rolling Hills Estates does not intend to use money from the city's general fund to pay for the project. Currently they have a $355,900 secured grant.

“We will continue to look for other grant opportunities, and then there's some restricted fund opportunities that we would explore, as well as possible fundraising opportunities,” Davis said.

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