By the beginning of April a four-stall public restroom building will be serving downtown Gilbert's Park and Ride lot and Water Tower Plaza, taking some of the pressure off of what are probably the area's best-known potty facilities at Liberty Market.
The corner-store-turned-restaurant, which stands between the water tower and Gilbert Road, has a row of individually decorated unisex stalls, each with its own iPod supplying a distinct soundtrack.
Joe Johnston, Liberty Market co-owner, said the tower's "splash pad" is the only thing that has turned public use of his restrooms into an occasional issue.
"Only time I have a problem with it is when kids come in after playing in the fountain and get the bathrooms all wet, and they don't buy anything," he said.
The retro-styled restroom building Gilbert is planning is just south of the water tower, in easy walking distance of Hale Theater and other attractions in this increasingly busy area.
Town Councilwoman Jenn Daniels, a mother of three young boys who claims to know the location of every public restroom within a 10-mile radius of her home, said the new structure will save Gilbert money in the long run because the town will no longer have to rent portable toilets whenever special events are held in or around the park.
Daniels said increased foot traffic makes these restrooms a critical investment, particularly so Johnston and other downtown business owners don't have to provide facilities to noncustomers.
"While general-fund money will obviously be used to maintain them, restrooms are necessary. It's not like restrooms are a luxury item at this point in time," Daniels said.
The estimated $300,000 cost is being funded by a combination of state grant and town funds.
Workers are putting the final touches on the restrooms as Gilbert prepares for a May 18 election on whether to raise the sales tax a quarter-cent to close a $15 million shortfall in its general fund.
The 350-square-foot restroom is a row of four stalls standing on the site of a 1950s gas station. Its design is a throwback to that era, with blue and gray metal panels. A large neon sign with the word "Go" will soon rise above the roof to make the building more visible to the public.
Daniels said the architecture will enhance the atmosphere Gilbert is trying to foster within its downtown. It also incorporates several safety features, including doors that open to the outside instead of inward and sinks located outside in a well-lit area.
"There are not a lot of places for people to hide, basically, and I was impressed with the safety aspect of it," Daniels said.