Four decades after the idea of revitalizing Quincy Center was suggested, the shape and feel of a new downtown is coming into focus.
The plans for the first stage of the $1.6 billion renovation were unveiled Wednesday, showcasing 5-story to 15-story buildings and sprawling retail spaces that will take over the downtown block contained within Hancock Street, Chestnut Street, and Cottage Avenue.
The unveiling was a big moment for city officials, who propped up large poster boards with images of the new buildings at the afternoon press conference.
“We’ve been at this five years, the city has been at it for 40 years, and this is the first time anyone has seen an actual construction document of what is actually taking place,” said Christopher Walker, a spokesman for Mayor Thomas Koch. “We’re beyond concepts and ideas. We’re at bricks and steel.”
Although Beal/Street-Works, the city’s partner in the revitalization of the downtown, initially planned for construction to start in the fall of 2013, this section was set on an accelerated path in June of this year, with plans to have steel in the ground by February or March.
Those dates are still on target, as Beal/Street-Works submitted the plans for the construction to the city’s Planning Board for review last week.
The $120 million construction of this block, renamed Merchant’s Row by developers — will contain a renovated Granite Trust building; the existing Alba Restaurant; a 60-unit apartment building called Granite Trust Lofts; a 246-unit apartment building named the Kilroy; and a two-story, 186-space underground public parking garage.
“You have to create the place,” said Ken Narva, a founding partner of Street-Works. “It was important in the city’s point of view that we pick those blocks to establish the downtown, so there is a place that would reflect the mix of programs that makes a successful downtown neighborhood.”
Both residential buildings will feature retail spaces. While developers said there are potential clients for those spaces, no retailers will be announced until leases are signed.
While Narva wouldn’t provide details, he did mention that the Bank of America would be relocated into office space contained within the block, and that many of the retailers would be local businesses.
Although Merchants Row is just a small component of a larger downtown renovation — which eventually will transform the area from Hannon Parkway to Burgin Parkway and to the south of City Hall — Narva said it’s still a big undertaking.
“This first component by itself is a large project . . . as part of Step 1. It’s one of the largest projects in the last 15 years in Metro Boston,” he said.
Already, the project has stretched beyond that of the one city block, with Quincy officials conducting infrastructure work in three key areas of downtown as part of an agreement the city made with the developer.
Design for a Burgin Parkway access bridge is beginning.
The relocation of Town Brook, which had to be moved so it wasn’t flowing through the revitalized downtown, has been permitted and construction is underway.
And the design for a large green space, known as Adams Green, in front of City Hall, is about 75 percent complete.
Funding for both the Green design and Brook projects came from more than $10 million in grants from the state. The city is still working to obtain approximately $40 million from the state’s Infrastructure Investment Incentive, known as I-Cubed, that will help finish the project.
According to Walker, the city and the state are going over final details for I-Cubed; the city has received preliminary acceptance into the program and is moving toward final approval.
Narva said the simultaneous nature of the first stage of the redevelopment and the city’s infrastructure work is important.
“This is not just some residential building sitting in the corner,’’ he said. “We’ve spent time and money on public places . . . we have all three primary uses, and this sits in a visible location,” Narva said. “It connects the older part of town with the T station, and is a hood ornament for the racing horse behind it — the whole project itself.”
Quincy officials have been working with Street-Works since May 2011, when Governor Deval Patrick signed a home rule petition that allowed Quincy to alter the tax structure for the development to let construction pay for new infrastructure.
The public parking garage is one example of infrastructure that the city will eventually buy back from the developer once it starts generating tax revenue.
Beyond Merchant’s Row, construction will occur in three main stages, beginning around Ross Garage and Hancock Street and moving to 1400 Hancock St. in 2014. By 2018, developers plan to work on the area near the parking lot behind Hancock Street.
The excitement, said Peter Forman, president of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, goes beyond Quincy’s borders.
“This has an enormous economic impact through the South Shore,” he said. “The entire face of the South Shore is going to be changing.”
Visit www.boston.com/quincy to see photographs from Wednesday’s press conference.