Rockville's plan to revitalize its downtown business district got a shot in the arm Monday night as city lawmakers approved a $1.46-million contract for improvements to Courthouse Square.

According to city staff, the Mager Construction Co. Inc. of Silver Spring will immediately begin to construct a brick roadway, covered arcade, gazebo, seating, lighting and landscaping in downtown Rockville near The Commons at Courthouse Square and the future county office building complex.

City planning chief James M. Davis said the Courthouse Square renovation is the first major construction project approved by the city under its plan to pump new life into Rockville's business district.

Davis called the Courthouse Square project the "most important and most visible" in the city's revitalization plan. It is hoped this project's completion in about one year will spur private development in the 426-acre downtown area slated for redevelopment.

The Town Center plan, an ambitious effort combining both private and public development, was designed by noted architect Arthur Cotton Moore. a

Features of the planned Courthouse Square renovation include clusters of game tables and trees equipped with lighting to create a "pleasant evening atmosphere," according to a city staff report. A covered arcade lining the pedestrian area is planned, with space for farmers' market, craft bazaars and art shows, the report added. The arcade, covered with Douglas fir roofing, will stretch from Jefferson Street to the inner square, which will be accessible to pedestrians and vehicles.

The gazebo and nearby colonnade will be used as a meeting place, performing arts recital stage and bus stop. Its design will reflect a contemporary adaptation of the square's Victorian atmosphere, city staff note.

Funding for the project will include $561,000 from Montgomery County. The city has applied for a state grant of $313,275 to help defray its costs. The remaining money will come from the city's capital improvements program.