Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Elmwood Park redesign moves ahead with a few possible tweaks

Steve Buschor, David Hill, Ron McKorkle

The first conceptual designs were presented for public input in October 2011. The 1500 accumulated comments from those sessions combined with online comments were used to craft a final concept design that was available for public viewing at the main library last Thursday.

The wish list of amenities from stakeholders doubled the cost to over 8 million. That design was on display on a “far” wall for future consideration. The affordable Phase I was the real deal on display. It met the budgeted $4 million dollar mark.

Rena Cromer with the Roanoke Neighborhood Advocates said that she was very upset about the late notice for the open house. A notice went out the day before and she said no RNA members were informed. “They already made there decision and don’t want our input,” she said.

The four main entrances serve the four populated buildings – the Patrick Henry apartments, Meridium Inc., Jefferson College and the entrance from the Market Square. Ron McCorkle, President of the RNA said the design and entrances are for downtown residents and the people are “left out” pointing to where the main entrances are positioned.

Tuesday at Roanoke City Council’s 2:00 p.m. meeting David Hill of Hill Studios gave the Elmwood park presentation. Hill Studios is receiving $300,000 for the project design. Last minute comments were added including McCorkle’s concerns regarding neighborhood entrances.

Rupert Cutler said to council “the park needs to serve those of us who live downtown, with our kids, our dogs, and our need to get out of our apartments and condos and grab some fresh air and exercise.”

The design turns Bullitt Avenue into an Art Walk. Parking on Bullitt will be gone but vehicles for Social Security building employees will be permitted to enter by possibly using a carded gate. The Art Walk is 20 feet wide and can accommodate cars and pedestrians. Bestpitch thought they “were missing an opportunity not to have regular traffic through Bullitt Avenue” – making the park more visible. City Manager Chris Morrill added that it could be made into a one-way through street.

The Tailgate Walk is along Jefferson Street. The parallel parking will be changed to diagonal parking adding 8 spaces. Motorists are expected to “back into” the spaces and vendors can use them for “tailgating” during festivals. Jefferson will look more like a boulevard.

Sean Luther, President & CEO at Downtown Roanoke, Inc.

Councilman Bill Bestpitch was concerned about peopled parking while driving south on Jefferson. He feared “they would pull straight in.” It would create a hazard with some backed in and others pull straight in thought Bestpitch.

The Saucer Magnolia Allee will replace the walkway from Market Square. Gone will be the lily ponds. There will be water and electricity for tents and fog and light machines.

Jim Lee spoke for Liz Belcher of the Roanoke Valley Greenway Commission saying that they hadn’t “properly considered” how people would mix with Greenway bikers. “There needs to be improved signage and access,” he said.

The Performance Venue is the realigned stage and will involve extensive grading. It will provide terraced bowl-like grassy seating for 1800 facing the stage. Seating expansion in other areas could increase attendance to 4300. In front of the stage will be an interactive water fountain where visitors can get their feet or anything else wet.

According to Steve Buschor director of Parks and Recreation only the black walnut trees will be removed. He said that 70 more trees would be added. The rocks will remain for children to play on, there is a concession area for 120 vendors and green space that will serve as spaces for  separate smaller events. Vegetation along Williamson Road will be removed for a clear and open view into the park.

Bestpitch wanted to know about the “tough turf” for vendor parking. He feared it would not be sustainable. Buschor said that if tough turf failed they would look at using pavers.

Rena Cromer and Ron McKorkle, Roanoke Neighborhood Advocates

Phil Shermer, city engineer said they would concentrate construction first on the Art Walk (Bullitt Avenue) and the Saucer Magnolia Allee in hopes of getting that done in 2012. To avoid disrupting warm weather events the performance area grading will take place in off-season – late fall and early winter of 2013.

The $4 million cost breaks down with the stage, grading, water fountain area costing more then half the total budgeted – $2.2 million. The Art Walk is about half a million and the Saucer Magnolia Allee another half million. The balance covers the Tailgate Walk, garden and green space plantings.

Buford Overstreet strolled by the conceptual designs at the open house. He has consistently claimed that he could do the whole thing much cheaper. “I can do everything they are doing here and make it more accessible, adaptable and safer for $500,000.”

He attended Tuesday’s council meeting saying Bullitt should be an open street and that he could complete the project in 6 months. He asked council to postpone their decision. “I don’t like waste when it comes to money.”

Once council gives their approval it will take 3 to 4 months to complete the architectural plans for the bid process. Shermer was anxious to get started saying, “it is a good bid time.”

City council gave instructions to return to council in a few weeks for final approval. This will give additional time for more citizen input explained Mayor Bowers. Councilman Sherman Lea also recognized that not all the citizens of Roanoke visit the park and may not have had input.

The project uses local businesses – Hill Studios, Spectrum Design, Mattern and Craig engineering, Stagesound and 1717 Design.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Elmwood Park redo gets ready for city council adoption

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Community, Local Events

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments (1)

E. Duane Howard

January 18th, 2012 at 12:18 AM    

Rena was certainly right on the money. Not only was there no advance public notice on last Thursday’s public input session, it jumped right to the Council Agenda two business days later, and in the afternoon session when everyone is at work and not able to attend. The entire concept and design is strictly to make the whole park an entertainment venue. I’m on the Parks & Rec Advisory Board, unless it was at a meeting I missed, we never had a vote on the plan. 4.7 million in these difficult budget times is a bitter pill to swallow.

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