Mayor George Heartwell and Downtown Development Authority Chair Brian Harris today announced the members of the community-based planning committee that will guide the historic evaluation, master planning and eventual rehabilitation of two key downtown public parks.
“Monument and Veteran’s Memorial parks are the front yard for the Children’s Museum, the Public Library and numerous local businesses and residences,” Mayor George Heartwell said. “Rehabilitating these historic public spaces supports the ongoing revitalization of downtown and will enhance the quality of life in our city. We are thankful so many thoughtful community leaders have volunteered to help make this project successful.”
Monument Park, the small triangular public space at the junction of Division Avenue, Fulton Street and Monroe Center, is the site of the Kent County Civil War Monument and fountain. The area also includes pedestrian walkways and a small green space with mature trees. The Civil War monument was restored in 2003 but the sidewalks and areaways adjacent to the existing buildings are deteriorating. Lanscaping also is dated and tired. The DDA has designated $350,000 for the rehabilitation of the space.
Veteran’s Memorial Park is a 1.6 acre park located at East Fulton and Sheldon Avenue. The park includes a reflecting pool and several memorials in tribute to local soldiers killed or wounded in battle. The park also contains two sculptural busts of poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Thomas D. Gilbert, a local civic leader who once tended the park. The visibility of and uses in the park have changed significantly in recent years due to numerous factors, including substantial revitalization in the area. Reassessing the park’s program and the eventual rehabilitation of the space is made possible by approximately $875,000 in tax revenues generated by the redevelopment of the former YMCA building into the Fitzgerald condominiums.
The 23-member planning committee is comprised of representatives from numerous community organizations with an interest in the rehabilitation of the parks, including the United Veterans Council of Kent County, the Grand Rapids Historical Commission and Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.
The committee, chaired by a member of the City Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, will guide the development of a restoration strategy for both Monument and Veteran’s Memorial parks, both of which are Locally Designated Historic Landmarks. The committee will work closely with a professional consultant to analyze existing park conditions, develop a management plan for the monuments, solicit community input and ultimately produce master plans that include projected costs for the park rehabilitations.
“Renewing these two central public spaces will help strengthen Grand Rapids’ core,” DDA Chair Brian Harris said. “The project also aligns with the DDA Framework, which calls for strategic investment to enhance the downtown environment and experience. Our goal is to work closely with the community to implement park rehabilitation plans that not only honor our unique local heritage but also make our city more walkable, green and distinct.”
The planning committee begins its work in late May and community focus groups will be held in Fall 2012. The final rehabilitation master plans are expected to be completed in November 2012. Attached please find a list of organizations to be represented on the committee, staff support as well as a diagram of the project’s public process and schedule.
More information about the Investment Framework for the Downtown Development Authority is available at www.grdda.org