Greene Square Park slated for transformation

Stakeholders want to make space into something better

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Plans are in the works to spend about $2 million to transform Greene Square Park.

Jim Kern, chairman of Cedar Rapids’ Visual Arts Commission, said Tuesday that a committee of stakeholders from the city, museum and new downtown library, as well as from the First Presbyterian Church and Waypoint, which also front on the park, have been meeting for nearly a year to come up with a plan to make the park into something better.

The impetus behind the effort, he said, is coming in large part because of the park’s placement between the library, now under construction and slated to open in August, and the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, which is planning a face-lift to remove an unneeded ramp from its front entry.

“Both of them we’re looking at their front lawns,” Kern said.

Daniel Gibbins, the city’s parks superintendent, on Tuesday said that Greene Square Park was ready for a fix. He called it “very old and tired.”

Kern and Bradd Brown, a principal at OPN Architects Inc. who is working with the park committee, noted that the park proposal would remove the concrete planters that border the park on its Third Avenue SE side, which Kern called “bunkers” and “visual barriers” to those wanting to enter the park.

In addition, some of the park’s mature trees that are in decline would come down, resulting in a larger open space in the park. Ornamental trees, understory bushes and shrubs would be added.

Kern said the park is the city’s oldest and long has featured a diagonal sidewalk. The new plan keeps the sidewalk, but transforms it into an arc, which helps to enlarge the park’s lawn rather than cutting it in two, he and Brown said.

The idea, added Brown, was to make sure the park continues to play several roles — as a venue for Uptown Friday Night concerts, Saturday morning farmers markets and other events and as a place for downtown employees to eat lunch, children to play and families to have picnics.

The plan calls for the park’s southeast corner to feature a play area for children, the southwest corner to be a picnic area and the northeast corner to have an underground support that can hold the city’s Christmas tree during the holidays. The park also may be outfitted with a portable skating rink in winter.

“We want to keep it vital, interesting, clean, appealing and attractive,” Kern said.

City Council member Monica Vernon, chairwoman of the Development Committee, said on Tuesday that the committee liked the proposal when it was presented in late January. Still, she said she wants to discuss the possibility of including restrooms in the park and perhaps a place to sell coffee.

Kern said he would like to move ahead with fundraising for the project in March, and he said the private sector is interested in contributing. The estimated $1.9-million project budget includes a new sculpture for the park that may be funded with city funds, he said.

If the project moves ahead, the transformation of the park could begin in September with work completed by the spring of 2014, Kern said.

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