NEWS

It's Greene Square, not a park

$1.95 million project will transform the block-square park in downtown Cedar Rapids

OPN Architects Inc. The latest rendering for the $1.95 million transformation of Greene Square Park into Greene Square in downtown Cedar Rapids features a wide, central lawn with sidewalks on each side that connects the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art on one end of the park and the Cedar Rapids Public Library on the other.
OPN Architects Inc. The latest rendering for the $1.95 million transformation of Greene Square Park into Greene Square in downtown Cedar Rapids features a wide, central lawn with sidewalks on each side that connects the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art on one end of the park and the Cedar Rapids Public Library on the other.
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Greene Square Park is soon to be no more.

In its place will be Greene Square, the new name for the $1.95-million transformation of the block-square park first platted in 1843 in downtown Cedar Rapids.

On Wednesday, the Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation Department and OPN Architects Inc. unveiled fresh new renderings of what Greene Square is expected to look like when construction begins, likely in the spring.

The new pictures are significantly different from ones proposed earlier. They feature a wide corridor of lawn with sidewalks flanking it on each side, as the lawn reaches to the front door of the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art and to the front door of the Cedar Rapids Public Library on the ends of the square, Bradd Brown, a principal at OPN Architects, told the City Council’s Development Committee on Wednesday.

At the same time, the new Greene Square maintains the diagonal walkway through the park that Cedar Rapids historian Mark Stoffer Hunter has said has been part of the park from its earliest days.

The square also will incorporate a water feature in the square’s center and will have a place for a holiday tree, Brown said.

He said the park currently has about eight picnic tables, but the new plan would add 100 additional seats in a way that will not take up a lot of the square’s green area. Lighting in the park will allow it to be used in the evening and in all seasons, he said.

Council member Monica Vernon, chairwoman of the council’s Development Committee, called OPN’s plans “great” and said they achieve “our dream” to connect the art museum and library.

“People can park and enjoy three things,” Vernon said. After going to the museum, library and park, people can continue on to use the restaurants and other amenities elsewhere in downtown, she said.

Council member Pat Shey recalled the City Council vote in February 2010 to pick the site across from Greene Square Park for the city’s new $46 million library.

The idea then, he said, was about “placemaking,” putting the library on one end of the park with the museum on the other end.

“It was the right thing,” he said. No one would be talking about a major transformation of the park now if the library had gone to another site, he said.

Council member Susie Weinacht, a member of the park project’s stakeholder committee, congratulated OPN’s Brown for coming up with a design that honors the park’s history.

Daniel Gibbins, the city’s parks superintendent, said the current proposal for the park has been two years in the making and has included some 650 comments from the public during two recent public input opportunities.

OPN’s Brown said the new plan for Greene Square will save healthy specimen trees in the park and add a number of new trees, including those along the sidewalks on each side of the corridor lawn.

Brown said the $1.95 million project has reached about $1.7 million of its budget. The city is contributing $650,000 to the project; the Hall-Perrine Foundation, $250,000; and another $550,000 has come from private contributions raised by the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance.

The Linn County Board of Supervisors has said it will contribute up to $250,000 for a world-class sculpture, and a county-led committee is working on selecting the piece.

Brown said the plan is to seek bids for the project this winter, with construction to start in the spring.

Jennifer Pratt, the city’s interim development director, said the city also is seeking an Iowa Great Places grant for the project.

Pratt said the project will be brought before the entire City Council for approval.

Vernon said some want to see restrooms and, perhaps, an ice-skating site in the square, but she said those amenities will come in a later phase of the project.

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