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Progress continueson Civic Park project

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LMN Architects, the group selected to design Civic Park, held its first open house about the park Sept. 17. The initial meeting between LMN and the public was to introduce the company to local residents; successive meetings are planned to take input from local citizens on what elements the park should include.

LMN is working locally with Larkin Associates; Steve Bowen is serving as the local liaison for the project. Bowen said that right now, the design team is in the very initial stages of planning the park.

"We're involved in the planning, the site analysis. We're looking at the utilities issues, and identifying where the problems might be with moving utilities and the costs associated with that," Bowen said.

Anindita Mitra, of LMN, said the group is working on identifying a streetscape project that will tie elements of the entire 250-acre Civic Park project together (see related story on page 3 about the street-scape project). LMN is charged with designing a master plan for the entire 250 acres, only 35 of which is set to be developed during the year 2000.

Ground is to be broken on the 35-acre phase I in the spring of 2000, with construction completed in the spring of 2001, Alexander said. LMN is to have a master plan prepared for all of the park by the spring of 1999.

During these initial stages, LMN is working to gather data about the area, Mitra said. The group has initiated development of a set of design guidelines that will describe the general direction of the park's progress but will not specify exact designs.

At this point, both Mitra and Benjamin Alexander, senior planner with the city of Springfield, said there are no elements that definitely will be included in the park.

"This is really Springfield's park, and we want to give the citizens here a chance to respond, to suggest what they would like to see in the park before we come forward with anything definite," Alexander said.

One possibility for the park has been "daylighting" Jordan Creek, or exposing the creek, which now runs in concrete casings underground, and using it as a water element in the park. Though that remains a possibility, both Alexander and Bowen pointed to potential concerns with the creek. "That is a lot of water, and it may turn out to be too big of a safety concern. The creek is spring-fed, so it's always full of water," Bowen said.

Bowen said one of Larkin Associates' roles in developing the park has been to be an educator for LMN.

"We've tried to collect as much data as we can about the town and its history, and provide it for them," Bowen said.

Mitra also emphasized that using the area's history is a priority.

"We want to tie in a lot of the thematic elements associated with the Civic Park corridor. We want to link elements such as the Jordan Creek, the Butterfield Stage Coach that once ran in the area, and just infuse as much character as we can into the park," Mitra said.

Alexander, who is the city's representative to the Civic Park Advisory Committee, said that committee is seeking input from area civic groups about what elements to include in the park. The committee has a mailing matrix of about 400 such groups, and it has scheduled three meetings, one Sept. 30, one Oct. 7 and one Oct. 14, to hear what some of the groups have to say. Each meeting is at 5:30 p.m. at the Vision 20/20 building, 316 E. Central.

"We want to know what needs are involved for these groups. For example, do they need a stage area, art, gardens, bike paths?" Alexander said.

The Sept. 17 meeting drew about 130 participants, Alexander said.

Both he and Bowen said the committee is considering putting up displays around town of what progress is being made on the park.

LMN is an architecture firm but is assisted by the Portico Group, a group of landscape experts, and Larkin, which will handle the civil engineering and other engineering concerns on the site.

"Larkin will also be an extra set of eyes and ears for us on the project. They'll be conveying information to us and sending our information back," Mitra said.

The park project, which is funded by a portion of an increase in Springfield's hotel-motel tax, will need some up-front funding, Alexander said.

The city has already let bonds for the acquisition of the land for the park and is likely to use bonds at various stages of the project. Money for certain projects, that have to do with street improvements, for example, could come from the city's quarter-cent capital improvement fund.

"You could see some Civic Park streetscape-related projects showing up in the next round of proposed improvements," Alexander said.

Five businesses in the area will have to relocate before site preparation and construction can begin on phase I. Tom Finnie, city manager, said no new progress has been made on negotiations to acquire the property. The City Council will hold a second reading on a bill to condemn the property, if need be, at its Sept. 28 meeting.

The five businesses that are located in the area and are in negotiations with the city include DaBryan Coach Builders, Tri-States/Whitely, Greyhound Bus, Thompson Pontiac GMC Cadillac and a warehouse owned by Sears.

Whatever shape the park takes, Bowen reiterated that it will be the community's park.

"We want this to belong to Springfield, and we know it will be something Springfield can be proud of," Bowen said.[[In-content Ad]]

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