Board says public feedback key to developing vision further
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — A subcommittee of the city’s Economic Development Board (EDB) has been meeting over the past few months to create a vision for a large park on city-owned land in downtown Marshfield. That vision was presented to the full board on Tuesday.
The proposed park would fill a 54,000-square-foot area in the heart of Marshfield’s downtown, spanning north and south from Second to Third Street and bordered by Chestnut Avenue and the midblock alley to the west and east.
The EDB subcommittee has discussed several features it would like to see in the park, including multiple dining areas, a stage for performances, an expansive lawn for sports or other recreational activities, bicycle parking, benches, public art displays, a splash pad, and a paved plaza. The plaza would be large enough that in the winter months it could be flooded and frozen to serve as an ice rink, giving the park a year-round function.
“Green space downtown has always been (one of) the most talked about needs in our community for nearly a decade,” Marshfield’s Director of Planning and Economic Development Jason Angell said, citing demand from both residents and downtown business owners. “The key to creating such a space is that it has the right balance of amenities that will attract individuals and activities to the area while enhancing the existing and future uses in the downtown.”
Landscape architect Randy Lueth has been contracted to work with the EDB subcommittee and has provided renderings of the park that mirror what the group has discussed. The planned park space was once occupied by the Marshfield News-Herald building and the Professional Building. Both of those structures have been razed.
Parking and public feedback
The Burlington municipal parking lot, which is situated inside the proposed park space, would be removed if and when a park is developed. However, plans incorporate adding parking in several areas around the park, including the alley on its eastern side. The alley would be widened — subtracting from possible park space — to allow for the additional parking.
Parking spaces would also be added on Third Street and Chestnut Avenue. The planned redevelopment of Second Street will introduce angled parking on the street along the proposed park’s northern side.
In the plan presented on Tuesday, 44 spaces would be added to address the loss of the 50-space Burlington lot: 30 along the alley east of the park, five along Chestnut Avenue, three along Third Street, and six along Second Street, Lueth said.
At Tuesday’s meeting the full board expressed a desire to not lose any net parking spaces given the way that parking dominated the discussion over the divisive Second Street corridor project. Lueth did create additional renderings that would increase the net level of parking even with the loss of the Burlington lot.
“If we can prevent another Second Street corridor issue, I’d be really happy to do that. If we can do that by citizen involvement, the more the better,” said EDB board member and Alderman Ed Wagner.
“I would suggest whatever we do, we get to more parking spaces,” said EDB board member Al Michalski. “Because if it’s less, … some people are going to be opposed to this.”
A city study of the Burlington lot in which surveys of the lot’s occupancy were taken three times a day over the course of a week showed that of the 50 available parking spaces, on average just 12 stalls were occupied. However, after the study was completed, 15 stalls were allowed to be used for all-day permit parking, which previously was not the case. This may mean that the lot sees more use now than at the time of the study, which was conducted this past April, said City Planner Josh Miller.
Angell said that if the project gains momentum and gets common council support, it would likely need city funding and private donations in order to come to fruition.
As was the case with the Second Street project, how impacted business owners feel about the plans will be important as well. Christopher and Erin Howard, co-owners of Browns Living, which has headquarters in the Blodgett Haus just east of the planned park, attended a previous EDB subcommittee meeting and showed strong support for the project. Erin Howard also attended Tuesday’s full board meeting and again spoke in support of the project.
“I kind of feel like this is another perk we can say when we’re trying to get people to be an employee for us, say, ‘Look at your back yard. Look at where you can go on your lunch break,’” Erin Howard said. “We’ve talked to a lot of our employees, and they want it.”
“I think that someday if we don’t do this (project), we’re going to regret it,” Erin Howard added.
A cost estimate and a timeline for the project are not known at this point, Angell said. A strategy for attaining public feedback on the project is also still in development.