By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Marshfield’s Economic Development Board and additional city staff, including Mayor Chris Meyer and Parks & Recreation Director Justin Casperson, met Thursday night to discuss myriad topics surrounding a potential $1.3 million park in downtown Marshfield.
The park would occupy what is often referred to as the 200 block, the 54,000-square-foot lot running north and south from Second to Third Street and west and east from Chestnut Avenue to the alley that divides the block towards Central Avenue.
Plans for the park include a splash pad water feature, a stage for performances, a large lawn for sports and other recreational activities, dining courts, and a large paved plaza that could be flooded and frozen in the winter to serve as a skating rink. Extensive landscaping and the planting of large trees would also be incorporated in the design.
Landscape architect Randy Lueth, who is working with the city to plan the park, went through a detailed breakdown of the costs of constructing the park at Thursday’s meeting. The two highest cost items in the plan are the splash pad and concert stage. Combined, those items are projected to cost $400,000.
Marshfield’s Director of Planning and Economic Development Jason Angell said that in funding the potential park, it is likely that $200,000 would come from the city, another $200,000 would come from the Economic Development Board, and the remaining $900,000 would need to be raised via private donations.
“The council has $200,000 in the budget right now for that 200 block area,” Angell said. “The EDB last year in their budget had funding established in there to help with the redevelopment (of the 200 block), but it never got used, so it lapsed back into their general economic development account.”
“I felt like the pricing was (aimed at) a very high quality product, and if there’s places that we think that, ‘Maybe we can’t afford this,’ we’ve got some flexibility up and down on that,” Lueth said of the $1.3 million estimate.
How several features in the proposed park — like the splash pad, stage, and corner entry areas — lend themselves to naming-opportunity donations was discussed as a strategy for raising private funds.
Before any meaningful steps towards advancing the park concept can be taken, the city will launch a campaign to get public input.
Angell discussed a strategy in which the city will create boards with the images of the proposed park, accompanied by a fact sheet outlining the concept, answers to anticipated questions, and comment sheets for the public to provide feedback. The boards will be placed at businesses and high traffic areas around Marshfield with the hope that citizens will then provide feedback to the city.
Meyer said it was important for citizens to understand that the plan is “completely mobile. We can completely change things if we want to. This (plan) makes sense based on the information we have, but we want your feedback.”
Meyer also said that involving groups that have a vested interest in the downtown, such as the Business Improvement District Board; Marshfield Utilities; Main Street Marshfield Board; Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Committee; and the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, would be an important part of the feedback process.
With the specter of the Second Street Corridor debate still fresh, which largely centered around a dispute over parking spaces, the EDB spent a good deal of time looking at the parking situation with the proposed park on Thursday.
The park would eliminate the 50-space Burlington Municipal Parking Lot and an estimated 20 spaces in the gravel area once occupied by the Marshfield News-Herald building.
In a previous article, Hub City Times wrote that, “Forty-four 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.”
However, city officials do not want to include the additions along Second Street as a supplement to the 200 block parking situation, because overall in the Second Street Corridor there will be a net parking loss. Excluding Second Street parking additions on the north side of the proposed park, 38 spaces would replace the Burlington lot and gravel parking spaces.
Going from 70 spaces to 38 appears substantial, but City Planner Josh Miller presented a study the city conducted from Nov. 16-20 this year that assessed parking levels in the 200 block and also the nearby Central Municipal Lot, which is just south of the police department. In that study the city counted the parking occupancy of the area three times per day for five days and found that, on average, 83 of 192 available parking stalls were occupied. At the busiest surveyed time — Wednesday, Nov. 18, at noon — 102 stalls were occupied.
Sixteen of the spaces in the Burlington lot are permit parking spots for downtown employees, and the city could incentivize those individuals to park elsewhere by charging less for spaces in farther away lots, conceivably freeing up more spaces in the 200 block area.
Angell said that a proposal for the park would likely not come before the common council for approval before February, allowing the city time to gather public input.
When ground could potentially be broken and a project completed is unclear at this point, Angell said.
“It’s all based upon the success of being able to raise funds for it,” Angell said. “But our hope is that shortly after the first of the year we’re also talking about approaching people to give.”
The overall vision
The Second Street Corridor project; the Façade Improvement Program, in which numerous storefronts in downtown Marshfield were beautified; and this potential park all fit into an effort the city has undertaken to revitalize downtown Marshfield as a friendly area for people to walk, congregate, and enjoy.
“I’ve said for years that we needed to create that critical mass downtown. We’re coming close to creating it,” EDB member and Alderman Ed Wagner said.
The full Downtown Master Plan can be viewed at the following link: ci.marshfield.wi.us/PL/2015_Downtown_Master_Plan.pdf.