East End park construction nears
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The first section of the long-awaited East End community park off Dixie Street could open by next spring, city leaders say.
City Council members will be asked Monday to approve a contract for the first phase of the roughly two-acre park near Dixie and Nancy streets, said Jim Edwards, director of the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority.
CURA earmarked $260,000 for the project several years ago, and $210,000 of federal block grant funds have also been set aside for the park. Phase One costs could reach about $500,000, Edwards said.
"It's very, very exciting," said East End Councilman Marc Weintraub, who has been involved in the project from the start.
"It's a remarkable improvement from what we had there," Weintraub said. "It was an abandoned, isolated part of our city. It's an area that, for decades, has been allowed to waste away.
"There were structures on the part to be developed that were among the worst in the East End. One of the apartments that used to sit on what will be the main entrance is where a police officer had to shoot a dog to enter because the dog had been trained to attack police officers on sight."
Assuming council approves the Phase One contract, low bidder McClanahan Construction could start within four to six weeks, Edwards said, and the work should be finished by March or April.
As envisioned by designers at GAI Consultants, Phase One will occupy only the front portion of the park site, near Dixie Street. The rear portion, Hobo Junction, will be reserved for later.
Phase One includes "a main entrance with sort of an archway that sits on two large piers that says the name of the park," said David Gilmore, landscape architecture group manager for GAI.
Visitors enter the park along a wide paved walk, with raised planters along the side for seating, Gilmore said.
"That will terminate in an overhead shade station that can also serve as a gathering space or amphitheater. There will also be landscaping and areas for sculpture, which ties into the public art initiative."
Decorative fencing will replace existing chain-link fence along the front of the park, while underground wiring feeds new light fixtures and LEDs on some of the benches. An entrance gate will close each night for security.
East End residents proposed a park at the site as early as 2004 during planning sessions for the East End Community Renewal Plan, Weintraub said. City Council formally adopted the plan in December 2005.
During another planning session held at the park site a year later, residents told designers what they wanted -- a sprayground, a skate park, playing field for sports, walking track and more.
CURA started buying up property in 2008 -- six parcels, five with apartment houses. The largest piece, a 1.4-acre open space called Hobo Jungle, took the longest because the property was tied up among heirs.
"It's taken all this time to acquire the land, clear the property and get all the government approvals to do this park," Weintraub said.
"The park will not be finished, but it will provide a place for children in the community to play safely, and a place for people in the community to gather. We fully intend to work with [city] Parks & Recreation and the YMCA to provide programming for that space."Reach Jim Balow at email@example.com or 304-348-5102.