Riverfront renovation

Madison Bicentennial Park virtual tour
offered at City Council meeting

Plan for future park includes several changes

By Konnie McCollum
Contributing Writer

(October 2006) – Madison Mayor Al Huntington, the City Council and various community leaders in July 2005 unveiled a design of the future Madison Bicentennial Park that included an amphitheater for public events and permanent restroom facilities.

This rendition of the future Madison
Bicentennial Park was presented a
year ago by Ratio Architects. It has
undergone minor changes since then.

The park, which officials hope will be completed by the city’s 200th anniversary in 2009, would make use of the vacant block between West and Central streets along the riverfront. It is the site where the former Maddox Tobacco Warehouse once stood and was outlined in a RoundAbout Madison cover story published in August 2005.
Last month, the mayor and city council held a public forum to present a virtual tour of the future park created by Indianapolis-based Ratio Architects. The latest design has some changes and additions to that original plan but for the most part is consistent with a versatile park setting along the city’s riverfront. It will be paid for by the city in phases as the park plan is developed, the mayor said.
“This park is a gift to the city from the city,” said Huntington, who has personally spearheaded the project.
Initially when preparing the park’s design, he and other officials had tried to respond to suggestions and comments from residents near the riverfront, local tourism and historic preservation officials, and from festival organizers.
One major change was the omission of a permanent shell stage in exchange for a mobile stage that the city has purchased and is awaiting its delivery. At a Sept. 19 city council meeting, Kenneth Boyce of Ratio Architects presented the virtual tour, which included several changes from the original design.
These changes included:
• The amphitheater stage would be in the southwest corner of the park along Vaughn Drive instead of the southeast corner as was originally proposed.
• A proposed ice skating rink to be located on the concrete slab in winter months and replaced with the city’s new mobile stage for various events and festivals.
• A large hearth that would designate the entry into the ice rink.
• An entry pavilion to the park at West Street.
• A series of swings under shaded structures that run east and west in the park.
• A zero-depth splash park. The original design called for an interactive fountain.
• A four-part pavilion area near the proposed housing development that could be used for commercial use, including a possible coffee or beverage place.
• A trellis structure proposed in the original design that bisected the park and included canvas awnings for possible vendors was disregarded.
• The wooded buffer zone in the original plan was changed.
• The restroom facility was moved to the west of Central, instead of east of Central in the original proposal.

Al Huntington

Mayor Al Huntington

Huntington told the sparse crowd that the plans are still malleable, and input into any of the proposals is welcome. “We really want to hear from the public about this park because it is for everyone.”
Boyce discussed why the park was needed and how it would benefit and complement the city. He said it would be the geographic center of all the city’s festivals, and both large and small community events could make use of the facilities.
Boyce also outlined the proposed stages and schedule for the construction of the park. Bids would be taken for each stage from interested developers. The first stage, which would ideally be completed by spring 2007, would be for the permanent restrooms.
The second stage would be the heavy earthwork and infrastructure phase. This would include the work on the walkways, the electrical work, water pipes and the structure pad for the stage and ice rink area. The construction for this work would immediately follow the 2007 Madison Regatta.
In the last stage, projected to start at some point in 2008, would be the building of the amenities, such as the actual amphitheater, swings and other structures. All of the stages would ideally be completed in time for the city’s 2009 Bicentennial Celebration.
Huntington said the city is anxious to get started on the construction of the restroom facility, which everyone agreed was a necessity for the riverfront area. “Our No. 1 goal is to get that restroom built,” he said.
Huntington said the money for the restroom facility has been budgeted into the city’s finances for the past two years. The city has allowed approximately $100,000 for the restrooms. That money comes from economic development funds and income taxes. “Funds for the rest of the stages will be laid out for cost over a period of time,” he said.
Huntington had hoped to get the stage for the restroom construction started this fall, but disagreement at the meeting over the proposed design of the restroom will send architects back to the drawing board.
Construction will likely be delayed because of indecision.
Huntington met with architects several times and discussed various proposals for the restroom facilities before deciding upon a design that was in keeping with the industrial nature of the area. “We wanted to go with a historic theme that complemented our existing buildings,” said Huntington.
Boyce said, “We wanted a building that fits in with the historic structures in the area but yet one that people knew was a modern building.”
The proposed design was for a rectangular building of either stone or brick with large square windows along the top in the front for natural lighting and two entry doors in the middle of the front.
“The inside accommodations will be as vandal-proof as possible without making them uncomfortable,” said Boyce.
Representatives from various historic organizations in the city were concerned the building looked too much “like it belonged in a park.” Suggestions were made for design changes including wider doors and arched windows.
“We are trying to get approval with the historic boards for the design because we think it is important to work with everyone on this issue. We’d rather lose time and get what people want than have them disappointed,” said Huntington.
He said the restrooms would likely be built now in the spring of 2007 and that possibly it would concur with the heavy earthwork stage of the plans.
He said officials still hope to inaugurate the park during the city’s Bicentennial festivities.

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