A section of city-owned property located on Ross Street, which currently includes Ross Street Park and the Second Ward Community Center, will soon be getting an overhaul. Speaking during a meeting of the Second Ward Community Initiative (SWCI) on Friday, City Manager Tom Homan discussed the planned site upgrades with community members.
Homan said the city bought the property, located between Liberty and Noble streets, in 2004 in order to relocate its Parks and Recreation departments. After the departments moved to their permanent home, the city entered into a lease agreement with SWCI for the community center in the early 2010s. Homan called the city’s original interest in the location an investment, and he said the property continues to be “an investment for the city.”
In order to further invest in the property, Homan said plans have been made to overhaul it into what will be called Unity Park. The idea for the park was the culmination of many community meetings, which have been ongoing since 2017, Homan said.
“There was a lot of engagement with the neighborhood, with the broader community, about what this property could look like someday,” Homan said. “Not just the physical buildings but, really, the surrounding property … It’s really a special property.”
The vision, Homan said, is to “green the whole area up,” remove the maintenance building that exists on the northwestern edge of the property, expand the parking lot, and eventually add a splash pad. The park will run parallel to the bike path that runs along the northern property line.
In addition to the park, Homan mentioned the possibility for future upgrades to the building sitting directly west of the Second Ward Community Center. Tajudeen Bakare and SWCI have expressed interest in the building for their STEAM program, Homan said, and while there wasn’t enough grant money this year for the project, it is “still on the radar” and “part of the future.”
Homan said work on the park project will begin this year with the first phase that includes the removal of the building, site cleanup, and extension of the parking lot. The phase is budgeted for approximately $175,000. The second phase will consist of incorporating the splash pad and adding restrooms to the site.
“This plan is the culmination of a lot of hard work by residents who took part in community meetings and surveys to help lead us to where we are today,” Lee Yoakum, the city’s community affairs coordinator, told The Gazette. “This is their park and their ideas.”
Yoakum said the second phase “could (begin) in 2021 or as soon as all of the money can be identified and allocated.”
The total price of the project will be around $400,000 with the majority coming from impact fees the city receives for new residential growth, Yoakum said. He added the funds will not be drawn from income taxes or the city’s general fund.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.