Alternative plans for renovating Plummer Park could be ready for residents to see by the end of January. That’s what City Councilman John D’Amico told a group of two dozen residents Thursday night during a special meeting to discuss the park’s future.
Residents involved with the Protect Plummer Park movement requested the meeting with D’Amico to discuss their concerns about the that would include closing a majority of the park for up to two years while an underground parking garage is constructed.
D’Amico reported that architects from Brooks + Scarpa, the firm originally hired to design the park renovations, are scheduled to bring those alternate plans to a City Hall subcommittee in two weeks. After that subcommittee reviews the options, meetings for public input will then be scheduled, D’Amico said.
An architect by profession, D’Amico was appointed to that subcommittee in December when the City Council announced it was
Residents presented a 12-point list of their major concerns about the park renovations, including their opposition to the underground parking, removal of trees during construction, and the demolition of the conjoined Great Hall and Long Hall.
D’Amico, who was elected to the City Council in March, told the group he had recently met with Brooks + Scarpa to get the background of the project. He said it became obvious during the meeting that saving the WPA-era buildings was not a priority given to the architects originally. He assured options for restoring the building would be included in the alternate plans.
Residents also expressed concerns about the futuristic façade planned as part of the Fiesta Hall renovations. They said they were happy to see it get a state-of-the-art makeover, but wanted to see the Spanish Colonial architecture preserved. They also suggested that Brooks + Scarpa, a firm specializing in modern architecture, might not be the best firm to handle those renovations.
D’Amico said they would have to see what the alternate plans looked like before deciding whether to go with another architecture firm.
Residents emphasized that construction phasing was a major concern. Since the park is so heavily used by residents, any construction closures would greatly impact them.
“I completely understand that the phasing of the park is as important as the end product,” said D’Amico.
The meeting was initially tense, but as it became clear that D’Amico was understanding their concerns, the mood lightened considerably. D’Amico assured residents the City Council was now hearing what they were saying, even though it initially did not.
“The problem from September to December was the city had invested a considerable amount of money and had a considerable number of stakeholders who slowly peeled away,” D’Amico said. “Then there was only the money expenditures.”
For three months, Protect Plummer Park activists appeared at virtually every city meeting to speak against the planned renovations. Gradually, about the park redesign until the City Council finally announced it was commissioning the alternate plans.
After the meeting, D’Amico told Patch he felt good about the meeting. “I’m pleased that so many people showed up and we had such a great conversation,” he said.
Stephanie Harker, who helped spearhead the Protect Plummer Park movement, told Patch she was “cautiously encouraged” about the meeting.
Similarly, Cathy Blaivas, the other person behind Protect Plummer Park, said she felt “reserved optimism” that the alternate plans would reflect their concerns.