S.P. Budget Proposal Funds Plan for Park
The Town Council has included $20,000 in the proposed 2011-2012 budget to develop a master plan for the Downtown Southern Pines Park and the city block that surrounds it.
“My desire would be to look at the entire block,” Town Manager Reagan Parsons said. “There have been a lot of concepts thrown around over the past several years. The goal is to plan the general layout relative to future activities.”
The block is bound by Broad and Ashe streets and Pennsylvania and New York avenues. On-site amenities include a playground, tennis courts, basketball courts, the Rainey shelter, public restrooms and a town administration building.
Parsons, whose office is in the building, said eliciting public input will be critical to the process.
“I think there are multiple things out there for consideration,” he said. “Do we build an amphitheater or some type of outdoor performance stage? Do we construct a multi-purpose building? Or do we just leave as much green space as possible? It will be interesting to see what the public thinks. We look forward to that dialogue.”
If the appropriation is approved, Parsons would likely seek proposals from consulting firms early in the new fiscal year, which starts July 1.
“A consulting firm would be hired to create a master plan for the block. It would be a land use, layout-type of plan,” he said. “We actually went through a similar process with the Pool Park.”
The downtown park took its current form in 2006, when the town’s old municipal building on Broad Street was demolished. The one-story building had been constructed in the 1950s.
The town originally planned to build a new two-story municipal complex on the site of the old one. It was to include a police station, meeting chambers and administrative offices.
While architects came up with several designs for a new complex, none were accepted by town leaders or residents. They argued that the building was too big and not in harmony with the surrounding residential area or the downtown.
Lee Riggsbee, president of the Southern Pines Business Association, said the park has become a “focal point” in attracting people to the downtown area.
“Having that extra space has been a benefit because it does get used. It’s been a gathering place for larger events that we couldn’t attract in the past,” Riggsbee said Thursday. “It doesn’t just sit there and grow grass. It’s something we didn’t have before, it gives us options for hosting future events, and it has been a plus for downtown businesses.”
Robert Reeve, director of the town’s recreation and parks department, said any future development will have to take into account limitations previously imposed by the state.
“There are certain restrictions because Land and Water Conservation Fund monies were used in the past,” Reeve said. “It will be kind of tricky. That is why we need a master plan. And we need to see what people want.”
Like Parsons, Reeve has heard his fair share of ideas for the park over the years.
“I’d hate to speculate, but I think it’s going to be an exciting process,” Reeve said. “There’s a lot of potential. We just want to continue utilizing the park to the best advantage of our citizens.”
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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