SP Unveils Plan for Downtown Park
A new concept plan for the Southern Pines Downtown Park features more green space, a gazebo that would serve as a focal point, and the possible elimination of a tennis court to make room for a new municipal building.
The plan, unveiled recently at the Southern Pines Town Council annual retreat, was put together by Bob Koontz, of Hobbs Upchurch & Associates; Lynn Anderson, of Anderson Architecture; and Vince Zucchino, of Vince Zucchino Associates, a landscape architecture firm.
“I think these three have presented a really outstanding concept for redeveloping the Downtown Park,” council member Mike Fields said. “It’s great to see a collaboration between our local talent. They truly understand the needs, what the community represents and what the people want.”
Speculation about the downtown park’s future has been rampant since 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.
Architects came up with several designs for a new complex, but 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.
“There’s been a lot of hearsay about the park over the years,” said Anderson, who serves on the town’s Historic District Commission. “The park is an icon for downtown Southern Pines and we want all of the elements within the park to be flexible and serve more than one purpose. I think the concept plan is nicely appointed and there’s some variety there.”
Anderson, Koontz and Zucchino did the work for free. They sought feedback from numerous people throughout the process.
“There’s been a lot of discussion around town about what could go there,” said Koontz, director of land planning for Hobbs Upchurch. “We tried to combine all of that into one plan. Hopefully, we’ve done a good job. I think it will be a great addition to downtown.”
Zucchino said the goal was to provide “organized sensibility” to the park’s spaces.
“Our main purpose was to give form to the park and honor that open space while making it better,” said Zucchino, who serves on the town’s Appearance Commission. “People cherish that open space. We studied it, challenged it and thought it was a pretty strong concept.
“We’ve run it by town staff, we fully expect public input, and there will likely be further massaging.”
Zucchino said the planning team’s local experience and knowledge were critical.
“We might be wrong, but we don’t believe an outside team would have had the same understanding to come to the same conclusion so quickly,” he said. “We’re all seasoned practitioners, as well as people who know and understand downtown Southern Pines.”
Council member Chris Smithson predicted little opposition to the plan.
“I think this design may not get changed much, if at all. I think it’s going to go over real well,” Smithson said. “Of course, it’s important that we use the concept plan as a starting point and get feedback from the public.”
The park 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.
Town Manager Reagan Parsons, whose office is in the building, recommended moving forward at the retreat.
“I’m really impressed with the work that’s been done,” Parsons said. “While there are some limitations at the park, it’s possible to phase this plan in over the next several years.”
In addition to more green space and a gazebo, the plan calls for realigning the Rainey shelter so it’s perpendicular to Ashe and realigning the basketball courts so both run perpendicular to Broad.
The proposed municipal building, if constructed, would complete the project.
Koontz said the tennis court site was selected for the building because it would have the least impact on the rest of the park.
“The building is a placeholder and something for discussion,” he said. “Whether it’s five, 10 or 20 years down the road, at least there’s a designated space.”
Fields said the building would likely include public meeting space, council chambers and town office space. It would also create more parking spaces on the south side of Pennsylvania.
“But the way it’s situated won’t affect the overall ambience and character of the park,” he said.
The planners and town officials envision musical, theatrical and other events for either the green space, the gazebo or the back of the building.
“We have a real jewel in the Downtown Park,” Mayor David McNeill said. “Any way we can enhance it would be well worth our time and investment.”
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or email@example.com
More like this story