New Park Plan: Big Improvement
Speculation about the future of Downtown Park in Southern Pines has continued off and on since 2006, when the town’s old municipal building on Broad Street came down.
Thankfully, town leaders and residents rejected plans to replace the one-story building with a two-story behemoth on the same spot — pretty much in the middle of the park. They rightly argued at the time that the new building was too big and not in harmony with the surrounding residential area or the downtown — and not the best and highest use of that coveted open space.
Now comes a new concept plan for the park that features more green space, a gazebo that would serve as a focal point, and the possible elimination of one tennis court to make room for a new, more modest municipal building.
Strictly Local Talent
The plan was put together by talented and visionary local designers Bob Koontz, Lynn Anderson and Vince Zucchino. They not only worked for free, but they also understand on an intimate personal level what the park represents to the community and what the people want.
In fact, the planning team sought feedback from numerous people throughout the process. But don’t think that the feedback has ended, because it has been less than a month since Zucchino unveiled the plan at the Town Council’s annual retreat.
“We fully expect public input,” he says.
Council member Chris Smithson predicts little opposition to the plan, and we hope he’s right — though we all must remain open to the possibility that somebody has a better idea, or at least an inspiration for a modification to this plan here and there. Nothing has been approved at this point.
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.
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 municipal building, if constructed, would complete the project — again giving the Town Council a central place to meet, among many other functions.
‘A Real Jewel’
The planners and town officials envision musical, theatrical and other events for either the green space, the gazebo or the back of the building.
Perhaps Mayor David McNeill put it best: “We have a real jewel in the Downtown Park. Any way we can enhance it would be well worth our time and investment.”
The thing we like best about this imaginative plan is that it takes what is now a relative jumble of components that have grown up in haphazard fashion over the years, adds an element or two, and recombines them all into a harmonious new pattern that makes room for a number of uses without making any of them feel too jammed or crowded.
Go for it, we say.
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