What would it take to spruce up downtown’s Acacia Park?
More chairs, benches and tables? More trees and flowers? A café? An ice skating rink?
It’s a question that Springs-based HB&A Architects has been asking the community, and they’ve gotten some creative answers
The firm is leading a project to get the community to imagine what Acacia Park, the city’s first park, could become.
“It hasn’t been able to be a gathering place for the community,” said HB&A’s Andrea Barker, a principal in charge of business development.
For six months, the firm has been gathering ideas and inspiration about how to better the downtown park. The firm has invested about $30,000 of professional time in the potential project and has sought design ideas from its staff and from members of the student council from Palmer High School, whose student body frequents the park often. The Colorado Springs Police Department’s homeless outreach team, the Downtown Partnership and people who work downtown were also tapped for ideas.
HB&A asked student to sketch park re-design ideas over Google Earth images.
Barker said the firm was impressed with students’ ideas.
“The city wants to retain the young people, so we got to the really young with their opinions,” Barker said “The kids recognize the importance of vitality and diversity and downtown being an exciting place to be.”
During the planning process, there was one idea that was unanimously agreed upon — get rid of the outdated shuffleboard gaming area that has been used as a police substation in recent years.
Other ideas included moving a statue of Gen. William Jackson Palmer from the Nevada and Platte intersection into the park, changing the park’s sidewalk structure, adding a central fountain, placing colorful awnings that would provide shade during farmers’ markets and festivals.
Some downtown workers have ideas of their own.
Kathy Royce, a Terre Verde sales associate, thinks the park lacks events. She suggests an “arts in the park” program, such as Shakespeare in the Park, or a symphony.
“The downtown area is nice, but it could be nicer,” she said.
Terry Henderson, co-owner of Boulder Street Gallery across from the park, sees a bigger problem for the park.
“It does have some good events,” he said. “It just happens to have a lot of homeless people. I don’t know if that’s what’s keeping people from visiting the park or not. I think more than architecture, it’s about giving these people a place to go.”
Downtown Partnership Executive Director Ron Butlin is all too aware of the homeless issue but believes redesigning the park and making it a destination location would solve that issue.
“My strong feeling is that if you can trade enough activities and things happening in the park, get a lot of people using the park, the homeless people will tend to migrate elsewhere,” he said. “We’ve been trying for years to take that away from the park. I think the best way to minimize the effect of that is to get the park full of people.”
Butlin said people have been excited about plans to redesign the park, but noted that making them would come with a big price tag.
Barker said potential revenue sources include private fundraising, private partnerships and funding through taxing districts.
Until money can be found, redesign plans are likely to sit idle and events at Acacia Park to remain few.
And, that’s not necessarily bad in some business owner’s minds.
“They create something to bring people downtown, which is supposed to help the businesses, but then what happens is that the customers can’t park anywhere because the event is going on…it’s a hit-or-miss sort of thing,” said Matt Chmielarczyk, sales manager at Mt. Chalet. “A lot of people think, ‘Oh great, a parade downtown,’ but parades are the kiss of death for us because no one can park.”
Butlin is hoping for plenty of public input in the future to address all issues on the table.
Click here to see more of the project description.