Grass, gazebo, mural envisioned downtown

If all goes as planned, big changes could be coming to the vacant lot at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Market Street.

“The Rotary Club determined that they would like to sponsor a park in the city,” Harvey Stone, who is a member of the Warren branch of the club, told City Council on Monday night. “When we finally broke it down, the best place to put a park (was the) corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Market Street.”

Stone said Rotary members met with WestPa.net officials and “decided we would like to look at that corner…this is the location we are looking at, and it certainly needs some dressing.” He explained that the company wanted to facilitate green space on the lot, and Rotary agreed and “felt it was natural to work it into that place.”

The design would replace the sidewalk on Market Street, remove the pull-in parking places and replace them with parallel parking, bumping out the sidewalk closer to the roadway, and include a plan to pave the parking lot, run green space around the lot and install benches and a gazebo. The benches and gazebo will be located within the green space.

The width of Market Street would not change.

Explaining that the side of the building can’t be cleaned beyond its current condition, Stone said the Rotary is looking at potentially painting a mural on the side of the building.

“We tried to do this so that we wouldn’t take away too many parking spaces,” Stone said.

Regarding the gazebo, “the gazebo would be at ground level,” he added, making it handicapped accessible. The gazebo will also feature a table and chairs inside.

Councilman Jim Zavinski asked Stone whether lighting had been considered.

“We haven’t got that far,” he responded.

Noting that the purpose is “creating a green space,” Stone said, “What we’re trying to do is not take up enough parking (lot) that they won’t be able to use the parking space. We’re not changing the right of way. All we’re looking to do is put in green space. The way we’re envisioning this is we would have right of way for the park from WestPa.net. That would allow them to use that green space buffer for their parking.”

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” he added. “It gets the park in, gets the corner fixed up.”

Council Vice President Maurice Cashman asked who would be responsible for park maintenance.

“When we met with Jim (former city manager Jim Nelles), he said if we would build the park the city would maintain it. That’s kind of what we’ve been going on. That’s still an agreement that has to be worked out with the city,” said Stone.

Stone said the Rotary Club is working with Leadership Warren County to raise funds for the mural, with costs estimated at approximately $12,000.

The projected cost of the park is $35,000, which includes curb and sidewalk construction as well as the gazebo, benches, grass and plants. He added that the goal is to align the funding to build the park “this season.”

Stone said that Rotary has had two meetings with WestPa.net and “they have agreed to the plan.”

“I think it’s a great idea,” Councilman John Lewis said, while cautioning that some property issues must still be resolved.

“We already have too many parks,” Coucilman Sam Harvey said. “We shouldn’t accept responsibility for it.” He argued that WestPa.net should care for the park.