Final Schematic Plan for Town Hall Park and Gaines Triangle

At a community meeting hosted by the Westwood Coalition on Monday, October 3, 2016, representatives of Cincinnati Parks and MKSK, landscape architects and urban design firm, showed residents Final Schematic Plan for Gaines Triangle and the park grounds at Westwood Town Hall. As Steve Shuckman, Parks Division of Planning and Design, noted, “The plan has evolved and gotten stronger with community input.” Area residents, the Coalition, and a project advisory council that includes Westwood residents all participated in the design and feedback process. Last month, the Park Board approved the draft plan, as did the Coalition, the latter noting a few areas of ongoing community discussion.

Clete Benken, MKSK, described a rich design process that included a dozen meetings, a study of the existing property, and listening. He noted that the design focused on the Coalition and community’s quality of life and economic development goals and residents’ hopes and dreams for the area. He described the project’s design parameters and the goal:

Create a community gathering place, a park which is the focal point for the neighborhood and catalyst for development, and a distinctive setting for historic Westwood Town Hall.

Mr. Benken cited some of the parameters: an inviting, multi-functional, multi-use space, with more flexibility than exists currently.  The planners sought to develop parking, open spaces, signage, plantings, and so on consistent with the direction set by prior community planning and in cohesion with plans for the business district, generally. The plan places value on open lawn spaces and visibility, seating, play space, flexible use, recreational programming, art, pedestrian flow and safety, and historic features of the property. The design team worked with the Department of Traffic and Engineering on pedestrian movement and crossings and Recreation on the recreational programming of the grounds. Parking and drop off is shifted to the west side of the building which opens up space for an amphitheater and play area and provides more accessibility. The team has had preliminary discussion with Recreation for possible retrofitting of lower level space to accommodate food service.

Next, Mr. Benken showed perspective views from various angles, included in the Final Schematic Plan slides. He commented on the planned children’s play area, its increased visibility, and the openness of the front lawn. The drop off space can be dedicated to food trucks during a festival, for example, with ample space for vendor booths for events like the Westwood Art Show. An inventory of the site’s trees was made and the planners indicated their intent to retain all of the contributing trees and the “must keeps” because of their health and value (specimen trees, shade, etc.) Noncontributing or diseased trees, or trees nearing the end of their life cycle would come down but the plans call for adding far more trees than would be taken out, with an eye toward a good urban canopy, carbon capture, and shade. Mr. Benken noted that signage on the corners of the site would be lower and elegant, without obstructing sight lines or being too commercial.

And he showed the plans for Gaines Triangle at Harrison and Epworth, with its flexible seating and shade trees, pointing to the efforts to tie the spaces together, including conceptual drawings for adjacent properties like Madcap Puppets and the WestCURC parking lot.  He did say that, while the City could not fund enhancements to the private properties, it can work with businesses on common design elements and goals. Curbing and decorative pavement material would visually link the areas and give the sense of a shared space, evoking the Coalition’s recommendation to mark this intersection as the center of the business district, our Main + Main.

There will be two more phases of design, to flesh out details, before the project goes out to bid. This will include the detail of drinking fountains, benches, seating, signs, information kiosks, and art. $4M has been appropriated by the City for this project. The construction is expected to begin in spring 2017 with completion in four to eight months, weather dependent, with possible final plantings in spring 2018.

A dog park is planned for the side of the park property facing Montana Ave and Westwood School. It would be a double-gated fenced area with hard surfaces to facilitate maintenance of the site. Reasons for the dog park include activation of a relatively remote area of the site with year round use and socializing by dogs and people.

A question was raised about maintenance of the grounds, including the dog park and the gardens. Mr. Shuckman noted that the maintenance costs study is about one week from completion and does take into account current maintenance costs of the park. He noted that he hopes the community will help with planning for maintenance, including, for example, the gardening done now by volunteers as a Westwood Civic Association initiative. Henry Frondorf, Coalition facilitator, remarked on a poll that the Coalition initiated, demonstrating a negative response to the inclusion of a dog park. Another survey suggested a positive response to a dog park. Comments seem primarily associated with maintenance concerns, which were somewhat alleviated by Mr. Shuckman’s description of the material planned for the surface. Other concerns included availability of yards and a nearby dog park and a commitment to dog play over children’s play space. Still, the dog park is in the plans and is not expected to negatively impact mature trees or create a maintenance problem. MKSK’s Clete Benken commented that dog parks develop a park’s patronage, activity levels, and safety.

A resident inquired about the playground area and whether it would be contained. The speakers commented on the playscape which will spark imaginative and challenging play. It is fairly small and would not be fully fenced, relying instead on perimeter landscaping and low walls. Several people commented that it seems small, perhaps too small. There was positive response to the play area in the heart of the park.

Another attendee noted the historical features of the site, including the veterans’ memorial, the tree planted in Sgt Eric Sierra’s memory, the Ohio historical marker, and the section of rail. All are being incorporated into the plans and retained because they are special to the community and the site. An attendee mentioned the Broadbeck Performance Pavilion, noting that Mr. Broadbeck saved the Westwood Town Hall building when its future was threatened. This plan development provides an opportunity to honor people especially important to the history of the site and the surrounding area.

Asked about interactive water features, Mr. Shuckman indicated early interest in including water but said that the maintenance and budget made it impossible, describing this as an unfortunate loss.

In response to a question about parking on the site, the speakers noted that the number of spaces is the same but it is safer and also more convenient for drop off as planned. They noted that the intent is to preserve parking for accessibility and convenience but not at the cost of dominating the site.

One resident inquired about the plans for the decommissioned firehouse and its link to the park grounds. WestCURC will bring a restaurant to the firehouse and is working on those plans in the context of neighborhood development and in alignment with the park site.

An attendee remarked that the stationary exercise equipment, like that in place at Harvest Home Park, or parcours workout stations could be a very attractive addition to the site, particularly given concerns about health.

Residents commented on infrastructure issues in the immediate area, such as lighting, trees, and sidewalks. Henry Frondorf, Westwood Coalition, noted the Coalition’s Infrastructure Committee, is addressing a cohesive plan for streetscaping and all that it entails. The speakers remarked that lighting is important around the park and they are working to eliminate dark spots. The parking lot along the west side of the building will be illuminated. A nearby property owner urged Parks to include perimeter trash receptacles to cut down on littering. The dumpster will be enclosed and located on the Epworth side of the property. Access to the Town Hall will be largely unchanged. The current door will continue to serve as the main entrance with an accessible entrance at the lower level and ADA compliant walkways.

If readers have comments and questions, they’re encouraged to comment here or email the Coalition. Steve Shuckman of Parks Planning and Design also welcomes comments. Once again, here is the presentation that accompanies this post.

The Coalition has been working on placemaking, infrastructure, and positioning work for the entire business district and will share more on that work in the months to come, as well as reports on this website regarding the timeline for the park grounds and Gaines Triangle construction. Thanks to all who made time to attend the presentation on October 3.

 

 

October 3rd Meeting: Design and Status of Park and Triangle

You are cordially invited to a Coalition-hosted community forum on the latest developments with the design and status of the Westwood Town Hall park grounds and Gaines Triangle at Harrison and Epworth Aves. Cincinnati Parks and MKSK landscape architects will showcase plans and news on Monday, October 3, 2016 at 6:30 pm in the Epworth Room at Westwood United Methodist Church, 3460 Epworth Ave. Please share this announcement with your Westwood friends and neighbors.

Presentation and Q&A, Closing a Portion of Urwiler Ave

Representatives of the Westwood Coalition and the City of Cincinnati Department of Traffic & Engineering will be on hand Tuesday, August 30, 2016 at 7:00 pm in the parlor at Westwood Town Hall to speak again exclusively to the proposed closing of the short section of Urwiler Ave between Harrison Ave and Epworth Ave. Note that this is an information sharing and listening session. It is not a hearing. We will start with the proposal and the process that led the Coalition to this recommendation. Then we will address a number of questions that were raised by neighbors. Then we will open it up to questions. We will end not later than 8:30 pm.

Gaines Triangle, Urwiler Av from Epworth to Harrison

The Westwood Coalition held several heavily attended community meetings 2014 about concepts for a “Westwood Square”. Out of that process came recommendations and plans for Gaines Triangle, or what we’ve referred to as the “Bowtie”. The Bowtie is the tip on Town Hall park grounds at Harrison and Epworth Aves and, across the street, Gaines Triangle, the two triangular shapes making up the Bowtie. You can read the Coalition’s full report at  and summaries of community meetings here  and here and here and here and here or just read through many of the blog posts on the Coalition’s website. You would probably also be interested in the latest architectural drawings and information.

Recently, a resident of Urwiler Ave expressed concern about the closing of the little stretch of Urwiler that runs between Harrison Ave and Epworth Ave. It is temporarily closed this summer for Pop! Goes Westwood and is proposed for permanent closure for the expansion of Gaines Triangle. Note that Planning Commission approval for a permanent closing is required.  The Planning Commission process is open to the public.  Whether or not you can attend the Planning Commission hearing (unscheduled as of this writing), all letters of support and opposition will be presented to the Planning Commission for their consideration.

As part of the Urwiler street closure process, letters and post cards were sent to many properties affected by the changes. This detail is provided by the Department of Traffic & Engineering.

  1. On the east side of Harrison, all properties received mailings on Montclair and Urwiler from Harrison to Hazelwood.  All properties on Epworth also received mailings from Harrison to just north of Montclair, and on the east side of Harrison from Epworth to Montclair.  Since Hazelwood and McFarlan residents have alternate routes, they were not considered for the mailings as being “directly impacted”.
  2. On the west side of Harrison, all properties received mailings on Urwiler from Boudinot to Harrison, on Stathem from Montana to Harrison, on Junietta from Stathem to Epworth, and on Harrison from Epworth to Stathem.  Adjacent corner properties were also included on Montana, Boudinot and Epworth.

An initial letter was sent dated November 18, 2015, and a follow-up letter was sent to those that had not responded dated January 20, 2016.  The Department of Traffic and Engineering received responses from nearly 50 percent of all addresses after the two mailings.  Approximately 80 percent were in favor of the changes on both sides of Urwiler.  This overall number in favor of 40 percent is close to that required for street calming, which is essentially the work of the small island.  This approval is not high enough for the work on the west side of Harrison, which is a full closure and requires 75 percent approval.

In the coordinated report process, only Fire had an objection, and it was related to the full closure on the west side of Harrison.  The Fire Department does not object at all to the closing of Urwiler between Epworth and Harrison Aves.

You are welcome to comment here (we review comments before posting to filter out spam) or email revitalizewestwood@gmail.com or talk with any representative to the Westwood Coalition. We will announce any future Coalition meetings on our website regarding Gaines Triangle, Town Hall Park Grounds, Planning Commission hearings involving the Bowtie area, and other matters of interest to the Coalition’s work on the revitalization of the business district.

 

Town Hall Park: Dog Park Option

The Westwood Coalition would love to gather additional perspectives on one aspect of the current plans for the Westwood Town Hall park grounds. The plans include a small dog park on the side of Town Hall grounds along Montana Avenue, across from Westwood School. Earlier community input showed mixed support so we’d like to check one more time before the Coalition submits its perspective on this issue. Here’s a one question survey. Please let us know over the next few days. The poll expires in one week. Share with your Westwood friends and neighbors.

Concept E: Park & Triangle Plans

Thanks to the many Westwood residents who have offered comments on the conceptual drawings for Westwood Town Hall Park and Gaines Triangle. This has been very helpful to the Cincinnati Parks and the design team at MKSK. Westwood residents serving on the Coalition and its member organizations as well as the local residents on the Parks steering committee for the project have been reading all the input and welcome more. Let the Westwood Coalition know what you think of the latest plan, Concept E, pictured here.  There is great enthusiasm for the overall plan for the park grounds and the Gaines Triangle at Harrison, Epworth, and Urwiler. Respondents appreciate the cohesion that is emerging for the business district, the improved pedestrian and vehicular safety, the event space, playscapes, and landscaping. People like the opportunities for public art, for attending to the historic nature of the property, and the linkages between spaces. Take a good look and tell us what works especially well and where you think adjustments might be needed. The planning process is nearing completion, with another meeting with Parks and the Coalition on Thursday, August 4 and a presentation to the Park Board soon thereafter.

Perspective, Westwood Town Hall Park, Concept E

Perspective, Westwood Town Hall Park, Concept E

Concept D for Town Hall Park and Gaines Triangle

Thanks to input received from area residents, MKSK, the landscape architect at work on plans for this project, has developed Concept D. The Westwood Coalition continues to invite your comments as refinements are made. Here are some questions in which we particularly are interested:

  • Which design elements are the most favorable to you?
  • Do you like the notion of imaginative, creative playscapes?
  • With this redesign, what can you imagine happening at the Town Hall Park in terms of programming?
  • Would you like to see a water feature? What type? For what purpose?
  • Do permanently placed urban games appeal to you and, if so, where do they make the most sense?
  • What factors would help to distinguish the link between Gaines Triangle and Town Hall Park?
  • Is the dog park desirable and well-situated?
  • Are the specially marked pedestrian crosswalks at Harrison, Epworth, and Urwiler a good idea? Do you have comments on paving material?
  • When you imagine public art as part of the design, what do you imagine or hope for?
  • And, of course, we’re eager to hear your other general and specific comments.

We welcome your comments about Concept D through any representative to the Coalition or to MKSK or to the Coalition’s general email address over the next few weeks.