Public sees array of Bancroft options; Parks staff to take it from here
The 1½-hour gathering in the Westside Community Center was generally amenable, but not a lot of consensus emerged - other than to fix the bandshell soon - and Parks staff gave only general indications of how they will use the citizen inputs, going forward.
After a staff overview at the start of the meeting, people were broken out into small groups and allowed about a half-hour to absorb the possibilities, which included:
- Three alternative park layouts.
- Various concepts for bandshell security and appearance; among these are types of “garage” doors to pull down in front of the stage for security when it's not in use.
- Designs and locations for relocated restrooms and (optionally) a playground.
- Various types of benches, trash receptacles, tables, lighting, landscaping and walking surfaces.
- Whether to create a defined, non-grassy area for the Farmers Market on the west side of the park (as shown in Alternative 2).
- What to do about the pavilion (remove it or change it).
- Whether to move some or all of the historical monuments to more strategic spots around the Garvin Cabin.
- Whether to close (permanently or on occasion) Colbrunn Court, the street just west of the park, or to narrow it and remove the parking spaces (as shown in Alternative 3).
Unsurprisingly, considering the meeting's relatively short review time, citizen responses were mixed, and most of the
For example, some people opposed even a small playground, saying that other parks in the areas already have such an offering; while others said play equipment would be helpful for families attending Bancroft events. But few of the staff- presented playground design details were touched on.
A consensus appeared to favor “Alternative 1,” at least the part that included a new restroom building at the southeast corner of the park, facing Colorado Avenue. The thinking is that the visibility near the main street would make this location more inviting to tourists and discourage misuse by vagrants. However, there was some pushback on that idea as well, based on how it would look to have restrooms so close to the avenue.
The issue of how any new restrooms would be taken care of was not brought up, although a staff-projected slide stated a city wish to “create park improvements that are low maintenance and more sustainable.”
At the start of the meeting, Parks Planner David Deitemeyer explained that the reason for presenting a variety of amenity suggestions at this point in the planning process is because “we want to dream big and capture the focus of what the community wants.”
One prevalent theme was that, while amenities are interesting and staff thinks another $475,000 in city funds may become available by next year (on top of the currently allocated $250,000), citizens believe the main focus should be to fix the bandshell. It was a January fire on the bandshell stage, making the facility unusable, that triggered a public outcry that eventually led City Council to find funding and urge City Parks to move more swiftly on the matter.
Repair details were not presented at the meeting, but staff said the work will definitely include improved bandshell security, electrical upgrades and a basement renovation to change the current restrooms (which are not handicapped accessible) into maintenance space.
As for the suggested amenities, no detailed cost estimates were provided. In answer to a meeting question, Deitemeyer said that, depending on what options are chosen, the overall cost range could be somewhere between $400,000 and $700,000.
Also not yet set is the time frame. A likelihood that Schroeder outlined would be to focus on the bandshell this summer, then turn to amenities in the winter.
The planning effort now goes back to staff, which is scheduled to report to City Council at its informal meeting April 24.
More than 200 responses were submitted to the Parks staff's Bancroft Park survey that was available online earlier this month.
Among them, in answer to the question, "What do you like least about Bancroft Park," most people said it was the "homeless presence," Deitemeyer said. And second on the list was "safety concerns."
To these points, one of the meeting's small groups proposed that instead of removing the pavilion - which the city added in 1978 as a family-oriented gathering place - the city should take out the low walls around most of it. This would address a common issue in recent years in which people hiding behind the walls engage in criminal activity.
Another vagrant-related concern has been the use of electrical outlets in the pavilion or on the stage late at night. Although no arrests have ever been made, the city fire investigator has said that the blaze was intentionally started on the stage at about 3 in the morning on a cold night.
Those electrical outlets have been turned off for several weeks. Parks officials have expressed an intent to gain better control of the electrical availability in any renovation.
At the meeting, Deitemeyer projected slides on a screen summing up the Bancroft Park citizen-survey responses. Among these:
- In the top three priorities for change, 56 percent said repair the bandshell, 42 percent said improved bathrooms and (in a tie) 37 percent said space for “farmers markets” and 37 percent said security lighting.
- Elements people wanted to keep (or improve) in the park were the bandshell, trees and open lawn, open areas for events, family friendliness, historic aspects and neighborhood setting.
- To the question, “If you could improve Bancroft Park, what elements would you add,” the top answers were restricted access to the bandshell, additional restrooms and converting Colbrunn Court to a “pedestrian plaza.”
Other desires were for more events, improved safety and a reduction in the city park rental fees (to make events more affordable).
Westside Pioneer article