VALPARAISO | Now that the public has spoken on the plans for expansion of the Central Park Plaza, the city hopes to have final plans ready in about a month.
City Administrator Bill Oeding said he hopes to sit down soon with the architects and other members of the planning team to go over notes from Thursday's open house, at which the public got its first glimpse of the concepts for the park and was invited to comment or make suggestions.
"We need to decide what we can do and what we can't do," Oeding said. "We've got to get to the engineering drawings so we can finish the fundraising and get ready for construction."
Parks Director John Seibert said the open house made it clear most people prefer not closing Lafayette Street permanently but allowing it to be closed for special events as has been done in recent years.
Lafayette will be one-way southbound with angle parking on both sides from Lincolnway to Indiana Avenue. Barriers will be installed that can be raised or lowered to block the road at Lincolnway, and Seibert said a warning signs placed well before the intersection will tell drivers when it is closed.
The pavilion/ice skating rink and the accompanying support building, which will house storage, concession stand and restrooms, won support, but residents said the proposed plaza on the west side of the support building should be smaller to allow for more parking spaces.
Climbable art in the proposed plaza also was criticized as being too far from the center of park activities, so Seibert said that probably will be moved to the north side of the pavilion next to Lafayette. The city also is looking at a different design for the outdoor fireplace that looks less like a wall, he said.
Additional signs were suggested directing visitors to the county parking garage, and Seibert said the new restrooms will be open all year to the public, unlike those in the amphitheater.
"We are still getting a feel for the kinds of activities for the new park and the timing that is best for the downtown businesses," Seibert said. "The first couple of years we will let the market drive what is happening, and then schedule things as we learn what is most successful in drawing people downtown."
The project is expected to cost about $8 million, and Seibert said the next step for him will be firming up the agreements with major donors so the city can announce those by the end of the year.
He said more than $3 million already is pledged from donors and another $3 million to $3.5 million is expected to come from the city's Redevelopment Commission. The goal is to start construction after the 2014 Popcorn Festival and complete it by the summer of 2015.