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The concept of a large urban park located along the East Isthmus rail corridor originated with local neighborhood groups interested in revitalizing an area of post-industrial brownfields. Discussions for a park on this site began in the early 1970s. The Urban Open Space Foundation (UOSF) championed this idea for several years, developing a plan for a grand 10 acre Central Park. Despite public enthusiasm following an extensive public process and some success at fundraising, progress eventually stalled on the project.
In 2007, the Common Council established the Central Park Design and Implementation Task Force to determine the need for and feasibility of such a park and to chart a path forward. Over a period of five years, the Task Force held forty open meetings, including six large and well-attended public meetings. The master plan was approved in 2010; subsequently, with the opportunity for the City to purchase the Research Products property located at 204-210 S. Ingersoll Street, the master plan was amended in 2011 to expand the park and include the newly acquired lands.
One of the components of the Plan is an at-grade crossing at Few Street. The City actively petitioned the Wisconsin Commission of Rails (OCR) since July of 2011 to obtain a crossing of the rail road tracks that would allow better pedestrian and bike access to the Great Lawn and Skate Park. The decision to allow this crossing was finalized in the summer of 2012 allowing for the crossing. With the decision late in the construction season the first phase of the park is now scheduled for construction in early spring of 2013.
The Design team for the park included MSA Professional Services, Inc., "3" a Design Collaborative (which included Schreiber Anderson Associates, Ken Saiki Design and JJR, LLC), and Lorna Jordan, the public artist for the project. Ms. Jordan visited Madison and met with the community, city staff, stakeholders, and design team. She also explored the site and surrounding area. Currently the site is a capped brown field awaiting development as Central Park. She studied the industrial history of the area and the industries that contributed to the pollution of the Central Park site. Trains move through the site which prompted the Ms. Jordan to study Madison's transportation history. She also learned about the economic development goals of the neighborhood and the desire for the park to appeal to green businesses and workers. Regarding the natural realm, Ms. Jordan learned about local landscape typologies, seasonal change, and wildlife. She discovered that the site used to be a marsh. And she became fascinated by the powerful force of glaciers that have sculpted Wisconsin's landscape--creating both earth and water forms. The area's glacial history and remnant landscapes provide a springboard for the creation of a three dimensional landscape that is evocative rather than interpretive. From this research the Art Approach was developed and was used as the inspiration and guidance for the final design.
FUNDING AND SCHEDULE:
Funding for initial development of the park includes $3.1 M in federal funding for bike/pedestrian transportation improvements, in addition to the at-grade pedestrian and bike crossing and related safety enhancements at Few Street. The City of Madison is proposing the construction of Phase I of Central Park in 2013, potentially under two separate contracts. Phase IA funding will be utilized for grading the site and construction of pathways with lighting and a restroom building; this is scheduled to start spring of 2013. Phase IB is scheduled for the summer of 2013 and will include the at-grade crossing at Few Street and sidewalk along Wilson Street. Future phases of development include the Skate Park, amphitheater, pavilion, amenity construction and landscape enhancements. These other improvements, including additional land acquisition needed to complete the entire park as depicted on the Master Plan, are dependent on future funding allocations and fundraising efforts.
Central Park Skate Park Update: (posted July 30, 2014)
After more than 7 months of public input and design development the skate park project was released for construction bidding in May, 2014. Given the skate park's high profile it was anticipated that several national and local contractors would submit bids for the project. Surprisingly only one bid was received, which was significantly higher than the project's current funding and the consultant's estimate.
The Parks Division plans to re-release the project for bidding in October 2014 with an anticipated construction start in the spring of 2015. This will provide the best possible timing for the successful bidding and construction of the skate park in its current configuration.
We appreciate everyone's patience regarding the construction schedule delay. We're certain it will be worth the wait.