The next image is a Rundell Ernstberger Associates rendering of that comparison park, the recently opened Canan Commons. Immediately noticeable is that the shapes and placement in the respective designs are unmistakably similar, if not copied outright. New Albany, apparently, just cut REA a $50,000 check for what's at best a highly derivative design for which Muncie already paid. So much for originality and site and community specificity. That's some grievously bad design karma.
While the aesthetics are nearly identical, the similarities stop there and the differences do not work in New Albany's favor. While Bicentennial Park in New Albany is a small, corner lot of approximately 16,200 square feet, Canan Commons is 1.5 acres or 65,340 square feet. Andriot asked me to consider per square foot cost for park comparisons. In this case, New Albany is paying $33.15 per square foot and Muncie paid $10.84 per square foot. Andriot mentioned the inclusion of fountains in New Albany as a major cost driver at $100,000, but Canan Commons includes a large, covered performance stage (shown below in use) that cost $300,000.
|Photo from downtownmuncie.org|
Also discussed were drainage issues at the park, with Andriot citing the need for better water handling as a reason for the $40,000 recessed lawn in New Albany. As several know from speaking with me about the park over the past few days, I've expressed confusion as to why digging such an expensive hole - one that in itself will create drainage issues (as evidenced by REA's inclusion of overflows in its design to avoid flooding) - would be better than rain gardens, the construction of which could not only function as a lower cost, run-off solution but as a community-building, environmental education event for the bicentennial as well.
With a more inclusive and replicable approach to water management in place, substituting the seating afforded by the hole would be both comparatively cheap and changeable as park usage patterns materialize over time. Others suggested that, given the large amount of money we're spending, alternative energy sources might be pursued for the park.
Imagine, then, finding the following text (viewable by clicking the rendering above) from Rundell Ernstberger Associates attached to the documentation of the much less expensive per square foot Canan Commons:
Constructed for approximately $650,000, the park is a showcase for several "green" technologies and components. The majority of the site lighting is powered by wind and solar energy. The pavements within the park are constructed largely of pervious materials, and plantings are comprised of native rain garden species. These systems work together to cleanse stormwater, encourage groundwater recharge, and minimize the amount of stormwater discharge into the local municipal storm sewer systems.
If I'm not mistaken, the official groundbreaking (I suppose the trees didn't count) for Bicentennial Park is this evening at 6:00 p.m.. It's a shame that these and other issues were not earlier addressed via the facilitation of a public input process, but it's not too late to correct our path, include a community whose ideas and resources I'm sure go well beyond mine, and develop a park about which we can be proud instead of accepting an overpriced, lesser developed copy from another town. This bicentennial is as much about the next 200 years as it is the last. We shouldn't start it by settling.