Reopening of Heritage Park Plaza closer to reality

03/02/2014 3:37 PM

03/02/2014 3:38 PM

Civic and city leaders are moving forward with plans to renovate Heritage Park Plaza on the north end of downtown and hope to get a portion of the riverfront park reopened sometime in 2016.

A structural assessment of the 112-acre park found no significant safety issues. Several years ago, there was some concern that the Trinity River bluff where the park sits, in particular land where a concrete overlook, catwalk and stairs sit, was shifting.

“It was great news,” Melissa Konur, planning director with Downtown Fort Worth Inc., said of the report. “We can move forward.”

The downtown membership advocacy organization is partnering with the city but is taking a leadership role in getting Heritage Park Plaza reopened. The city closed the park in 2007. A chain link fence has kept people out since.

There is still concern, though, that the concrete on the pathways may have deteriorated and separated causing trip hazards, and foliage has overgrown throughout the park, among other things.

Late last summer, Fort Worth engineering firm Freese and Nichols completed a yearlong structural assessment of the park, located near the Main Street bridge, as well as a soil and tree survey. The $100,000 study was funded by the Amon Carter Foundation, the Sid Richardson Foundation and Streams and Valleys, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the Trinity River.

Konur said Downtown Fort Worth Initiatives, the arm of Downtown Fort Worth Inc. that provides a funding pathway for charitable, educational and public-purpose activities such as community festivals, residential development and park management, will ask landscape architects and others in the next few weeks to suggest proposals for restoring and improving Heritage Park Plaza, including estimated costs.

The proposals will be due in May and will be reviewed by the city’s Parks Department. Tours of the site will be scheduled, she said.

In the meantime, Greenscape Pump Services of Carrollton, a specialist in commercial water feature construction and consulting, is looking at the park’s fountains to see what repairs are needed to get them started back up. And this fall, the city water department will replace a leaking water line that runs through the park.

The focus is to get the park’s main plaza area reopened sometime in 2016, Konur said.

Heritage Park Plaza is the section of the park designed by famed landscape architect Lawrence Halperin. The plaza was commissioned as the city’s gift to America’s Bicentennial celebration in 1976. It has been named to the National Register of Historic Places and listed among Texas’ Most Endangered Historic Places, and is on Historic Fort Worth’s Most Endangered Places list.

In 2009, Project for Public Spaces studied the park as well as the adjoining Paddock Park and areas around the historic Tarrant County Courthouse. A workshop was also held by renowned landscape architect Laurie Olin, once an associate of Halperin’s.

No specifics yet

There were no clear recommendations from the study. Rather, it took a broad look at what the park — where the city began as a military outpost — could become and suggested some preliminary and interim solutions. Konur said officials plan to move forward with some of those suggestions, which cover issues such as lighting, plantings and park access and uses.

Fernando Costa, an assistant city manager who heads the Heritage Park Plaza steering committee, said the city still wants to open the park as part of a public/private partnership. The City Council approved a $1.5 million earmark in the city’s upcoming $292 million bond election to cover basic repairs needed to get it reopened.

Costa said it will likely take private donations to return the park to its full splendor.

About $500,000 in private donations have been pledged to the project, according to Downtown Fort Worth Inc.

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