Author Topic: If only this could be done to a park in Jacksonville  (Read 1639 times)


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If only this could be done to a park in Jacksonville
« on: January 04, 2008, 09:41:34 PM »
I happened to catch a blurb about this on a Sundance Channel special. This is an amazing idea. My first thought was about the Main Street Pocket Park and how it has become a useless, colossal waste money. Imagine if this could be done with on of our urban parks in Jacksonville.

Starbucks Neighborhood Parks Program has hand picked King County’s White Center Heights Park to support a $550,000 facelift!

Just like the reality TV shows featuring extreme home makeovers in only a few days, the White Center community is getting a new park, thanks to the support of the Starbucks Neighborhood Parks Program.

The underdeveloped 5.57 acre park is located at a hub of activity for children and families. White Center Heights Elementary School, the Boys & Girls Club and Greenbridge Development are across the street.

The White Center CDA and King County Parks are host to the "Starbucks Ultimate Park Makeover" - a volunteer event in June with the mission of building a park, from scratch, in seven days flat!

A Park For All People

Valerie Easton

It took the largest single gift ever received by King County Parks, multiple neighborhood meetings and the talents of an eager group of landscape-architecture students to renovate White Center Heights Park. Starbucks gave $550,000, plus employee time and muscle for an "Ultimate Park Makeover" that transformed an overgrown, dangerous space into an inviting community park, complete with a cistern and pig-roasting pit.

All this was not accomplished without a little drama along the way. The new park was designed by 14 students in associate professor Daniel Winterbottom's design/build seminar at the University of Washington. It was their last quarter in the UW landscape architecture program. The idea is to dose students with real-world experience before they graduate.

It all started when Starbucks chose White Center, a challenged community so diverse that 54 languages are spoken in the schools, for a park makeover. The UW students spent winter quarter working with assistant professor Jeff Hou and the White Center community to develop an open-space plan. The park is close to schools and the new Greenbridge housing development, a maximum-impact location in this high-density neighborhood. Or so it seemed during the planning and design phases, when students thought they had many acres of parkland to play around with.

An hour before the students were to present their designs, they learned that the county had identified much of the park as a wetland. This meant that most of their design ideas were moot. Here's the real-world part: The design/build studio went ahead with their commitment, which meant scaling back, redesigning, getting permits, building and planting the improvements, all during the course of their typical nine-week spring quarter. "What we committed to was a slam dunk," says Winterbottom of the intense amount of work needed to complete the project on time.

Now 2 ½ acres of the park are completed, including a stage for celebratory performances and a shelter for year-round gatherings. The shelter's butterfly-shaped roof funnels rain into a 4,000-gallon cistern to water the nearby community gardens. Overflow is channeled through a bio-swale into the wetlands, which will gain a boardwalk in the second phase of the park's master plan to be implemented next year.

It seems like the students thought of everything to attract neighborhood kids and adults.

Ballfields, barbecues, picnic tables, benches, a wild area with boulders for play, a walking trail around the park's perimeter, and a sunken barbecue pit where neighborhood Samoans prepared two whole pigs for the dedication, spending the night at the park to oversee the roasting. Green touches include the water-collecting system, native plantings and porous paving. Perhaps most satisfying is that this drug- and crime-ridden area is now a safe place for families. The trees and overgrowth ringing the park were well-thinned, and the park feels peaceful, sheltered and safe. Everyone is welcomed by touches like signage in Spanish and Vietnamese as well as English.

Winterbottom praises the collaboration. King County supplied the heavy-equipment operators to make the students' plans a reality, the White Center Community Development Association handled the community liaison. Concrete work was subbed out thanks to Starbucks' generosity, and the tall metal "totems" that line and define the park were fabricated at Pratt Fine Arts Center. More than 900 Starbucks employees and 400 community members volunteered during the final makeover week. "This was the Cadillac of projects for us," says Winterbottom, pointing out handsome boulders and benches, the raised-bed community gardens, the green expanse of playing fields.

"It was great for the students to experience the cultural diversity and sensitivities of the neighborhood," says Winterbottom, known for his design of therapeutic gardens for hospitals and jails here as well as in developing countries. He tells the story of a phone call he got when he was on his way to the store to buy paint for the giant cistern. "We learned we couldn't paint it blue, as the students wanted, because that's a gang color," says Winterbottom. The giant cistern, freshly painted with a forest scene, stands like a guardian over the park where children kick soccer balls, the elderly stroll the trail, and neighbors gather to chat and garden.


  • The Jaxson
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Re: If only this could be done to a park in Jacksonville
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2008, 09:50:31 PM »
It would be cool to see something like this happen to the Hogan's Creek parks or Hemming Plaza.  By the way, it sounds like the $550k went further than our $700k space on Main Street.
"A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” - Muhammad Ali

Charles Hunter

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Re: If only this could be done to a park in Jacksonville
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2008, 10:06:32 PM »
Well, the design services and apparently much of the construction were donated - and not in a big contract to political contributors.  Makes a difference.