GLASGOW – Plenty of details are still to be worked out, but a proposal to form a public-private relationship toward developing a city-owned property downtown for public use is to be recommended to the Glasgow Common Council.
“I keep saying 'park,' and if I could go back on one thing, I wouldn't have used 'park,' so much,” said Wes Simpson, the resident who has led the effort.
He had pitched his ideas at the June 24 council meeting, and in a follow-up presentation at Tuesday's meeting of the council's parks and recreation committee, he said that was just a simple term he could use at the time to get the word out when the ideas started rolling.
“The initiative really is a multiphase movement intended to help strengthen the downtown area and raise the attractiveness and quality of life of the community as a whole through creation of public spaces and long-term collaboration between private and public stakeholders to help spur tourism to and development around these spaces,” he said. “It's more of an overarching thing. It's not just about a park. … This is about development as a whole.”
He said he's had great conversations with Kevin Myatt, director of the Joint City-County Planning Commission of Barren County, about how zoning types fit in the picture and with downtown business owners as well.
“We believe that the first phase and the catalyst of this overall goal is the construction of a vibrant and multiuse park and public space on land that is currently owned by the city on West Main Street, which will include and all-season farmers market pavilion, an adjacent amphitheater, an open plaza space with splash fountain and other features that can be phased in as this agreement sees fit,” Simpson said.
The biggest roadblock that he and other supporters of the notion see is funding, and they recognize that government funding is limited, thus they believe private donations would help remove that barrier, he said.
It would be important for the private donors and citizens to have a voice in the concept and design of the space, he said, and the group's role would evolve as the phases of the project advance.
The “desired next steps” he listed were to have a resolution approved by the city to move forward with this and seek dialogue with county government officials regarding their involvement and formation of a steering committee that would have equal representation from the public sector and private entities, and he had a few specific suggestions for who those individuals could be.
He addressed some of the pushback and frequently asked questions he's received, and he said some conceptual designs have been developed by an architect he knows, but to broadly circulate those would be putting the cart before the horse. Simpson said they would likely have more success with private donations if they have an agreed-upon concept and target funding goal.
Brandi Button, executive director of Sustainable Glasgow, which includes the Bounty of the Barrens farmers market, said her board of directors had decided it would like to do whatever it can to help make this happen.
“For 10 years now, … we have tried to find different avenues to find a permanent structure for our farmers market,” she said, noting that part of Simpson's vision for the project includes a farmers market pavilion.
Sustainable Glasgow had also partnered with the city to organize the Shindig on the Square events downtown, and she said people want things to do with their families and they want to support local businesses.
Tag Taylor, a local certified public accountant, said the city has to invest in itself first before it can expect others to want to invest in it, and that is true of infrastructure projects. He later suggested going a step further and creating an entertainment district in the downtown area that would include this property as well as the public square and the Plaza Theatre, for example, and would give visitors more to explore in the same vicinity when the come to town for a concert.
Terry Bunnell, a member of the council committee, had different ideas for what to do with the roughly two-block property the city purchased last fall.
“I'm going to go counter to what they said,” Bunnell said. “I'm against a park there. I think that's not the best uses of that property. I'm all for parks. … I'm for a destination park for Glasgow, not a three-and-a-half acre site in downtown Glasgow. We need a 150-acre park in Glasgow, and we'd have multiple things in that park.”
He said parking, traffic flow and speed around the Public Square are difficult.
“That land that we have, I would propose for us putting up a parking structure there,” Bunnell said.
He envisioned that shops would be attached to the structure and perhaps a pocket park would be adjacent, but not an amphitheater or a splash zone. He said there isn't enough room there to do what Simpson wants.
“I think you're incorrect in that,” Simpson said, adding that the conceptual drawings he's seen fit all three of those latter items in just one of the blocks.
Mayor Harold Armstrong also countered the city has more parking available around and closer to the square now, with a lot adjacent to the Plaza and spaces that opened up behind City Hall when the Glasgow Water Co. moved from that building.
Discussion went back and forth between Bunnell and Simpson and drew additional comments from members of the audience for several more minutes.
Councilwoman Chasity Lowery ultimately made the motion to move forward with steps to formulate the relationship, Councilman Brad Groce seconded, and after more discussion, no one voted against that plan. The other committee members present were Sheri Eubank and Freddie Norris. Councilman Gary Norman was also present in the audience.