Washington Park continues construction

The 47.3 million dollar renovation currently undergoing Washington Park is progressing at a fantastic clip. Though all the general public normally sees is a green construction fence, make no mistake: improvements are happening, and it is already amazing to see what 3CDC has accomplished since closing the park last year.

UrbanCincy had the opportunity to join a private tour of the park with the ArchNATI 2011 week. The updated park includes classic elements of the original greenspace that opened in 1855 – the bandstand is being restored, the original monuments are still intact, and a majority of the old trees stand tall – two of which will be highlighted and decorated in the winter months instead of bringing in a new tree a la Fountain Square.

There are several green features incorporated into the park. “We (3CDC and the Parks Department) wanted to be cutting edge with our sustainable elements of the space,” said Jeff Martin, project manager and the tour guide for the event. “These features will save us money over time, and help the city as well.” Located in four locations of the park are “dry wells” – storage containers for excess rain water that will keep two million gallons of storm runoff out of the MSD system. The public restrooms are spacious and incorporate natural lighting with solar tubes – circular skylights that go through the roof and use reflective metal to bring sunlight into the space. All the new buildings in the park will have green roofs.

The garage at Washington Park has been designed with light and safety in mind.

The 450-space parking garage has been designed with light and safety in mind. The three exits from the garage serve as light wells into the space, and are built twice as wide as normal stairwell allowances, encased in storefront glass to bring as much sunlight into the two level garage as possible. The bays of the structure inside are designed so that cars park at the level with the supporting columns, not next to them (like the Newport Levy garage) which creates better views for drivers and passengers getting out of their cars.

New features of the park are progressing as well. The playground area has been designed specifically for the park, with play towers representing the water tower in Eden Park, and taking other cues from the historical architecture of the city. The dog park on the western end of the space incorporates special “pup-pea” gravel that will allow pups to do their business and keep the space looking and smelling fresh – there is also a small trough that runs through, allowing dogs to play and drink potable water.

The football-field sized green space will soon have specialized sod laid down. The grass initially incorporates a synthetic structure in order for the root system to grow strong and remain springy for the public to run and play. It is the same system that the Cincinnati Reds use in their outfield, according to Martin.

“It’s great to see how much detail and attention was paid to the material selection,” said John Back, local designer and co-chair of the Young Architects and Interns branch of the Cincinnati American Institute of Architects, who assembled the ArchiNATI week and subsequent tour. “When [Washington Park] is finished, it’s going to be an incredible asset to the entire community. I can’t wait.”

Check out the rest of the pictures below, and for more construction updates, you can follow the progress on the 3CDC website.

Washington Park pictures by Jenny Kessler for UrbanCincy.

  • You know that garage is going to be haunted.

  • Great photos of the underground parking garage!

  • Jason

    I really hope the park gets used by more people than just the homeless once it’s complete. Right now, the drugs and vagrants will keep most people away, but that can and will change if people (both long-time residents and new) take their neighborhood back from the transients.

  • Jenny K

    Washington Park will be OTR’s Fountain Square. They will have Ambassadors and other staffers ensuring everyone can use the park. I don’t imagine there will be drug dealers hanging out much, but the park belongs to everyone, even our city’s homeless population.

  • Jason

    I hope you’re right, but I feel like you’re being optimistic.

    The drug dealing and use continues to be a huge problem in the immediate area surrounding the park. I live within sight of the park, and have personally called CPD 8 times in the last month to report drug use or sale in progress. It’s a real problem. Race and Elm are not yet to the level of safety that Vine or even Main are.

    It’s going to take an effort by local residents to get out and use the park to prevent it from reverting to its prior state. I agree that the homeless have the right to use the park (hence why I said I hope it gets used by more than just the homeless, not people instead of the homeless) but I see them on a daily basis, and they are largely disturbed and mentally ill, some dangerously so. Ensuring they have adequate shelter and treatment is a higher priority to me than protecting their right to sleep in public parks.

  • Rittenhouse Square in Philly is a perfect example of a beautiful traditional open space where old money, young hippies, homeless and everyone in between co-exist. Yes there are homeless in the Square on a daily basis but there are so many other people walking through, hanging out, etc. that they become a part of the crowd. I hope Washington Park can match Rittenhouse both in 24 hour vibrancy as well as acceptance of many types of people.

  • Jenny K

    I think it definitely will be an active space. 3CDC is already working to create an events schedule to keep up activity in the park… and it’s going to be such a beautiful space I can’t imagine it will be too long before word gets out and people start flocking. Keep in mind it’s also creating more parking in a place where it’s scarce, so you’ll have workers and people living there, as well as people attending events at SCPA and Music Hall who will be using the parking facilities.

    Personally, I know I’ll be there as much as I can!

  • Schmiez

    Re: Greg Meck and Rittenhouse:

    Was there this summer. Good comparison (cant recall if Rittenhouse has a playground). It should be noted though that Rittenhouse butts up against some of the most expensive and desired housing in downtown Philly though.

    This could be the catalyst on what has already been a very active movement towards downtown’s revitalization. Improved residential options from Elm and Race would bookend Vine (and Mercer will extend that to Main). Hard to argue the results thus far (stores, Senate, Tavola, Lackman, Belgium, and the 3 other restaurants i cant remember the names of openeing in 2011).

  • J

    The problem with Washington Park is the bar on the corner of Elm and 12th. I looked up the owner, a dentist I think, I thought about showing up at his office asking him if he would be okay with that building being in his neighborhood.

  • Two architectural questions:

    One, any chance the rainwater in the “dry wells” will be filtered and used, either on-site or in nearby buildings?

    Also, if the parking garage is meant to be well-lit, have any skylights and/or monitors been incorporated? It’d be nice to see more daylighting to save on resources and costs.

  • chuck

    You mean the bar at Race and 12th? Elm and 12th has no bar. The one you mean is probably the “1132 Bar” with this review on Google maps

    “A third-shift bar that caters to individuals who need to drink at 7:00 AM. Don’t go unless you’re one of them.”

    Yep, I betcha that’s the one. Always some folks lounging around or falling out the door at that place.

  • J

    Yes, 1132 bar. That place is a hole. So much work has been done to improve the neighborhood, but that building still looks like complete garbage. I think the OTR community needs to start putting pressure on the absentee landlords. They’re easy to look up in public records. I noticed many are immigrants from other countries that buy cheap land and then do nothing with it.

  • Schmiez

    I thought there were some rules about bars being X distance from schools… Did 1132 get grandfathered in since they were there first?

    J: how do you know they are immigrants from other countries?

  • J

    Their names are extremely ethnic, and they are mentioned in news articles as being immigrants.

  • It will take a lot of work, and a combination of efforts, to change the atmosphere of Washington Park in the same manner the renovation of Fountain Square did to the central part of downtown.

    1) More commercial and residential development needs to occur. As with much of OTR, this portion of the neighborhood needs more vibrancy at all hours. A diverse mixture of development should help reach this desired state.

    2) Build the streetcar. Having a modern streetcar running along the two primary sides of Washington Park will do wonders for injecting more life into the area from more densely populated areas to the north and south.

    3) Get Music Hall event-goers out of their cars and into the park and surrounding neighborhood. Historically event-goers would simply go directly into Music Hall and then leave. Not much spill over activity happened in the surrounding area. The fact that the new parking garage isn’t connected via pedestrian tunnel should help with this.

    4) Program the park space with events to ensure vibrancy at as many different times as possible. 3CDC has done a brilliant job with this via the Fountain Square Management Group, and an equal effort is absolutely needed for Washington Park.

  • Schmiez

    “Their names are extremely ethnic, and they are mentioned in news articles as being immigrants.”

    Im fine if articles did the research, but the first part is pure ignorance.

    Frankly if outside developers see the potential, and local residents and developers ignore it, then all the world too them for buying it up.

  • Jason

    I agree that the names being “ethnic” is spurious at best. The problem is, I believe the properties to which the other commenter is referring are not being purchased for their potential, but instead are being squatted upon by people with no interest in contributing to the neighborhood. This actually has the opposite affect that they intend (making a quicker or larger profit on their “investment”) but it entails less risk to them, but the neighborhood loses.

  • J

    Owner of 1132 Race: Kiril Mihailoff
    Owner of 1527 Elm: Mercene Karkadoulias, Greek immigrant according to her website
    Owner of 1915 Vine: Navneet Sachdev. “Court records show the case was continued because Sachdev said he isn’t a U.S. citizen and wanted to check his immigration status.”

    It obviously doesn’t matter that they’re immigrants, but they are. They’re also absentee landlords. These properties are some of the biggest eyesores in the neighborhood, if you ask me. My point is they’re letting our historic district crumble, and hurting the revival of OTR, so get off your moral high horse.

  • Schmiez

    Yes, absentee landlords.

    It’s not a moral high horse, its me conducting due diligence to be sure your ire is directed at them for being absentees, and not because their name’s “are extremely ethnic”.

    If someone refurbished a building in OTR, and their name was “extremely ethnic”, would you have an issue with them? No. Then why is it an issue if they are absentees and extremely ethnic (whatever that means).

    I have an extremely German name but since Germans are common its cool right?