A new downtown parking lot sandwiched between 14th and 15th streets in close proximity to 25th Avenue has been open for only a couple of weeks but is already having a significantly positive impact on the community.
The lot, just east of the Columbus Community Building, boasts 65 stalls, three of which are designated Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant. It provides parking for those who work in the building and members of the public who visit it or the greater downtown.
(ABOUT THE PHOTO: The new downtown parking lot is located just east of the Columbus Community Building. This view from 14th Street shows the front entrance with parking spaces wrapping around greenspace that will ultimately feature a playground area. The parking lot is now open for public use.)
“A connected parking lot to the Community Building, without the need to cross a public roadway, was brought up a number of times during the pre-bond stakeholder and public meetings,” City Engineer Rick Bogus said.
“A connected parking lot was included based off of this request. The site of the former Consumer’s Public Power building and City Hall allowed for the construction of a connected parking lot.”
But an opportunity to expand presented itself when the Columbus Rescue Mission relocated from its building that was subsequently purchased by the City and torn down.
“The additional work associated with the Rescue Mission property was designed by the Engineering Department and added to Boyd Jones’ agreement,” Bogus said. “A United States Department of Agriculture grant was obtained to assist in the cost of the additional construction work.”
The space was created to not only provide additional downtown parking, but be a place where the community can gather. There’s a flagpole housed in front of the lot adjacent to 14th Street. Trees, shrubs, bulbs and sod are all prominently featured and are under warranty as it is common for some of them not to make it through the first winter.
“The plantings were done late in the season and some trees will need to be moved this spring to correct some location concerns,” Bogus said.
Beyond that, plans are in the works for the lot to boast play space, LED lighting and ample greenspace, designed to make it a destination for families and other visitors. Passersby will notice three dirt spaces that are not covered with sod, which is intentional as they’ll eventually house the play area.
(ABOUT THE PHOTO: The dirt patches seen here in the parking lot east of the Columbus Community Building will eventually feature an all-inclusive play space and carousel. The play area is expected to open to the public sometime in 2024, but the parking lot is open for public use now.)
City Planning and Economic Development Coordinator Jean Van Iperen said she and the Parks and Recreation Department selected pieces for the new space that aren’t currently featured in other community parks to offer a new experience for everyone.
It will have numerous STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) features, as well as a slide, carousel and climbing elements. The dirt patch just east of the building adjacent to the Columbus Area Children’s Museum will give people of all ages the chance to immerse themselves in an interactive experience thanks to the City’s outdoor musical playground that will include chimes, bells, drums and more.
(ABOUT THE PHOTO: The dirt patch seen here is located outside of the Columbus Area Children's Museum and will feature outdoor musical equipment for use)
“In this last year we have had a lot of community input when it came to planning parks so we were able to gather some of the feedback from surveys on the parks. One thing we both were passionate about was making sure there was inclusive play spaces,” City Parks and Recreation Director Betsy Eckhardt said, noting she Van Iperen was great to work with on the effort. “One of the ways we will be making sure this happens is by having the musical aspect to the play area.”
The musical portion of the play space will coincide with the construction of the main playground. Although funding for this project is included in the overall budget for the playground, the Children’s Museum contributed $25,000 through a grant from the Columbus Area Future Fund.
“We are hoping construction can begin early this spring with it available to the public a few months after that date,” Van Iperen said, noting people interested in making a donation to help support the play space outside the Community Building can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“This park will be different than the other parks. It is downtown and located by the community building, so it is important that the playground reflects what the community building has to offer. It is modern, it will be bright and it will be a great addition to what is already offered at the community building,” Eckhardt said.
“It is so exciting to be able to add this to the Park and Recreation umbrella. It is fun to offer a space the community can get excited about as well.”
Bogus said the City has received great feedback so far on the parking lot and Community Building, applauding contractor Boyd Jones and others who contributed in helping bring things to fruition.
“I appreciate Boyd Jones and all involved in keeping the east parking lot work moving forward,” he said. “We knew it was going to come up against the end of the 2023 construction season, but it got done.”
As for the play space, Van Iperen said she’s excited to bring another attraction to the area that residents and visitors can enjoy.
“The City envisions the playground as a vibrant and inclusive space that fosters community engagement, recreation and social interaction. We hope the public will utilize the playground for various activities, including play and exercise, family gatherings, and fostering a sense of connection among residents,” Van Iperen said. “By promoting an environment of inclusivity and respect, we aim to create a welcoming space where people of all ages can come together, fostering a stronger sense of community and enhancing the overall well-being of our residents.”
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