A long talked-about and sweeping plan to remake one of the most popular parks in Phoenix could finally be getting a construction schedule in 2018.
“A revised master plan was approved in April 2016,” says Gregg Bach of the proposed $118 million redevelopment of the Margaret T. Hance Park, adding that the “architectural plans and potential construction phases are [now] being developed.”
The next step, continues Bach, public information officer with the City of Phoenix’s Parks and Recreation Department, is the money, which could come through “naming rights, sponsorships, or private donations.”
For Marcia Karasek, it has been a long time coming.
“This has very much been a work in progress,” says Karasek, the former executive director of the Hance Park Conservancy, a Phoenix group dedicated to supporting the park’s improvements and securing funding for it.
“The concept is fabulous and is a part of all the things that were predicted when the project was first talked about several years ago,” Karasek continues.
Those things include the continued development of downtown Phoenix, and the prediction that Hance Park would be in the middle of increased residential development.
“All of that has come to fruition,” says Karasek, “which means that there is now a chance to actually have a place for people living downtown that is not just a neighborhood green space, but also a civic space for the city.”
Named in honor of Margaret T. Hance, Phoenix’s first woman mayor, the 32-acre park, located on the northern edge of downtown Phoenix and uniquely built atop the Papago Freeway Tunnel, has for years been a durable mainstay for area recreational activities, concerts, strolling, and idle contemplation.
It is also a place, remarked Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton last year, that “plays a big role in our community, it’s a place where the city’s commitment to our residents comes to life.”
But for visitors to the space, as well as regular users, Hance Park, according to a city master plan document, has often felt “empty and uninviting,” lacking a “sense of identity.”
That document, entitled the Hance Park Master Plan Final Design, additionally noted that the park “has a shortage of amenities, daily programming to activate the park, and a perceived lack of safety.”
Some five years ago, city officials launched a timeline for the park’s master plan that has seen a design team partly made up of the architectural firms of Scottsdale-based Weddle Gilmore of Scottsdale and Floor Associates of Phoenix overseeing a public engagement process intended to elicit input from residents on how to improve the park.
The subsequent evolving plan envisions a comprehensive redevelopment that will eventually see the construction of splash pads and other water features, an outdoor theater, skate park, gardens, creative landscaping, and shade structures of varying shapes and sizes.
An existing firehouse in the park will be repurposed as a food and beverage station.
But an exact schedule for when all of this will actually begin, cautions Gregg, is “currently undetermined.”
“We’ll have a better idea about the timeline in another six months or so when the planning has been completed,” he adds.
Generally, the ambitious makeover is expected to take at least a decade to complete, with the work being done in phases.
The most immediate challenge for the project is its price tag, which could eventually end up being more than the anticipated $118 million, and finding the funding necessary to meet it.
City sources say that almost certainly the redevelopment will be paid for through a combination of public and private financing, with some of the money on the public side coming from a parks and recreation sales tax fund.
Despite these challenges, Karasek says hopes for a new Hance Park remain high.
“It will not be just a big civic place that no one goes to when there is not an event, but also a neighborhood place, which is the best.”
While Karasek acknowledges that much preliminary work still remains to be completed, she nevertheless emphasizes that “Once everything is done, it really is going to be an important place for the city.”
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