By Joel Hall
After a series of town hall meetings in April and May, regarding the City of Riverdale's plans to build its new Town Center development on top of Travon Wilson Memorial Park, city officials have rearranged their priorities.
In order to ensure that park services continue relatively uninterrupted, the city will break ground on a new park on Wilson Street in late fall or early winter this year.
In March -- for about $500,000 -- the city purchased 16.6 acres of land around Wilson Street with the intention of combining it with previously-owned green space to create a 60-acre public park. The purpose of the park was to compensate citizens for the lack of park services expected during the construction phase of the Town Center.
Until recently, a date to break ground on the Wilson Street park had not been set. However, recent public sentiment motivated city officials to speed up the process.
"We had actually not put a timeline on it," said Riverdale City Manager Iris Jessie. However, "several people asked during the meetings why we couldn't build the parks first ... the general public worried that 'you're taking this from us, but not providing us with anything else.' We wanted to try to minimize any disruption for people who play at Travon Wilson Park," Jessie said.
Jessie said the city has come up with plans to develop a football field as well as a new multipurpose athletic field on the Wilson Street property. In addition, Jessie said the new park will include handicapped-accessible bathrooms, currently lacking in Travon Wilson Memorial Park.
"The intent is to construct the athletic fields before any construction takes place on the Town Center," said Jessie.
Doug Manning, public works and community development director, said in order to accommodate speeding up the Wilson Street park project, the city will re-prioritize the major components of the Town Center project.
He said the city will focus "first and foremost" on building a new community center, second, on building a plaza and amphitheater, and last, on building a new City Hall complex.
"We've heard the people ... we understand what their concerns are," said Manning. "We went back with some pencils, paper and erasers and we feel like we can make this work."
While speeding up the Wilson Street park plans may slightly delay the completion of the Town Center, Manning said the plan is "in the best interest of the businesses, the citizens, and the city as a whole.
"As far as getting the project done ... and citizens' concerns of having services ... we have come up with a plan that we believe will be able to meet both concerns," said Manning.