Park for new civic center in the works

Posted 4/22/09

Centennial is poised to begin turning 11 acres of open space that surrounds the city’s new civic center building into a diverse multi-use park area …

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Park for new civic center in the works


Centennial is poised to begin turning 11 acres of open space that surrounds the city’s new civic center building into a diverse multi-use park area as soon as this summer.

Axel Bishop, a consultant with Design Concepts, a Lafayette-based firm that contracted with the city to prepare a master plan, updated the city council about its efforts on April 13.

Centennial is using $79,000 in designated open-space funds to pay the landscape-architecture and community-planning firm to find potential park and open-space uses for the land, provide cost estimates, identify regulatory issues and develop a funding strategy.

According to Bishop, the civic center space provides an opportunity for Centennial to finally foster identity — a challenge the city has endured since its 2001 founding from a broad swath of unincorporated Arapahoe County.

“You don’t have a lot of parks and won’t have a lot of parks because you’re constrained by the available land to do so,” he told the council. “So it becomes really important to create the imagery of parks using what is really your civic center.”

After seven years of renting office space, the city council voted unanimously last year to buy Centennial’s first permanent city hall — the former home of the Westerra Credit Union — for nearly $3.8 million.

To help create a sense of place and community for the city center, Centennial paid an additional $2.6 million to purchase the open space. Centennial also paid $334,000 for nearly four acres of land that can eventually be used for expansion of the offices. The city expects to seek grants from Arapahoe County, Great Outdoors Colorado and other sources.

As part of its work, Design Concepts has held two public workshops to get feedback from city residents. Bishop said that although the events were somewhat sparsely attended, the firm was able to garner some useful public opinion.

One consistent comment, according to Bishop, was that the civic center open space should be integrated with the area’s popular biking and walking trails.

“One of the great hopes everybody has is that [they] will be able to access the park in other ways than simply in an automobile. The citizens told us time and time again that this was a very important feature to them,” he said.

A host of other suggestions for potential uses have centered upon a few common ideas.

An amphitheater for large community gatherings and events

A gazebo or pavilion for smaller events

A “destination” children’s play area

A public plaza or civic green

Trail connections

Other ideas have included a sledding hill, dog park, tennis courts, a recreation center, sports practice fields and a skate park.

Some have suggested that the city emphasize use of natural materials, such as local quarry stone, and xeric landscaping. Others have supported using sculptural elements as part of the play areas and finding ways to emphasize Western heritage or even honor the five “founders” of Centennial.

The hope of city officials is to use the open space as a way to bring together the disparate east and west ends of the barbell-shaped city by creating a “destination” gathering place for all of Centennial’s 103,000 residents.

“This site is going to give people two things,” Bishop said, “a feeling and an image of the city. … If they see people there, history tells us they will go back. What creates gathering is people.”

The council is expected to approve conceptual plans for the park by the end of July.


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