Monday, November 15 | Submitted by
Over the last few years, Downtown Springfield has been the hub of construction activity. Buildings restored and new projects such as Hollywood Theaters and Hammons Field rising from the ground; the time has come for the heart of Downtown to be restored to its former glory. Beginning this week, visitors to Downtown Springfield might notice the fencing around Park Central Square as construction crews prepare for a yearlong restoration of the inner Square.
The time has come to restore many of the features that were a part of the original 1970s design by renowned landscape architect Lawrence Halprin. The aged, worn pavers will be removed and replaced. The fountain will be restored and equipped with the latest energy-efficient components. Several shrubs and trees will be removed over the next year to make way for necessary improvements such as ADA accessibility, but even more trees will be planted in keeping with Halprin’s original design for the Square. Today there are only 36 trees in Park Central Square, once renovations are completed, 71 trees will be in the inner square.
In a year, the Square will once again be a source of community pride and activity. New lighting and sound will create the perfect venue for activities such as Sounds on the Square and First Friday Art Walk. Gone will be the barriers that block pedestrians, the entire Square will be much more accessible. Additional seating will be added, creating the perfect space for lunch or casual conversation.
The renovated design will be more open and inviting to pedestrians and will mesh with the pedestrian-friendly design of the improved streetscape surrounding the Square, which was completed last fall. The project includes the removal of non-historical additions that weren't intended by Halprin & Associates, plus the replacement of elements that have been lost during the last four decades. Select new infrastructure additions will bring the space into the modern age, including improved lighting and greater accessibility for all. The new additions will be incorporated in a historically sensitive way, and have been approved by the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office. The project will restore what was, in Halprin's words, "an active space for pubic assembly, devoted to pedestrians and their needs and comforts."
Even before it was remade by one of America's premiere modern landscape architects, Springfield's town square was the site of numerous historical episodes including the shootout between "Wild" Bill Hickok and Dave Tutt in 1865, the Trail of Tears, the Butterfield Overland Stage route, and Route 66. Throughout much of the 20th century it was the heart of commerce and shopping in southwest Missouri. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in February of this year.
The $1.78 million project will be completed with at least $1.2 million from a Department of Housing and Urban Development Economic Development Initiative grant. The remainder will be paid for by the voter-approved ?-cent Sales Tax for Capital Improvements. The general contractor is Carson-Mitchell, Inc. Plans were prepared by Butler-Rosenbury & Partners, Inc.
For more information about the restoration, contact: Phil Broyles, Co-Interim Director of Public Works, (417) 864-1950
About Lawrence Halprin One of the world's leading landscape architects and environmental planners, Lawrence Halprin (1916-2009) was long at the forefront of urban design innovation in the United States. His practice comprises a catalogue of leading-edge environmental design in projects ranging from inner urban centers to National Parks. His reputation was built on over sixty years of expanding expectations for the environmental realm. His major works include the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington; D.C., Ghiradelli Square and Levi Plaza in San Francisco; Freeway Park in Seattle; the Haas Promenade in Jerusalem, and the 52-acre approach to Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park.