Downtown Lexington's Triangle Park would have a central lawn, an outdoor café, areas for activities like chess and ping-pong, even a temporary ice-skating rink under a redesign plan released Wednesday by the foundation that built the park.
In addition, a third entry point would be opened at the northwest corner of the park to allow people to move in and out more freely.
The $1.3-million redesign will be paid for with private funds from the Triangle Foundation, which built the park and contributes annually to its maintenance. Triangle Park is owned by the city but under the care and control of Lexington Center Corp., whose board would have to approve the redesign.
"We want to make Triangle Park a community place," Steve Grossman, chairman of the private foundation, said in a letter announcing the plan on the ProgressLex blog. "We believe that places matter, not projects, and in order to function as true gathering places, public spaces must be designed with people and uses in mind."
Grossman said the foundation also would like to see the section of Vine Street next to Lexington Center closed "so the park is better integrated with the convention center. The space between could be a wonderful pedestrian area."
However, for that to happen the part of the fountain where water cascades down the side along Vine Street would have to be closed, Grossman said. Water would continue to run down the steps on the park side of the fountain.
The city tried to close the piece of Vine Street that curves around Triangle Park in 2001 when Pam Miller was mayor. The Urban County Council voted to create a plaza between Lexington Center and the park.
Several months later, in the face of protests from citizens worried the closing would "kill downtown," the council reversed its vote, and Vine Street remained open to traffic.
Under the new plan, thornless Imperial honey locust trees would be planted along Broadway and the arc of the cascading fountain to provide shade. Planters throughout the park would provide year-round color.
In November, the Triangle Foundation agreed to replace the diseased and dying Bradford pear trees that were planted when the park was built and return the park to its "original design."
Asked about shifting the focus from taking the park back to its original design — which mostly would have involved cosmetic work like planting trees — to a redesign, Grossman said that since the park was built 30 years ago, "a lot of work has been done on what makes public spaces successful ... and not successful."
"You can have the prettiest place in the world, but if you don't have the events and food and things people want," they won't come, Grossman said. The foundation started thinking of the park in a more holistic way "to create a gathering spot for people."
Grossman said he met with Project for Public Spaces, a non-profit organization based in New York that has consulted on thousands of public spaces and is an authority on what makes public spaces work.
The redesign grew out of those meetings, he said.
When representatives of the Project for Public Spaces were in Lexington a number of years ago, they described downtown parks as static, drive-by places that needed to be more engaging.
Dan Rowland, a board member of ProgressLex, a non-profit organization aimed at making Lexington more livable, said Wednesday he was thrilled that the foundation had consulted the Project for Public Spaces in the redesign process. The proposed redesign should "better connect the Lexington Center to the park," he said.
The redesign plans will be presented to the Lexington Center board at its April 21 meeting.
Bill Owen, president and CEO of Lexington Center, said he has been working with Grossman and the Triangle Foundation "to refine and develop the plan and Lexington Center's obligations following the renovation that I eagerly anticipate getting under way."
The foundation will attach conditions to its proposal to the Lexington Center before it undertakes the changes.
"We want to make sure the Lexington Center maintains the park, keeps it clean, is responsible for making sure the lawn gets fertilized — whether they outsource it or do it themselves," Grossman said.
Reach Beverly Fortune at (859) 231-3251 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3251