City Park Plans Advancing

Eight Firms Team Up To Study Liberty Street Site

Posted: July 11, 2013

Eddie Bumbaugh, executive director of Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, gave an update to City Council on Tuesday about plans for an urban park around Turner Pavilion, which would include the adjacent parking lot and the small grassy area. (Photo by Jason Lenhart / DN-R)
HARRISONBURG — Eddie Bumbaugh may have fielded his dream team for an urban park downtown.

Eight companies will have a hand in conducting a feasibility study for the proposed attraction around Turner Pavilion on South Liberty Street. Bumbaugh, executive director of revitalization group Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, named the firms that will comprise the team to City Council on Tuesday.

The group is tasked with determining a layout, amenities, cost estimates, the impact on neighbors and more for the park, which could include an expanded Harrisonburg Farmers Market at the pavilion, some type of water feature and permanent restrooms.

The specific footprint has not been defined for the park, but it basically consumes the pavilion, the grassy lot across from the Daily News-Record and the municipal parking lot between the pavilion and Harrisonburg Electric Commission.

Ken Smith, a New York City landscape architect, headlines the eight-company team. His projects have primarily been in New York and California.

Arthur Bartenstein, a Lexington landscape architect who responded to HDR’s request for proposals for the park project earlier this year, was a classmate of Smith’s at Harvard. Bartenstein assembled the Harrisonburg team, which includes contacts from New York City, New Jersey and Staunton.

Two Harrisonburg businesses — the Stratford Cos. Inc., a custom home design and renovation firm, and Eugene Stoltzfus Architects — are involved as well.

“It’s amazing the amount of talent that has come together,” said Matt Robertson, Stratford’s president and founder and HDR’s designated spokesman for the group.

Bumbaugh said HDR received four “outstanding” responses to the request for proposals, but he was “particularly excited” about the group chosen.

Private pledges from about 20 businesses, organizations and individuals will pay for the feasibility study, he said in an interview Wednesday. Bumbaugh would not disclose how much money has been raised, but he reiterated a point he made to council that no taxpayer funds are involved with this stage of the process.

The team is expected to return to City Council with a detailed plan for the park in October.

Muni Complex Firm Selected

Discussions about a downtown park at the site began in June 2011, when Downtown Dining Alliance floated a $7.5 million idea for a roughly 6,000-seat amphitheater to council. Private funds would have paid for it, though the city was asked to offer financial support for a feasibility study.

Council tabled the matter, which sent HDR’s board of directors and a new committee called Plan Our Park off to review ideas.

Two public meetings were held in 2011 and seven people visited other localities, including Greensboro, N.C. Everyone was “on the same page” that an amphitheater should no longer be the focus, Bumbaugh told council.

Instead, an urban park serving multiple needs became the goal.

The request for proposals from design firms did not go out until March. The delay was partly because HDR wanted to give the city time to decide on the Harrisonburg Municipal Building’s future, Bumbaugh said.
In April, council chose to seek bids for architectural and engineering services for a new or renovated Municipal Building on South Main Street. The idea at the time was to build a second story to the adjacent Community Development Building.

Those plans have changed to focus more on a new building that brushes the current Municipal Building and tears down the Community Development Building, both of which abut the proposed park area, City Manager Kurt Hodgen said.

On Wednesday, the city announced that Mather Architects of Harrisonburg would complete architectural and engineering services for the new idea and any other options.

The city’s contract with Mather is worth about $330,000, Hodgen said. Construction could begin in early 2014, after a new bid process later this year, he said.

The park team will monitor the progress of the municipal project. Bumbaugh and Robertson say the public will have plenty of chances to keep watch and weigh in on the park plans, too.

“One of my major roles,” Robertson said, “is to be the eyes and the ears of Harrisonburg.”

Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or

NDN Video News