Construction has begun on a park in downtown Fairfield.
The park will be on the southwest corner of North Main Street and West Briggs Avenue, on a vacant lot where the Tribune Building once stood. The building was torn down in July 2014 after it was found to be structurally unsound, and has been an empty slab ever since.
Fairfield resident Alex Stanley purchased the lot from Ross Walker, and agreed to donate it to the city on the condition it become a park. The park will be named “Petra’s Place” in honor of Stanley’s wife of 29 years, Petra, who died of cancer in 2016.
Stanley presented his vision for the park to the Fairfield City Council in June 2018. With only minor modifications, that vision has remained intact.
The new park will include:
* Raised planter boxes with perennial flowers and ornamental grasses around the perimeter of the slab, and a seating area inside;
* Two wheelchair-accessible entrances between the planter boxes, one on the east and one on the north;
* A harvest table that can seat 20 people;
* A pergola in the center to serve as the main piece of art;
* Removal of gravel from the west edge of slab to be replaced with lawn and shade trees;
* Movable tables and chairs (expected to be heavy enough to make theft unlikely);
* A railing for ballet as a tribute to Petra’s interest in it.
City Engineer Melanie Carlson said today that the “bones” of the park, such as the concrete planter boxes around the perimeter, will be done this year. However, the landscaping and establishing the grass area will probably have to wait until spring.
“I think the park will be usable in the fall, but it won’t be fully complete until next year,” Carlson said.
When the Tribune Building was torn down five years ago, what remained was a rough slab with some raised edges, which were tripping hazards. The city encouraged the contractor to start work on the park now so those tripping hazards were removed by the time RAGBRAI comes to town July 25.
Residents who visit the site will see some of the concrete walls for the planters have already been poured. She said the walls on the northeast corner of the park will be shorter so cars and pedestrians can see around them easily.
Since this is now city property, the city’s parks department will be responsible for maintaining it. Carlson said she and Mayor Ed Malloy were consulted on various parts of the design to see how the park could be made as low-maintenance as possible.
“That’s why the planters are made of concrete, so we don’t have to stain them all the time,” she said. “We’ll have an irrigation system in the planters to get the flowers established, so we won’t have to hand-water them. We chose plants that are low-maintenance, too, just like the downtown nodes. The only work we’d have to do is weeding.”
The park will have a few electrical outlets and a yard hydrant. However, these will be locked, and are not for day-to-day use for the public. Carlson said they are designed to be used during special occasions such as outdoor festivals or by a vendor that sets up nearby.
Stanley said it’s a joy to see progress is being made on the park to honor his wife. Even before her passing, he began having ideas for that vacant lot.
“When I saw the building collapse, my immediate thought was someone should turn that into a park,” he said. “After Petra died, I thought that would be a good memorial. The property never really went on the market, was never purchased, so I stepped up. I was delighted to be able to do that for the town.”
Stanley said he is grateful to Malloy for introducing him to architect Dennis Reynolds of Reynolds Urban Design, who has turned Stanley’s vision into reality.
“Dennis was a good choice for this project,” Stanley said.