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Greene Square Park Renovations to Start in September

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa A final push is underway to raise a total $1.95 million to provide Greene Square Park with a face-lift worthy of its crucial downtown spot between the new Cedar Rapids Public Library and the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

On Monday, Bradd Brown, a principal at OPN Architects in Cedar Rapids, presented the latest renderings for the park renovation to the Linn County Board of Supervisors. He said the hope is that work on the one-block-square park's renovation will start in September and be completed by next spring.

Dee Baird, president and chief executive officer of the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, told the supervisors that her organization is working to raise money from the private sector for the park project to go with contributions from the public and not-for-profit sectors.

"We could just ask the city to update it for a small amount of money, but we felt like we needed to dream a little bit bigger," Baird told the supervisors.

Work to date from Ryan Companies US, OPN Architects and the Alliance has been donated to the project "because we care about this being such a central park and central area of the work we are doing in the downtown," Baird said.

Brown said the park was a part of the city's history and in its day served as "front yard" to the city for everyone getting off a train at the depot that once stood on the park's west side.

Brown said a special committee comprised of members of the boards of the library and the art museum and others interested in the park have met for more than a year to study prospects for the park. A couple public forums have been held, and the committee looked to urban parks in Chicago, St. Louis, Des Moines and Iowa City for ideas.

The current renovation plan calls for the demolition of existing concrete walls and landscaping he said "had seen better days." The plan would open up the center of the park so it can be used for events.
A new children's play area would go in the park's corner near both the library and Waypoint Services for Women, Children and Families, 318 Fifth St. SE, and a picnic area would be located on the park's other corner across from the library.

The diagonal walkway through the park, which long has been part of the landscape, would remain, though it will become more of an arc.
The renovation budget includes $250,000 for a sculpture that would sit across Third Avenue SE from the Museum of Art, Baird said.

Sven Leff, the city's parks and recreation director, said Monday that the city has committed to contributing a third of the estimated cost of the project, or $650,000.

Among donors to date are the Hall-Perrine Foundation, which is contributing $250,000, and United Fire Group, $100,000, to the project, Baird told the supervisors.

Baird said she understood that the supervisors had a lot of requests for help and only limited resources.

"I don't want your jaw to drop, but originally we were hoping you could consider $250,000," Baird said. "But if that's not doable, I understand that. But we would ask that you consider the project and whether it fits any of your criteria (for contributing)."

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