About three years ago, the Ballard Park community began having meetings with city representatives about a planned infill project, complete with a new park, in their neighborhood.
Progress has been made, and the latest design for the new John and Rebecca Neal Park, to be located near Ballard Park Elementary School, will begin a review process soon, bringing the long-awaited project one step closer to reality.
The infill project calls for a new community park and the demolition of what Councilman Patrick Roff has called blighted homes that once belonged to the “most notorious slumlords” in the city. Those homes on lots along 17th Street West and Eighth Avenue West have been demolished.
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The city announced this week that new lot lines have been completed. The eight housing lots are almost ready for sale to build new homes designed more in line with the character of the neighborhood. According to city administrator Carl Callahan, the only remaining work left to do is to approve a final design for the park and get a definitive cost estimate.
“When we have that, we’ll bring it to a workshop,” said Callahan, who cautioned that the newest design could change depending on the final costs.
My goal from the start is that this is not a high-dollar park.
Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Roff
Proceeds from the sale of the city-owned lots will eventually help offset the cost of the park, including an initial investment of $89,000 for engineering, but the city will likely build the park first.
“My goal from the start is that this is not a high-dollar park,” said Roff, who spearheaded the infill project from the beginning. “But it will do wonders for that neighborhood and make those properties we want to sell worth more money.
“It’s been in limbo for so long,” he said. “But it’s picking up steam and it’s going to be a beautiful asset to the area.”
Recently hired Planning and Community Development Director Catherine Hartley said she saw the property even before she knew about the project.
“After I finished interviewing, I drove around town looking at various neighborhoods and houses on the market,” she said. “I drove by that site and thought to myself, ‘What a lovely passive park.’”
Park amenities include: Improved tree canopy with more palm, oak, cedar, pine and banyan trees. 25-section community garden area with storage shed. Creek-side dock. Kayak launching area. 12-foot high pavilion. Several 15-foot high decorative light poles. 10 parking spaces (Ballard Park Elementary may provide overflow parking on weekends.). Turn around lane and dropoff area at kayak launching area.
Hartley said the planned enhancements “will make the neighborhood even more appealing.”
Neal Communities purchased the properties during the Great Recession for redevelopment, but construction never happened. In 2012, Neal Communities sold the property to the city for $284,661, far less than its appraised value of $1.3 million. The stipulation on the sale was that if the city built a park, that it be named after the Neal family.
As the city prepares to put the eight vacant lots up for sale, it will retain the right to approve development designs to ensure the future homes are in line with the architectural characteristics of the neighborhood.