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Residents call for vacant city-owned parcels to be used as parks, other open space

Posted by Patrick Rosso  May 23, 2013 02:48 PM

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(Image courtesy DND)

The location of the two parcels.

As the city looks to offload two abutting parcels at West 2nd Street and West 1st Street, neighbors have voiced strong support for an open space or park use at the lots.

The two areass, located at 174 West 2nd St. and 179 West 1st St., are connected in the rear and combined make up approximately 16,000 square feet of space.

The West 1st lot is home to overgrown weeds, concrete slabs, and trash. The West 2nd lot is home to a vacant single-story brick structure once used by Public Works.

The lots' combined value is $416,300, according to the city’s Assessing Department.

The Department of Neighborhood Development, which the sites were transferred to in early-2013, is now trying to get rid of the parcels.

A process with the community is under way to generate a Request For Proposal, which will guide those seeking to buy or take ownership of the property.

“Our motivation is not money,” said Sheila Dillon, chief and director of DND, at a Wednesday evening meeting. “We’re motivated by a reuse of the site that will benefit the community.”

Possible uses could include low-density housing or an urban park, according to Dillon.

At Wednesday's meeting, at the Condon Community Center, the majority of the 50 or so residents in attendance voiced strong support for the conversion of the parcels into either a park, open space, community garden, or even neighborhood parking.

“Not every site is meant for housing,” said Gary Murad, the vice president of the St. Vincent’s Lower End Neighborhood Association. “This site should be open space.”

Many nodded in agreement with Murad, saying the section of the neighborhood where the parcel exists is already filled to the brim with condos and new units.

“I just think a city park there as an amenity to the neighborhood is the only use that makes sense,” said Gardner Stratton, an area resident.

Others thought something that could bring both more parking to the neighborhood and a little green might benefit the community most.

“I don’t see why you can’t build parking and open space and then charge for the spaces,” added Nicole Peterson, a nearby resident.

While a park is a favorite for residents, there is one major hitch: who will build it and who will maintain it.

“We’ve been talking with the Parks Department,” explained Dillon. “But parks are really expensive to build and maintain.”

Before the meeting, Dillon said the city would be open to potentially a nonprofit administering the land, but one hasn’t been found yet or at least one that can pay for it.

“We consider this an open discussion,” added Dillon.

As Wednesday’s meeting came to a close it was clear that whether the lots are converted into a park or not, the neighborhood lacks green space and residents are fed up.

“There’s not enough open space,” said Steve Martin, an area resident. “What we don’t have is a place for people around this block to go and enjoy themselves. We have nowhere to go.”

Within a two block radius of the parcels, including a number of newly constructed and proposed residential developments, there are two small parks/playgrounds, Buckley Playground on West 3rd Street and Flaherty Park on B Street.

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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