At its June 18 meeting, council members approved a $1 million project scope and voted for city staff to negotiate a design contract with PLACE designers. Council requested the firm present conceptual designs based on the $1 million scope before approving more money for the project. City spokesperson Mike Neu said the park funding would come from the city's parkland dedication funds.
Council approved the motion in a 5-2 vote. Council Members Christine Sederquist and Michelle Stephenson voted in dissent.
Old Town Park will be located on a 0.82-acre lot on West South Street next to City Hall in Leander. City Council previously discussed the park as a way to attract businesses and restaurants to Leander’s Old Town District.
Two design firms presented concept plans to City Council at the June 4 council meeting. Some concept ideas from PLACE designers included water features, shaded space, an interactive music area and sculptures.
Mayor Troy Hill suggested moving the estimated $1.1 million stage from Lakewood Park to the Old Town Park in an effort to bring concerts and people to the Old Town District. He said a stage feature would attract people to Old Town and make it a “destination.”
“Having as many events as we can would truly bring people to this place,” Hill said.
Hill said he would like to see Old Town Park be developed similar to Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth. The park has concerts and a splash pad.
“It is definitely a destination, and I believe if we’re going to make Old Town a true destination, that it has to be about something other than a restaurant because you can find a restaurant anywhere.”
Council Member Michelle Stephenson said she wanted to see “real, hardcore” plans ahead of making cost decisions. Stephenson said $1.1 million might not be enough to make the park a place the city is proud of, though it would make it better than it is now.
Council Member Christine Sederquist said the city is rushing the project. She suggested waiting for the city’s 2020 comprehensive plan, which is scheduled to be complete in December.
“There are so many things that are still up in the air,” Sederquist said. “Why push and do this park right now instead of waiting until the [comprehensive] plan is done and figuring out what we’re going to do with Old Town? What does that future look like?”
Leander Chamber of Commerce President Bridget Brandt said she is an advocate of the park and has fought for the land to be used as an open gathering space. She said the park needs to be a “beacon” to draw people and businesses into Leander and Old Town.
“I would rather see it come together and be something that starts to bring people down here because then, we can start bringing the businesses in and create this as a place that stays special,” Brandt said.
Council Member Jason Shaw suggested the park not have a price cap because it is an important project. He said the design budget should not be equal to the construction budget and suggested a stage be funded by someone other than the city to save taxpayers' money.
Discussion of sponsorships for the park project was brought up by Brandt, City Manager Rick Beverlin and some council members.