Though construction of the master plan to update downtown Phoenix’s Margaret T. Hance Park would cost $118 million, the total project price tag rises to $135 million with design and other expenses included, according to a recent meeting agenda.
As downtown Phoenix’s biggest park prepares for its national debut hosting NCAA March Madness fan events, advocates of a $118 million redevelopment plan for the green space are shifting focus from creating a vision to finding money to execute it.
Margaret T. Hance Park, a 33-acre site on the north edge of downtown, may host its largest-ever event starting March 31, when the March Madness Music Festival comes to town in the lead-up to the college basketball national championship game in Glendale. At the same time, city and community leaders are closer to implementing new plans for the park after years of design work.
Plans call for adding amenities like a skate park, playscapes, an amphitheater and restaurants to the park that is now mostly grass flanked by cultural institutions. But to fund it, the city will depend heavily on private partnerships and donations.
The Hance Park Conservancy, a non-profit group spearheading fundraising efforts, recently received its biggest single donation of $100,000 to go toward an amphitheater. The City Council will soon consider contracting an economic analysis of the park to present the value of the project to possible partners and sponsors who might have interest in funding it.
And the Final Four festival will highlight a park only a small percentage of Valley residents have visited, said Hance Park Conservancy President Tim Sprague. The park is expected to easily accommodate tens of thousands of people in the heart of Phoenix, he said.
“That’s pretty amazing,” Sprague said.
Skate park, gardens and restaurants
Plans to redevelop Hance Park imagine it as Phoenix’s equivalent of Central Park in New York or Millennium Park in Chicago.
Construction would happen in phases and take years, under a master plan approved last year. An art and shade installation reminiscent of clouds would connect three zones of the park.
Planned additions include family-oriented water features, splash pads, a zipline, gardens and restaurants. Another portion of the park would become a performance area with a viewing lawn and storefronts.
Existing buildings would be rehabilitated. The city is looking for uses for a former church on the east end of the park, for example, that has sat vacant since the 1960s, according to a recent meeting agenda. A former firehouse is envisioned as a food and beverage destination.
Parks and Recreation Director Inger Erickson said she would like to see changes at the park start in the next year or year and a half. A more solid timeline will come when the city chooses a design team, she said, which is expected this summer.
Early elements could include the skate park, amphitheater or restaurant. Starting those projects would attract visitors and help build momentum for the rest of the park, Sprague said.
“People gather people,” he said.
Making the vision a reality
Though construction of the master plan would cost $118 million, the total project price tag rises to $135 million with design and other expenses included, according to a recent meeting agenda.
The city will use a parks and recreation sales tax fund to dedicate $15 million toward the project over three years, Erickson said. Phoenix also is working to leverage grants, she said.
But outside fundraising will play a big role, she said.
“The city can’t do it by itself,” Erickson said.
The conservancy is now shifting focus from design work to raising money, according to Sprague. He estimated it has raised about $115,000 so far, boosted by the $100,000 donation from cable company Cable One Inc.
A signature park would benefit all of Phoenix, Sprague said. Companies would consider it when looking to relocate here, he said, and the site would provide a space for more cultural events.
Sprague said the conservancy will announce a new partnership later this spring that will help propel the redevelopment plans.
Councilman Sal DiCiccio said at a recent subcommittee meeting that he understood concerns over the cost of the project, but that parks are an important asset for the city, especially downtown.
“Open space is critical,” DiCiccio said.
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