Consultants will meet with public to get feedback on concept for $5 million ‘Village Square’

Consultants' preliminary concept for the Village Square project would create a more permanent performance space in Harmon Park for events like the Prairie Village Jazz Fest.
Consultants’ preliminary concept for the Village Square project would create a more permanent performance space in Harmon Park for events like the Prairie Village Jazz Fest.

The Prairie Village City Council on Monday approved a measure that will open up a channel for public feedback on a consultants’ conceptual plans for a series of projects that would transform Harmon and Santa Fe Parks.

Scott Bingham of BBN Architects, one of the firms tapped by the council in April to develop a concept for the “Village Square” project, presented an overview of his team’s work. As envisioned by the consultants, Harmon Park and Santa Fe Trail would become home to a permanent performance pavilion area that could host events like the Prairie Village Jazz Festival and theatre performances at the base of the Harmon Park Hill. A large pavilion would replace the existing concrete structure at the top of the hill, and a new smaller pavilion would be built a short distance to the north of that structure, adjacent to a new playground area that would include a splash pad and inclusive play equipment. The concept also suggests the construction of a new play area and permanent restroom facilities on the site of the small pavilion at Santa Fe Park.

Bingham said the mater plan overview the group have developed would maintain the green space where the Santa Fe Trail wagon ruts are located, and would preserve the disc golf course. The proposal suggests relocating the skate park from its existing location to a spot directly north of the new Consolidated Fire District No. 2 station site.

The project would not been cheap: initial cost estimates put the total scope of work at more than $5 million. BBN and its partners proposed that the work be tackled in three phases. A first phase, projected at $2.2 million in total costs would include grading and utility work, construction of new walking trails, relocating the tennis practice courts at Harmon Park, and the construction of the large pavilion and restroom. The second phase, projected at another $2.2 million, would include construction of the splash pad, performance pavilion, and Santa Fe Park play area. The final phase, projected at just under $700,000, would include lighting for the performance area, new parking around the water tower, and enhancements to the southeast entrance to the park.

Bingham stressed that the Village Square proposal would be unique to the northeast Johnson County area, which does not currently have similar performance spaces.

The city spent $50,000 on consultants’ work on the concept. Here’s an overhead view of the layout proposed by the consultants. (The full presentation delivered by Bingham is embedded at the bottom of the post):

Master_Plan_Village_Square

While the council advanced a measure empowering the consultants to set up a community meeting to get input on the project, many members were quick to caution that there were many, many hurdles to overcome before the project could become reality. The city currently budgets around $250,000 per year in parks improvements, so the cost of the project would be huge relative to traditional parks spending.

“I want the residents to understand that this is a $5.1 million price tag, and I don’t want to mislead them that we’re ready to go with this starting tomorrow,” said Councilman Ted Odell. “Now, I hope there are ways to figure out how to finance this…but I want to be very clear with everybody not to have expectations that this is going to be built.”

Other members of the council said they had concerns with some of the features included in the concept, saying that the appeared to eat into precious green space.

“There are some things in here that I don’t want, and that I suspect residents wouldn’t want, even if they were free,” said Councilman Eric Mikkelson.

The city and consultants will finalize details for the public input session in the coming weeks.

It’s not the first time Prairie Village has commissioned a study on the feasibility of a major public amenity project. Nearly five years ago, the city received a report exploring whether to build a combination natatorium and community center on the site of the current pool, but determined the price tag at more than $40 million was a non-starter.

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