Consultants unveil final recommendations for Santa Fe Commons — one concept with farmers market, and one without

Santa Fe Commons Park is set for updates in the coming years.

A paper-airplane shaped band shell, water feature and curved walkway made it into the final recommendations for Santa Fe Commons Park. Public hammocks did not.

Consultants presented their recommendations at a public input session Thursday for the 3.8-acre park in the heart of downtown Overland Park. They made two final park plans – one with a farmers’ market and one without – that will continue through various city committees before the city council decides what the park should look like.

Here are proposed site plans for the two concepts.

This is the plan without the farmers market structure:

And this is the plan with the farmers market structure:

Planners trying to strike balance between ‘new and old’

Representatives of RDG Planning and Design, which is doing the preliminary work, drew from comments at other public meetings in coming up with the two plans, which are slightly different from earlier proposals. Based on the comments, they kept such things as outdoor games but threw out the hammocks.

The comment box at Thursday’s meeting made reference to the airplane shaped stage proposal.

Both plans have the airplane-roofed stage, for instance, as well as a swath of open green space in the south part of the park. The band shell shape is a reference to an airfield that used to be in Overland Park.

The plans also have looping walkways, places for public gathering, games, a non-traditional play area and new restrooms while preserving the stone carriage house. The main difference is the farmers’ market. The plan that includes it has it in a sideways T alignment along Overland Park Drive.

Santa Fe Commons Park, which will be re-christened Thompson Park when the work is done, has been a worry for neighbors who have been suspicious about plans to move the market. The city has been looking for ways to expand and improve popular market. But neighbors say moving it to the park would add too much hustle and bustle to the quiet space. The downtown building boom has already created traffic and parking problems, and moving the market closer to houses would make things worse, some have said.

“You keep moving more and more modern stuff into it and you’re losing the feel of the old days,” Marjorie Blasche told the consultants at the meeting. She also wondered whether the park with all the new amenities could still support the fall festival.

City Parks and Recreation director Greg Ruether said the city wants to preserve the carriage house, but other structures like the gazebo are becoming outdated and don’t serve their purposes as well as when the park was acquired by the city in 1979. The gazebo, for instance, is cramped for band concerts. The park itself is not historic, he said.

“We are trying to balance that new and old and I think we’re getting close to doing that,” Ruether said.

Ruether reiterated that the city hasn’t reached a decision about moving the market. “I will just say, we are hearing very clearly the opposition to the market. So I just wanted to let you know, it’s not falling on deaf ears,” he said to applause.

The about 100 people who came to the meeting at the Matt Ross Community Center asked a wide variety of questions. Several had to do parking, since construction has put downtown parking at a premium. A couple asked whether the market space could be used for parking when the market isn’t in session.

“I think you need to keep in mind the people that live around the changes. That’s going to put more traffic on our streets,” said Sheri Elam. The empty farmers’ market area in the off times would be unattractive “dead space” she said.

Reuther said the finer points like that would be hashed out later. But the city needs to make an investment in the park, he said, to make it more welcoming and usable for all ages. The park has been underused in part because the name Santa Fe Commons doesn’t necessarily sound like a public park, he said. The city council recently agreed to rename the park after Frank and Evangeline Thompson, who donated $1 million toward its upgrade.

Attendees at Thursday’s meeting were given sheets to write comments. The backs of the sheets were marked for possible paper airplane folding.

Next, the park ideas will be presented to committees, with another chance for public input at the council’s Community Development Committee Sept. 5. The full council is slated to consider the plans Oct. 1.