Online response to community square mostly positive
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — A majority of citizens who responded to an online poll supported the idea of building a community square in downtown Marshfield.
The proposal is to construct a 54,000-square-foot park directly east of the post office that would occupy the space now held by the Burlington Municipal Parking Lot and the lot where the former Marshfield News-Herald building once stood. The park would contain features such as a splash pad, a stage for performances, dining courts, and a large play lawn.
The city collected citizen responses both via an online survey and through hand-written feedback cards, which were posted in several locations around Marshfield and accompanied by storyboards describing the community square.
According to data provided by the city, of 296 people who responded online to the question, “Do you support the idea of constructing a Community Square in our downtown?” 183 said yes, and 113 said no.
In the online survey, 287 people fielded the question, “What impact do you feel the proposed Community Square will have on the local economy?” In response 181 said they felt it would have a positive impact, and 106 said it would have a negative impact.
In 56 hand-written responses, which only provided general comments and not answers to direct questions, the results were a mix of positive and negative sentiments toward the concept. Those responses were too subjective for Hub City Times to compile any definitive results.
The comments section
Below is just a small sampling of some of the comments from citizens regarding the community square concept. Names of the respondents are not included, and each section of the following list is an individual comment:
—“The costs exceed the benefits of the park. It would be more advantageous to have taxable buildings on site to generate revenue for the city.”
—“Need to maintain streets better before adding additional parks. Streets bring people to the center of the city. First impression is the maintenance of streets.”
—“This is an exceptionally suburb idea! I am thrilled with the proposed ‘200 Block’ park design. It will be in an ideal location that will be easy for residents and visitors to find downtown and will draw local residents and visitors to downtown Marshfield.”
—“Parking around the post office is already limited, especially in winter. For senior citizens, even trying to cross the street from the current lot is a challenge due to piles of snow frequently left by the plows at the crosswalk. Also, we currently have an excellent park with the tennis courts and ball fields just two blocks away. If you want a green space, make just the former News-Herald lot into a park and leave the parking lot where it currently is.”
—“It can help make the downtown (and Marshfield in general) ‘The Place’ to be. Make it beautiful and functional as per the original plan, and people will come.”
—“It would add endless possibilities and opportunities for the downtown area.”
—“The city should absolutely do this. It would draw more people downtown, and our city needs a central gathering area. Personally, it would be much nicer to take my kids to a farmer’s market at a park than a parking lot.”
—“I am not opposed to a Community Square. However, l fear the proposed location will result in reduced parking in an area where we need all the parking spaces that are there now.”
Drilling down to the details
The cost of the park is anticipated to be about $1.3 million. As Hub City Times has previously reported, about $900,000 of the total funds for the park would need to be privately raised, $200,000 would come from the city budget, and another $200,000 would come from the Economic Development Board (EDB), which is funded through annual dividend payments that Marshfield Utilities makes to the city.
The question of parking, as was the case in the debate over Second Street, appears to be taking a center position in the discussion of the community square. As Hub City Times previously reported, losing the 50-space Burlington lot and the estimated 20 spaces in the gravel lot once occupied by the News-Herald building would be significant. The EDB has planned that 38 spaces could be added to replace the 70 spaces lost: 30 along the alley bordering the east side of the park and another eight along Chestnut Avenue and Third Street.
Angell noted that the EDB looks at the parking situation from the perspective that the gravel lot was never planned to be long-term parking. Angell said he and other members of the EDB have met with several business owners in the proposed community square area, and in all but one of those meetings, business owners expressed support for the idea.
Angell said he hopes the community square concept can dovetail with a discussion about the overall state of parking in the entire downtown.
EDB member Aaron Staab said that there is ample parking downtown and that the real issue is a matter of perception.
“This whole parking thing is just perception of the lack of parking. I mean we’ve got considerable surveys and data that support there’s adequate parking. It’s just the number of steps they have to take to get there, which isn’t very many,” said Staab.
Members of the EDB will present the community square concept to the Board of Public Works on Jan. 18 and Marshfield Common Council on Jan. 26, Angell said.