Andrew Sarpolis,  of Royal Oak, looks at the planned space for the new downtown park  after participating in a visual preference survey at Royal Oak Middle School Nov. 3. The park will be located where  the City Hall and Police Department  currently stand.

Andrew Sarpolis, of Royal Oak, looks at the planned space for the new downtown park after participating in a visual preference survey at Royal Oak Middle School Nov. 3. The park will be located where the City Hall and Police Department currently stand.

Photo by Donna Agusti


Community weighs in on new downtown park

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published November 7, 2018

 Robert and Geri Anders, of Royal Oak, peruse visual representations of the new downtown park.

Robert and Geri Anders, of Royal Oak, peruse visual representations of the new downtown park.

Photo by Donna Agusti

 Royal Oak residents discuss a new downtown park after participating in a visual  preference survey at Royal Oak Middle School Nov. 3.

Royal Oak residents discuss a new downtown park after participating in a visual preference survey at Royal Oak Middle School Nov. 3.

Photo by Donna Agusti

ROYAL OAK — On Nov. 3, the public engagement process for the new 2-acre downtown Royal Oak park, part of the city’s approximately $66 million civic center project, continued with the second round of a visual preference survey at Royal Oak Middle School.

The survey drew from first-round visual preference survey input from Oct. 6 and focused on specific types of park assets. The park will be located where the current City Hall and Police Department stand.

Judy Davids, Royal Oak community engagement specialist, likened the first round of the survey to deciding what type of cuisine to pursue for dinner, and the second round to choosing menu items.

“Then we’ll have one more thing where we’ll look at price,” she said. “People will have to make choices.”

The budget for the park is approximately $5 million.

“The main thing that came out of the Oct. 6 (survey) was that people definitely preferred a park vibe to a plaza vibe,” Davids said. “A lot of the initial slides we saw in October were spaces that were just basically a sea of paving with a fountain in the middle, and people definitely want green as opposed to paving.”

In the first visual preference survey, participants chose their top three parks out of 10 options as Cumberland Park in Nashville, Tennessee, with 49 percent; Lake Shore East Park in Chicago, with 16 percent; and Perk Park in Cleveland, with 13 percent.

Bob Ford, of Landscape Architects and Planners Inc., said the three parks were all more “passive in nature.”

On Nov. 3, participants chose their top two favorite aspects of each of the three parks.

They also selected from a variety of options their favorite types of water features, plantings, play elements, seating, art forms, shade structures, pavement, lighting and more.

“It seemed like people are looking for something a little more contemporary,” Davids said. “I was surprised that people were really open to something modern and contemporary.”

For example, no one voted for the traditional plastic playscape when asked about play elements, and few opted for brick pavers when asked about paving possibilities.

The public engagement process kicked off with listening sessions at the groundbreaking event for the new City Hall and Police Department Aug. 23; at Arts, Beats & Eats; at the Royal Oak Farmers Market; at a food truck rally; and at the library.

Officials also held five stakeholder meetings to gain park input.

The next step in the development of the downtown park is an online survey, which will include the newfound data and will be available Nov. 7-19. The survey will be available at romi.gov.

After that, Jeffrey Huhta, of Nowak & Fraus Engineers, said the city would select a park designer, solicit additional public engagement, develop a master plan and, ultimately, begin construction of the park in 2020.

Ford said the process was going well. He said the survey feedback has been “virtually all positive” and that those involved in the listening sessions and stakeholder meetings expressed gratitude for the opportunity to provide input.

“We’re beginning to understand what people are expecting out of this park in terms of the look and feel, and we’re also getting a hint of the scaling of it,” he said. “When we’re completed with this process, (the park designer) can get a kick-start and be able to play out specific options.”

Jim and Nancy Gietzen, of Royal Oak, participated in both visual preference surveys. The couple moved to Royal Oak in 1982, moved away for 10 years, and returned to the city two years ago, buying back the same house.

They said they are both excited about the new changes coming to the city’s downtown.

“I think (the surveys have been) helpful,” Nancy said. “I like it because I get to see what other people are thinking too.”

She said she liked the idea of including seating, a water feature and native plantings.

Jim said he was interested to see how the actual park turns out and that the pair would utilize it, especially because the farmers market is so close.

During the listening session at the farmers market, Ford said 80 percent of comments focused on parking concerns.

Davids said the city is actively looking into options for addressing parking at the farmers market.

The civic center project includes a new City Hall, a new Police Department, a 581-space parking deck, a six-story office building led by the Lansing-based Boji Group, the 2-acre public park and site connectivity improvements.

According to Franco, the firm that the city hired to lead the civic center project’s public relations, the projected timeline for the completion of the parking garage is June 2019, the City Hall and Police Department is 2020, and the park is 2021.