The city is on its way to revitalizing the pocket park located between San Juan Construction and Synergy One Lending, a project that will bring some improvements to the Main St. locale that once hosted Acoustic Tuesdays.
After city councilors approved a resolution on Monday that would allow city staff to file for the necessary CDOT grant, proponents of the project are hoping the funds will help breathe life back into the park.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the pocket park has been underutilized and subject to vandalism, according to Kendall Cramer, the city’s community program manager and grant coordinator. Cramer is overseeing the filing of the CDOT Revitalizing Main Streets: Small multimodal and economic resiliency project grant program application.
If approved, the grant would fund several improvements, including: new benches, artwork and new lighting. New ornamental fencing would be added that would reach up to six feet tall and gated on both ends of the area for night safety.
A tree obstructing views of the space would also be removed, said Jackie Bubenik.
As the public works assistant manager within the city’s parks division, Bubenik hopes to provide a clean slate and visibility to the park.
“We’re trying to improve the space to provide an area for the local community to use for relaxing activities that benefits people and the local patrons, so when we look at it right now, it looks like a tire passageway. We’re wanting to upgrade that to make the space more secure and inviting for patrons and surrounding businesses,” said Bubenik of the dilapidated area.
The parks division plans on removing existing lights and installing Dark Sky-compliant lines with string lights, typically lights placed to brighten up the space in evening hours.
Bubenik added that Dark Skies initiatives have moved to the top of discussions recently within the parks division, but implementing these solar-powered lights is “easier said than done.”
DMEA owns most of the lights throughout the city, so an agreement would have to be reached with the electric company to install Dark Sky lighting in Montrose. Regardless of agreement outcomes, DMEA would have to wait for a light to go out before replacing it with new installation.
This takes a long time, said Bubenik, who said the city is using the recently planned West Main St. improvements to develop new standards for downtown lighting. The intention is to install all new lights, preferably Dark Skies-compliant, in downtown Montrose.
The replacement lights would allow the city to move away from some of the aging electric infrastructure located downtown.
“So we’re talking about a lot of options right now,” Bubenik said. “Dark Sky is definitely part of that and with an opportunity like the pocket park, we’re committed to a tiny little project that would contribute to that [concept].”
The pocket park improvements are just the start of Montrose’s road to a darker sky, but the initiative is nowhere near being executed as the city is still discussing options.
In addition to lighting improvements, the pocket park will also receive “round, colorful tables” as well as bike racks and some murals.
Because the city only leases the space and doesn’t own the property, staff has been in talks with San Juan Construction and Synergy One Lenders to work out permission to use the easements. Both companies are open to the proposed concept, said Bubenik.
The space will potentially host art panels for local artists and children’s groups who want to create mosaics or other types of artwork that can be changed out regularly.
Bubenik noted that right now, the pocket park plans are mere discussions until the grant is approved. If approved, the parks division would determine an exact budget and develop specifications for the project.
Project construction may not begin until later next year, though.
“We’re kind of at the mercy of contractors right now,” said Bubenik, referring to the national material and labor shortage. “We’re looking at six to nine months lead time-it takes that long to get it where not that long ago it was six to eight weeks, so we’re at the mercy of distributors and it’s just kind of a weird time right now.”
Contracting work has been volatile throughout the pandemic, as seen throughout the various city-run projects in the past year. People like City Engineer Scott Murphy and staff within the Public Works department can often be heard commenting on the difficulty of scheduling projects that remain set in stone.
Bubenik and Cramer both echoed this sentiment.
Cramer explained that the city is eligible for up to $150,000 in grant funds, but 10%, or $15,000, of the full amount must be matched. The matching funds would be pulled from the recently awarded $2 million Revitalizing Main Streets grant from the state.
“This would create a welcoming space where people who are visiting downtown would like to go and eat lunch and where workers who are working downtown can relax,” said Cramer of the pocket park plans.
The grant doesn’t have a deadline, but is held on a rolling basis as CDOT reviews applications regularly. Cramer hopes to file the application by the end of the month so the project can move forward quickly.
Cassie Knust is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press.