The St. Michael City Council has reached consensus to move forward with plans to build Town Center Park in 2020, after previously placing the project on hold.
The proposed park, on St. Michael’s City Center building property, has been in limbo for several months after initial hoopla last year. The council pushed the pause button on the park in January, deciding to wait and see if some proposed development came to fruition that would pad the city’s park fund.
However, Community Development Director Marc Weigle said concerns about inflation and a high level of public interest led to a change of heart for council members. The council determined they should move forward with final design services for the nearly $3 million project, with bids for the project opening in late February and construction slated for the summer of 2020.
“[Council is] recognizing there’s going to have to be some participation in addition to developer park fees to make some of these projects happen,” Weigle said.
What’s Planned for the Park?
The council decided that park construction should be substantially completed in one phase rather than prolonged construction over multiple smaller phases. If bids come in favorably, the park will include a splash pad, playground, bathroom building, parking lot, large picnic shelter, pickleball courts and trails. Weigle said city staff will continue looking at the current building components of the shelter and bathroom building to come up with cost-saving alternative designs.
Earlier this month, the St. Michael city council approved a preliminary levy that includes $120,000 for the capital building fund, earmarked for Town Center Park. The city plans to pay for the park through a 20-year bond at 2.6 percent interest with an estimated annual payment of $120,000. A 15 year bond is also an option.
The council is expected to approve moving forward with final design plans at its October 8 meeting. Weigle said full certainty on the project won’t occur until bids come back in early March, when council could decide to delay, omit or revise plans if bids come in out of line with cost estimates.
Concept Plans for Two More Parks
In addition to Town Center Park, the city has been working on concept plans for two future neighborhood parks.
Gutzwiller Park North
A 16-acre expansion of Gutzwiller Park has been part of future plans for some time, dependent upon the development of the land just north of the original park and County Road 119. That time has arrived, with a preliminary plat expected in October for a new residential development called Anton Village.
The park would expand across County Road 119 and is proposed to include a playground and shelter, three baseball fields that can accommodate up to 14U ball and two smaller soccer fields. City staff said they determined this size ball field to be in greatest demand after surveying local youth organizations. Louck’s Associates, who is working on the park plan with the city, will bring back a more detailed proposal once Anton Village’s preliminary plat is approved.
Council members have voiced concerns about the park spreading to both sides of the busy county road, and city leaders have said they will conduct a traffic study to determine how to keep park-goers safe, with the possibility of creating a traffic circle in that area.
Vista Pointe Park
City staff is proposing Vista Pointe Park on St. Michael’s south side off 30th Street, adjacent to Gonz Lake and near the newly-approved Vista Pointe housing development, which will include 53 single family and 64 villa homes. The park proposal includes a nature-based playground and shelter, restored prairie, a trail with open space and scenic overlook near the lake, one baseball field and one soccer/lacrosse field.
One-third of this park’s land will be secured only when the adjacent Barthel property develops in the future. City staff said they will rough grade and seed the land for the time being.
Weigle said the city’s park fund currently stands at $900,000. However, city leaders have earmarked all but $650,000 of those funds for other projects, such a Gutzwiller Park parking lot expansion, Meadow Pond trail extension and a future East I-94 neighborhood park. New development adds money to the park fund, and he said they expect additional money for the park fund yet this year.