Joco 913

Prairie Village considers renovating Harmon Park, where JazzFest happens

The Prairie Village City Council may have balked earlier this year at plans to extensively renovate Harmon Park, but the idea of installing a permanent performance space there is getting a second look.

Council members on Monday voted 10-2 to move forward on a trio of projects in the park at West 77th Place and Delmar Street. A final vote is scheduled for a future meeting.

Among the projects is a proposal to build a 48-by-40 foot concrete performance pad on the current location of the skateboard park southwest of City Hall.

The slab would serve chiefly as a stage during the annual Prairie Village JazzFest, replacing the temporary stage that organizers install over the skate park every year. But supporters said it could be used for other things, such as space for school plays, summertime movie nights or small musical performances.

“We’ve discussed a more permanent type structure for years,” said council member Ted Odell. “I think this is a good starting point.”

Public Works Director Keith Bredehoeft estimated it would cost around $100,000 to build the performance pad, supply it with electricity and modify nearby fencing so a concession stand at the park’s pool complex could be used during events.

That money is not currently included in the city’s budget, meaning Bredehoeft would have to argue for its inclusion when the council adopts a new annual spending plan for 2020 next year. He said he wouldn’t know the true cost for the project until he’d had more time to research it, adding that the cost could range between $80,000 and $120,000.

Council member Brooke Morehead said the council could consider expanding the performance pad in the future to include a shelter, a lighting and sound system and equipment storage, making it closer in look and mission to the amphitheater proposed in the Village Square concept that the council debated and eventually shelved back in February.

That plan, presented to the council by BBN Architects Inc., called for a number of projects at Harmon Park, including a permanent performance pavilion, almost 42,000 square feet of grass seating, a walking trail around the perimeter of the park, a splash pad water feature, a rebuilt skate park in a new location and two new playgrounds, including an inclusive play area that could accommodate people with disabilities.

BBN estimated the full Village Square concept would cost $5.2 million. Scaled-down versions of the concept would have cost between $3 million and $3.5 million.

Morehead acknowledged those prices were “ridiculous” but that the council should stay focused on building a community gathering space.

“The whole concept was to bring everybody together in the center of the city and that was the Village Square,” Morehead said. “This (proposal) is pared down and will achieve the same thing.”

The measure voted on Monday would approve building the inclusive playground, expected to cost $575,000 and be built between the pool complex and the Harmon Park tennis courts, and relocating the skate park to a spot just north of the new Consolidated Fire District No. 2 station, currently under construction, at a cost of $320,000.

Unlike the performance pad, the money for the inclusive playground and the renovated skate park is already in the city’s budget and has been on hold for years.

Council member Chad Herring said he had concerns about the performance pad project but said the other two items needed to move forward.

“I think we definitely need to do the play set and the skate park,” Herring said.

Council members Dan Runion and Jori Nelson voted against moving the three projects ahead and said they didn’t understand the necessity of building a performance pad separate from the skate park. They also said they worried the project would reduce overall greenspace in the park and questioned where the money would come from.

“I still see this as a ‘want’ and not a ‘need,’” Nelson said. “With regard to the bathhouse and the hundreds of thousands of dollars we need to repair our pool and what’s coming up in 2019-20 with repainting of the pool I just think we’ve got other items on our agenda that I think need to be funded.”

David Twiddy: