The word “park” is integral to Overland Park’s name, and residents care deeply about their public spaces.
That was obvious Thursday night when about 100 people showed up for an open house to explore the future of Santa Fe Commons Park, 8045 Santa Fe Drive, in downtown Overland Park.
“I want it to stay the way it is,” said Joan Norman, who lives on 80th Street and loves the 3.8-acre park’s trees and pastoral setting. “We need the green space. It’s the only green space we have in downtown.”
Jane Boos-Crawford, another Overland Park resident, agreed.
“Don’t over-build in the park, and keep it as green as possible,” she said.
Their sentiments were echoed by many people who said they want some upgrades to the park’s bandstand, gazebo and picnic areas but not major changes.
The city is working with a consulting firm, Omaha-based RDG Planning and Design, on conceptual plans for the park. Thursday was the first opportunity for the public to give its ideas.
The Portland, Maine-based Market Ventures, another consulting firm, has suggested moving the nearby farmers' market to the park, and that idea is still under review, but it was not getting much traction Thursday night.
Suggested improvements Thursday night included a possible spray pool or more playground equipment for children, updating the restrooms, repairing the bandstand for concerts and adding more shelters.
Many people said they want to preserve and improve the park, especially as five-story apartments and other developments add to the density and increased urban vibe in downtown Overland Park
“People really love the green space with all the mixed use that’s happening,” said Bruce Niedermyer, with RDG. He and other consultants and city officials met earlier Thursday with artists, merchants and nearby residents.
The city has $3 million budgeted for the park’s improvements, according to Park Services Director Greg Ruether. Of that, $1 million is a donation from civic leader Frank Thompson, longtime owner of Overland Park Dodge Jeep Chrysler Ram.
The park is more than 40 years old, and the city is interested in making it more pedestrian-friendly and a more vibrant public gathering spot, Ruether said. He emphasized the city has no preconceptions about what changes should be made.
The RDG consulting firm will take what it learned at the open house and other community discussions and plans to return July 19 with four specific conceptual plans. Two of those will consider moving the farmers' market to the park, and two will consider the park without the farmers' market.
Niedermyer conceded that public opinion so far appears mostly opposed to moving the farmers' market from its current address at 7950 Marty St. But he said having a concept with the market will give people a better idea of the full range of choices.
It will help, he said, “to validate that one of the choices makes the most sense.”
Preliminary concepts will be unveiled at 6 p.m. July 19 at Matt Ross Community Center, 8101 Marty St. Final concept review is scheduled for 6 p.m. Aug. 16, again at Matt Ross.