After more than 40 years, plans for Madison’s Central Park on the near East side have gained momentum with the possibility of opening the park later this year.
The planning for the park first began in the 1970s when city planners wanted a way to revitalize the area, located six blocks east of Capitol Square among historic residential neighborhoods and an employment center.
The Urban Open Space Foundation designated the development of Central Park as the centerpiece of its open space initiative in Madison, according to the city’s website. The city created the Central Park Design and Implementation Task Force in 2007 to make the park a reality, the website said.
While the Center for Resilient Cities started the process more than 20 years ago, much of the land they bought was eventually turned over to the Madison Parks Division, Laura Whitmore, division spokesperson, said. The division acquired the two acres of land that is expected to open by the end of the year for $1.6 million, she said.
The city has collected $3.1 million in federal funding and has contributed $1.2 million to the development of the park, Whitmore said.
The first phase of the plan includes grading the pathways and building a restroom, Whitmore said. A second phase includes the creation of a crossing, with an entrance to the park that crosses a railway track and a skate park, she said. She said the plans also include the eventual building of a skatepark.
Whitmore said the budget for the features was $750,000 dollars including $300,000 from the city and $450,000 from donors. City planners envisioned 10 acres of land for the master plan of the park, but they currently only have two, she said.
Once the park is complete, Whitmore said the Eastside Farmer’s Market may move to it. The park will be used for music festivals and local food events featuring local chefs, she said.
“I think it will be a fabulous venue for a number of things,” Whitmore said. “We’ll just have to see how it goes, but given its location, it certainly has the potential to hold a lot of events.”
Along with a local chef event, a concert series three Thursday nights in July was also discussed in the planning process, she said.
Kay Rutledge, City of Madison parks development manager, said commercial city facilities surround the park to the west while residential neighborhoods are to the east. She said she anticipates positive reactions from the public.
“I hope it will be well-utilized and well-loved by the city,” Rutledge said.
The park went through a lengthy multiple task force planning process to decide on the park’s amenities, and city planners are currently moving toward the execution of the long-term plans, Rutledge said.
The city website said the plans for the park will transform the area and encourage creative economic development.
“We believe Madison can serve as a national example of a mid-sized city using healthy, sustainable place-building to support economic and neighborhood development,” the website said. “For the first time in almost 40 years we are in a position to design, engineer and build Central Park. We believe it will be an exemplar for placemaking where people can play, learn, grow and are inspired to create.”