WILMINGTON — Situated just across from the new River Place development, the multi-million dollar public-private development funded by the City of Wilmington and a private developer, sits Bijou Park.
It has been some time since the park has received any upgrades but now the city is planning to do just that; On Monday, City Council received a presentation from Mike Naklicki, with the city’s engineering department, on plans to improve the space.
Bijou Park sits amidst a good deal of development activity taking place, including the River Place construction and Front Street improvements, Naklicki said. In fact, there will be an elevated walkway connecting River Place with the park.
Existing conditions at the park are lacking in both aesthetic and practical amenities, according to Naklicki.
“As you can see it’s had its time right now, it’s time to make it a little more welcoming. It has some dark areas, some blank walls, and a little bit of color … it is lacking amenities,” he said.
As far as why the city should spend money on the park, Naklicki said there are several reasons Bijou upgrades are significant.
“With everything going on down there we see this as a destination now … this is a major component of revitalizing that area that was once an older parking deck structure,” he said.
Safety is another concern and reason for the improvements. The area is currently lacking adequate lighting and the new plans would aim to increase the brightness of the park and create a more open layout.
As far as its usefulness, Bijou Park was essentially a “dead end” according to Naklicki, although it did connect to the parking deck. Now, the city would like to see the park as a destination and part of the Front Street district.
What do the upgrades look like?
Bijou Park already has a tile foundation at the front of the park, however, it is missing several tiles and could use some work, city staff note. If approved, the upgrades would include filling in the missing tiles and making the entire area smaller, but cleaner.
Naklicki also said plans include utilizing more brick pavers in the area, much like that of other projects throughout the city.
“We’ll introduce some planters, park information signs, one of the very unique pieces of this are what’s called a ‘planted wall panel,'” he said.
Adding greenery to the park is one of the visions of the plan; currently, the park consists of smaller bushes but the new plans call for the installation of shade trees and vegetation.
Movable tables and chairs would also be installed in the park area to help make the location somewhere visitors and residents can sit and enjoy a meal outdoors.
The city has expressed interest in installing tables and chairs at several park areas in the past but concerns of theft of the property or possibly damage has deterred it so far; the small stature of Bijou Park would allow the city to do a “test run” of the idea, Naklicki said.
Of course, funding for a project like this is always a concern but the city has previously allocated some money from its Capital Improvement Plan for these types of projects.
There will be a public information meeting in a few months to provide the city with input on the project, and the project timeline is expected to move quite fast, Naklicki said, with construction starting early next year once contracts are signed.
Once construction does begin in early 2020, there would be a 90-day buildout schedule to be completed and opened in conjunction with the River Place project.
Michael Praats can be reached at Michael.P@Localvoicemedia.com