Politics & Government

Design Council not wowed by Naftzger Park plans

Concept A
Concept A Courtesy photo

Plans for Naftzger Park were sent back for more work Monday after members of the city’s Design Council found all four proposals lacking an “iconic” wow factor.

“If the purpose of this park is to create something iconic, we need to figure out what that is,” said council member Tyler Cooper. “If the purpose of the park is to create a gathering place, we need to figure out what that is.”

City staff presented the proposed designs to the board with the caveat that it’s not an either/or choice.

Parks Director Troy Houtman said city officials seem to prefer “Design A,” which features a multi-use park designed around a teardrop-shape central open space. But they also like some elements from the other alternatives.

All four designs feature some major central elements, including open space for events, an open-air pavilion, surface-level water jets with a shallow skim pad, and a dog run primarily for residents of upscale apartments that have been and will be developed adjacent to the park.

Houtman said planners are working to incorporate elements from all the plans into a single design for the small park on the south side of Douglas just west of the BNSF railroad tracks downtown.

Allen Stoker spends a lot of time at Naftzger Park and says he wouldn’t mind seeing some upgrades to the downtown park that make things easier for the homeless population that frequents the park. (Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle/August 2017)

The architects have stressed that in addition to creating a more usable space for events tied to the nearby Intrust Bank Arena, they want to create an iconic presence like the famed “Bean” in Chicago’s Millennium Park, a polished sculpture that reflects visitors and the city skyline.

The board is made up of design professionals to advise the City Council on aesthetics of city projects. Members said they didn’t see “iconic” in any of the four designs for Naftzger Park and the city needs to decide what it wants.

“We have lots of ideas here,” Cooper said. “We have a flat part, and we have a dog park, we have a gathering place, we have an open-air canopy, we have food trucks. And it’s a small park and we need to figure out what priority one is and build it for that.”

Council member Ella Baccus suggested the city should pick one must-have functional element of the park and give it the extra design attention needed to make it an iconic feature.

“You can pick your stage, pick your water element, whatever thing you’ve got to have it in there for the functional, but the way it’s designed can make that an iconic draw,” she said.

Council member Armando Minjarez said he thinks the city is putting too much emphasis on making the park friendly for food trucks. While they are popular downtown now, they’ll probably be less so in the future as development near the park creates more eating opportunities.

“I just want to prevent you all from designing something so much guided by trends,” he said. “It (food trucks) is still a trend and it will go away.”

He said iconic means building something that will remain popular for decades.

“I wouldn’t want something so temporary as a food truck to define this space, when in 10 years it’s no longer going to be needed for that,” he said.

City Manager Robert Layton headed off the board before the members took formal action on any of the proposals.

“I prefer these comments go back to the design team for discussion and that we bring something to you next time that integrates some of these ideas,” Layton said. “And we’re probably going to have some more discussion about direction too, because based on what I’m hearing, there are some things that you’ve mentioned that maybe conflict with each other.”

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