Officials with the locally based landscape architecture firm in charge of a freshening up of Langan Park spent the first week of October presenting plans in a group of meetings to residents and city staff members.
Christian Preus, of Christian Preus Landscape Architecture, showed design drawings to members of a steering committee, including Parks and Recreation Director Shonda Smith at a meeting on the bottom floor of the Mobile Museum of Art on Friday, Oct. 4. The drawings included the addition of a bridge across a newly dredged river and more pavilions and community spaces added where parking lots once sat. On-street parking would be added throughout the park, Preus said.
Smith and others seemed concerned about the removal of the lots, questioning whether the addition of on-street spaces could make up the difference.
“It concerns me that you’re taking away parking,” Smith said. “What does it look like?”
Preus said the group would do a rough estimate on the number of spaces created from parallel or even slanted, on-street parking where it’s applicable, but he was confident the park wouldn’t lose any and might be able to gain some. The number of spaces could increase by as much as 10 to 20 percent, given that 180 feet on the plan could fit 20 parking spaces.
He said the on-street parking would make the park feel more accessible.
“I feel like it’s going to make the park more accessible to people, rather than park in an open area and walk,” he said.
The streets within the park won’t be wall-to-wall parking either, as Preus said there will be islands and medians in place to break it up.
To alleviate some concerns, Preus mentioned the possibility of opening areas of the park to overflow parking during weekends and when there are events at the nearby Copeland-Cox tennis center.
“If we have consensus that we need overflow parking for weekends, or during events, we can carve out space,” Preus said. “I think other areas could be considered …. ”
Other changes to the park include a bridge across a dredged lake and adding back access to kayaks and canoes in the process. During a series of focus group meetings, Preus also said residents wanted to see the following incorporated into the plan: a beach near the lake, an amphitheatre, waterfront experiences and movies in the park.
“That’s all good information for us to have, as we’re in this planning phase,” Preus said.
Residents also responded positively to the ideas, which included chess tables, volleyball courts, bigger playground shade structures and a focus on disc golf. In fact, disc golf and boating were two of the most talked about things, according to surveys completed by focus group members and in public meetings, Preus said.
“This is one of the best frisbee golf courses in the state,” he said. “They take a lot of pride in and want it maintained.”
The group also has plans for better signage and gateways as visitors enter the park. One idea is a floating, lighted sign in the lake, pointed to oncoming traffic, off of Zeigler Boulevard. Another idea would be to improve the gateway sign on the other end of the park, but that has been met with some pushback, Preus said.
Art could be added throughout the park, given its proximity to the city’s art museum.
“I see this site potentially as an extension of the art museum,” he said. “Visitors should be engaged as they walk through an extended museum and park.”
Lighting is also crucial to any plan moving forward, Preus said. Lights could be added to trees and playground equipment like seesaws, he said.
The park has the available real estate for a performance space, Preus told the group.
As for the project as a whole, Preus called it a “gamechanger, not only for Mobile, but for the entire coastal area.”
“We’re not just revitalizing a community park,” he said. “It has the potential to be a cultural center.”
Councilwoman Gina Gregory, whose District 7 includes Langan, also known as Municipal Park, said she’s excited for the changes, the first of which appears to be the dredging of the lake, paid for with Restore Act funds.
“Once we get it dredged we can put boats back out there,” she said. “It will be deep enough and clean enough for kayaks and other boats.”
Some pavilion improvements are also scheduled, Gregory said, with money from the 2020 Capital Improvements Project.
Other cost estimates and funding opportunities for the massive project will be realized after the slew of meetings and surveys, Gregory said. There is currently no set amount of funding, or a set price for the improvements.
“We hope to parcel it out,” she said. “Hopefully there will be some other funds available.”
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