AP NEWS

Hermann Park unveils plans for The Commons

February 18, 2019

Hermann Park Conservancy held a master plan community meeting on Feb. 7 to discuss the newest plans for the park, called The Commons.

The section of the park to be developed into The Commons is located by Fannin and Cambridge streets, across from the Texas Medical Center.

Hermann Park Conservancy President Doreen Stoller welcomed the community to give their feedback on the plans, noting that it was still early in the design phase.

“We are excited about what’s happening around the park right now. We are having a really interesting nexus happening…The Commons will fit into that nexus,” Stoller said.

Landscape Architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates is designing elements of Hermann Park’s master plan. Matthew Urbanski, a representative with Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, was at the meeting to talk about the proposed components of The Commons.

“The strategy that we have in order to increase the usability of this space is to move all of the programs to the edges and have this open lawn space in the center. We are not changing the use of the area. We want to upgrade the play and upgrade facilities,” Urbanski said.

The train tracks for the Hermann Park Railroad would be rerouted to the edges of the space, and the railroad station would be moved as well. New pavilions are proposed as well as a carousel, which will enhance the area in terms of activity but also generate revenue for the park.

“We are also looking to dramatically improve the amount of diversified plant work, We are looking at prairie landscape, native understory and water and shade gardens,” Urbanski said. “We are also working really hard to keep as many existing trees as possible.”

A play area will be divided into two sections. One side will be all about climbing and adventure and imaginative play, and the other side will be for water play. They will be separated by different gates and entrances. Both sides are ADA accessible.

The one side will feature a moon crater area to climb down into, which plays into the existing topography. There will also be a rocket ship. Animal sculptures for children to play in will also be in this area.

The water area will feature a water lab for kids to experiment. There will be water wheels and pumps to play with. There will also be a splash cove and a bayou inspired space with sand tables.

The play area will also feature a small section for babies to play in, and also an elevated walk that goes through the tops of the trees and over the railroad tracks.

“Play garden design, - notice I say play gardens and not play grounds - is a real opportunity for real creativity and engaging people,” Urbanski said.

The edge of McGovern Lake will also be made more approachable, with a cobble rock beach.

“We want to take the water from the water play area, and bring it to the lake. We are intercepting the tap water line that brings water into the lake. This is good fortune,” Urbanski said.

Other proposed design elements include a raised deck under the Live Oak Allee, a swing hill with large basket swings, a dining area and an art zone.

Urbanski estimates The Commons project will cost $40 million, and will take five years to complete, including the fundraising process.

The public is invited to to share thoughts and opinions on the master plan by emailing ideas@hermannpark.org.

rebecca.hazen@chron.com

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