AP NEWS

Gering council approves plaza design concept

February 13, 2018 GMT

GERING — The Gering City Council got its first look at the landscaping possibilities for the new Downtown Civic Plaza on Monday as phase two of the project is scheduled to begin this spring.

Most of the 2017 construction included more parking, a shade canopy for farmers markets, laying sod in the lawn area, plus alley and infrastructure improvements.

Work for the upcoming season will include a public restroom building, fire pits and seating around the central terraced lawn area, a covered stage for music events and landscaping.

Landscape designer Chrissy Peters and Gering City Planner Annie Folck told council members the design incorporated all the elements that were originally envisioned by the Downtown Revitalization Committee. The committee first began discussing the plaza project in late 2014.

However, the new landscape design envisions the plaza as more of a garden than a park.

“We want the space to be really seasonal and used year-round, not just during the warm months,” Peters told council members. “We also want to use the full scale of plants and trees with multiple pathways through the area to create a sense of adventure.”

The new design would make the plaza more of an event space rather than space where people can run and throw a football. It will be more structured with landscaping and will have a wrought iron perimeter fence to give it a different feel than other city parks.

“The difference between a park and a garden is a matter of function and aesthetics,” Folck said. “The previous plan was very similar to Legion Park, just a block away.”

The plaza’s water feature, originally envisioned as a splash pad, has also been scaled back. The new, smaller one will be similar to a fountain or a water wall.

“We want this to be more of an adult space rather than a kids’ play area,” Folck said. “There’s nothing wrong with those, but we already have parks with playground equipment. Our goal is to make this something very different from anything else in the area.”

The Downtown Revitalization Committee has recommended approval of the new landscape design, which can be used for events like weddings, receptions, small concerts and outdoor movies.

With preliminary concept approval from the city council, the community will be recruited to help name the park. High school marketing students will also be queried for their ideas on what kinds of elements should be included in the space.

Projects for the high school welding and woods will be included to build benches and sign work. Plus, the city plans to reach out to area artists and craftspeople to create artwork for the garden.

“I like the incorporation of all the different community groups,” said Gering Mayor Tony Kaufman. “The Downtown Revitalization Committee really breathed life into this project and we want to make sure we’re getting everyone in the community involved. This is a public space and we want to make sure the public has plenty of input as we go forward.”

jpurvis@starherald.com