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6/27/2004

Plaza plan pushes forward

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — Longmont Downtown Development Authority board members voted last week to go ahead with plans for a plaza next to the former St. Stephen’s Church.

Plans for the 5,700-square-foot property, which the LDDA bought last year, were presented to the board for the second time by landscape architects Play Environments LLC.

The board voted to go with a plan containing an interactive fountain that children could play in and that could double as a performance space for entertainers.

Though the project isn’t cheap, the latest price quote from Play Environments was about $84,000 less than what it brought to the LDDA board a couple of months ago.

“When we really started doing more detailed drawings on it and sent it off to the (fountain) manufacturers, everything came down,” said Nancy Eletto, CEO of Play Environments.

What type of fountain is installed will have an impact on the price, too. A recirculating interactive fountain would cost nearly double what a fountain using potable water would. Given the ongoing water issues in the state, however, everyone seemed to agree that a recirculating fountain would be the way to go, Eletto said.

“We’ve been in touch with the Boulder County Health Department to find out what kind of fountain they recommend,” she said, adding that she will also talk with Boulder’s city architect, who designed the fountain in front of the Boulder County Courthouse on Pearl Street.

A fountain using potable water would cost approximately $70,000, while the price tag for one using recirculating water would be about $136,000.

The entire project will cost between $157,000 and $223,000, depending primarily on the type of fountain. Mary Murphy-Bessler, executive director of the LDDA, said the board was much more comfortable with that price range than with the figures they saw two months ago.

The LDDA board will foot the bill for the plaza.

“We’ll look at several different mechanisms so no one program is hit really hard by it,” Murphy-Bessler said.

For example, money from the LDDA’s Development Improvement Project could be used, although she said the board would still want to leave money in that fund for grants to merchants for facade improvements on their buildings.

For the project’s biggest financial piece, the LDDA already has received outside interest.

“First Community Bank wants to do a major community project, and we did a fountain-type thing in Colorado Springs, so when I saw that article (in the June 17 Daily Times-Call), I thought that would be a fabulous thing for us to do,” said Lisa Kage, vice president for First Community Bank. “Mary’s going to get me some kind of a proposal, and we’ll see if we can participate in it.”

A “St. Stephen’s Plaza” has been on the city’s wish list dating back to 1988, when the city drew up its Capital Improvement Project.

The church, built in 1881, is owned by the St. Vrain Historical Society, which also owns the strip of land on the north side of the church. The historical society will pay for landscape improvements made to its portion of the property.

The plan approved by the LDDA board calls for new landscaping and shade trees to be planted; benches, game tables and movable chairs to be installed; the overhead power line to be buried underground; and wrought-iron trellises to be installed and “Trump L’Oeil” murals to be painted on the side of the Miller Music building.

“We will be putting in a request to Art In Public Places,” Murphy-Bessler said, to get temporary art displays set up throughout the plaza.

“Our next step is preparing the construction documents, and then it goes out to bid,” Eletto said. “It will also have to go through city review — the same review process that any city project or commercial project would go through.”

While the construction documents will take about six to eight weeks to prepare, the city review process typically takes longer than that, Eletto said.

The Play Environments proposal allows for the project to be phased in, Eletto said, but she hopes the LDDA can swing the financing so it doesn’t have to be.

“We really feel like we’re right on in the numbers we gave the LDDA,” she said. “I really hope they can do it all at once.”

Kage said she thinks the plaza, just a block away from her bank, will be a wonderful addition to the downtown.

“It will bring more people down there, which is exactly what we need to do,” she said. “Make it more of a family atmosphere.”

Tony Kindelspire can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 291, or by e-mail at tkindelspire@times-call.com.