Plans for Mt. Pleasant's East End Park evolve
For a project designed to trumpet Mt. Pleasant's coal, coke and glass heritage, tentative plans for East End Park call as much for a continuation of a more recent aspect of borough history — stormwater management.
Pending its completion, the planned park would serve as an outdoor, neighborhood gathering site featuring green space, benches, light posts, signs and walkways on the vacant lot at 100 W. Main St. in the borough's East End, said borough Manager Jeff Landy.
As planned, it would cater to those who shop at businesses there such as Shop Demo Depot or bikers and hikers entering and exiting the nearby trailhead of the Coal & Coke Trail, Landy said.
In addition, the development would include about eight off-street parking spaces, he said. The parking lot will be established for use by park visitors, according to a stipulation of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, he said.
“I don't think people are going to believe what we end up with down there once this project is finished,” Landy said. “But it's going to take time.”
In June 2012, Robert and Donna Beck, proprietors of the former Wood'n Reflections business at 100 W. Main St. in the borough, sold the deed to the building housing the business to the borough for $1.
The couple did so with the knowledge that the Redevelopment Authority of Westmoreland County supported the borough's desire to develop the park there, Robert Beck said.
“That idea for the parklet was one of the reasons we decided to go ahead with (donating the building and property),” he said. “We've always liked Mt. Pleasant, and I thought a park would be fantastic for this town.”
Development is financed via federal/state dollars
To bankroll the park's development, the borough requested and was approved for approximately $73,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding as part of the county's 2013 action plan.
In March 2013, the county's board of commissioners voted to approve a resolution adopting the plan to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development.
Last spring, the authority awarded a contract of $56,896 in federal funding to Pittsburgh-based Jadell Minniefield Construction Services Inc., to raze the vacant, two-story, brick building which once housed Wood'n Reflections and, prior to that, the Penn Theater.
In June 2013, the company tore the structure down, setting the stage for the pending park.
In March of this year, the borough was awarded a $25,000 Keystone Communities Public Improvement Grant to go toward redevelopment efforts along the borough's Main Street corridor, specifically East End Park, through help from the office of state Rep. Deberah Kula, D-Fayette/Westmoreland.
Architect renders updated sketch
Norvelt architect James F. Gayton III recently presented Landy with an updated artistic rendering of how the planned park might look including several new details from the drawing he initially produced for the borough in summer 2012.
“It's a little bit different,” Gayton said.
The design features an arch fitted with the park's proposed name in large lettering, and a coke oven donated in 2010 to the borough by local resident Dale Basinger.
Bricks from the torn down building will likely be used in constructing walls in the space, Landy said.
Other features envisioned for the park — including benches resembling chunks of coal, a fountain with a glass block base and several plaques detailing the site's history — are all tentative based on potential costs, he said.
“It all comes down to the little details that have to fall into place. And it will take money,” Landy said.
District site plan is pending
Landy recently sent Gayton's rendering to the Westmoreland Conservation District's Jim Pillsbury, a hydraulic engineer, and Kathy Hamilton, a landscape architect and stormwater technician.
Together the two are referencing the sketch to develop a site plan for the park.
“Our job is to put the architect's rendering into a site plan form so it can be constructed,” Hamilton said.
The duo's plan will detail designs to allow natural water, such as rainfall, to flow to the flower beds and trees planted there, she said.
“Over the past five years, we've been completing stormwater management initiatives around Mt. Pleasant,” said Hamilton in reference to the completion of several rain gardens by district officials funded by more than $475,250 in federal grants allocated in 2009 through the state Department of Environmental Protection.
“Even though the work associated with that grant is now completed, we're still working with Mt. Pleasant to continue those practices with this project,” she said.
Upon visiting the site to verify its topographical measurements, Hamilton said she and Pillsbury determined that the slope from the rear portion of the property to Main Street is 10 feet.
“So we're going to be taking up a lot of the elevation change with landscaping to take up the slope between the alleyway and the parking area, so the parking can be as level as possible,” Hamilton said.
The plan will also call for the installation of pervious concrete at select site locations to naturally irrigate stormwater runoff into the soil below, she said.
“We want that water to stay in the park to help the plants and trees grow,” Hamilton said.
Such measures would also reduce the amount of storm water which would flow from the site into nearby Shupe Run, a tributary of Jacobs Creek, she said.
“This project just keeps the movement going in Mt. Pleasant; we've got to control the water where it falls,” Hamilton said.
State commission to review details
Once the district's site plan is completed, Landy said, it will be sent to the county authority, and from there it will be sent to the state Historical and Museum Commission for review.
If the state agency approves of the plan, construction bids can be taken, Landy said.
“Finally, we're going to have a marker to tell the story of this park — how and why it came to be,” he said. “I hate when people don't know the back story ... we are creating history now.”
As a final tenant in the building torn down to make way for the park, Beck said he is anticipating what's to come there.
“That building was really an eyesore. We hope it all works out, and we're looking forward to seeing the finished product,” he said.
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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