Designing the future: Creekside ‘park’ project moves to next step
Karen Sweeney, ROC Youth Engagement Committee member
A proposal to create a new gathering place and amphitheater along Spring Creek near downtown will move forward to the design phase, supporters say, thanks in part to local donations. The project grew out of the 2015 Recharge Our Community program, which challenged locals working on six different focus areas to develop ideas with potential to “recharge” Lewistown.
According to Karen Sweeney, a member of the ROC Youth Engagement Group, $20,000 has been raised so far to help pay for the next design phase of what is now being called “Creekside Marketplace and Pavilion.”
What is proposed?
The original proposal, then called Creekside Park, was for redevelopment of the area near the old WestFeeds building across from Trailhead Park on Main Street.
Currently the project site is a mix of natural areas along Spring Creek and trails, as well as parking lots and buildings.
One of the buildings, the Mill Building, also known as the Gambel-Robinson Company Warehouse, was recently nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.
Redevelopment of the area could include adding an amphitheater for outdoor performances, an all-season restroom facility and a children’s play area, as well as improved vehicle access and parking to accommodate markets and fairs.
Susan Barta, also a member of the Youth Engagement group, said she feels the plan will add value to the whole of downtown.
“By creating a place that is safe, is off the highway and has an inviting atmosphere, combined with the proposed brewhouse restaurant, our hope is to lure traffic and visitors to stay and see what Lewistown and Central Montana have to offer,” Barta said.
Committee member Stephen Taylor said he feels the proposed development could assist with building a more business-minded culture in Lewistown’s downtown.
“It will provide a venue for a market place, which could be used by food trucks, artists, craftsmen or the farmers market,” Taylor said. “The amphitheater could be used for business seminars and company picnics. There is a lot of potential.”
Sweeney said her group is now calling its proposal the Creekside Marketplace and Pavilion.
“The term ‘park’ created some confusion regarding the intent of this project,” Sweeney said. “We want to create a public gathering facility to boost economic development in the downtown area.”
Sweeney said “Creekside Marketplace and Pavilion” better represents the group’s goals for the project. However, she is quick to point out that if the project is approved, the City Park and Recreation Board and the City Commission will have the final say on the name of the facility.
Multiple funding sources
The money to develop the plan, Sweeney said, comes from a combination of grants and donations.
“We’ve now received the full amount needed for the next phase,” Sweeney noted. “We are very excited to move forward with this project.”
The bulk of the funding, she said, came from a $10,000 grant, through the Big Sky Economic Development Trust Fund, and from the City of Lewistown, which committed $5,000.
Support from locals helped meet funding goals.
“Just last week the Lewistown Friends of the Trails group agreed to match dollar for dollar up to $2,500,” Sweeney said. “and in just the past few days we’ve received anonymous donations of $2,500.”
Sweeney said she expects the $20,000 raised so far to bring the project “very close to the construction stage.”
Public involvement important
The firm selected to work on the plan is a collaboration of three firms, Sweeney said. Architects and engineers from those firms will help create the final concept plan, which will then be presented to the public, and, ultimately, to the Park Board and City Commission.
“Public input from meetings and surveys we did previously will be used to determine the final design,” Sweeney said. “In addition, a public open house will be held to get additional input.”
The future of the Gambel-Robinson Warehouse building, the preservation of which has been the source of some public debate, is unclear at this time.
Sweeney said her group will consider both renovating and reusing the building, or removing it, based on input from the architects and engineers as well as from the public.
If the final proposal meets with the approval of the Parks and Recreation Commission and City commissioners, Sweeney said more fundraising will be needed before construction can begin.
“It may be necessary to complete the project in phases, depending on costs and funding,” Sweeney said. “We would love to start this summer or fall; however, it is more realistic that work will begin in 2018.”