BOWIE – The middle ground was music to council members’ ears in Bowie last Monday. On July 11, the Bowie City Council voted unanimously to approve the second, “moderate” of three proposed design concepts for the renovation of the brickhouse restrooms and the amphitheater in Allen Pond Park. Funding for the project had already been […]
BOWIE – The middle ground was music to council members’ ears in Bowie last Monday.
On July 11, the Bowie City Council voted unanimously to approve the second, “moderate” of three proposed design concepts for the renovation of the brickhouse restrooms and the amphitheater in Allen Pond Park. Funding for the project had already been included as part of the five-year Capital Improvements Program (CIP) passed alongside the fiscal year 2017 (FY17) budget earlier this year, but city staff recommended upgrading those plans, which therefore exceeded the budget.
The current CIP designates $1,823,300 for project. The new proposal is estimated to cost $3,235,000 due to increased estimates for redoing a parking lot and the amphitheater/stage and adding some additional restrooms. City staff recommended the upgraded plan because it would provide a better amenity for residents, Acting City Manager John Fitzwater said.
“The staff memo also identifies a potential source for that money, the Program Open Space monies that are now programmed for land acquisition,” he said. “There may be some funding that may enable us to move forward with it.”
The city council heard from staff at A. Thomas Morton Associates (ATM) about the proposed renovations. In accordance with the 2010 Allen Pond Master Plan, they will include increased ADA compliance, provide ceiling and stage lighting and include vehicle access to the stage, tiered seating and improved acoustics. The team decided to go with a tension structure for the amphitheater, which has low maintenance needs, has at least a 30-year warranty and can be made very cost-effective, and will feel like a pavilion and provide better views of the pond beyond.
“I like the concept. It’s very modern. It fits Bowie quite well,” Mayor Pro-Tem Henri Gardner said.
As explained by Gregory Osband, project manager with ATM, the firm concurred with the Master Plan in moving the location of the amphitheater away from its current position. Their proposal shifts it just a bit farther away from the boathouse. This is to prevent the sun from shining direct into performers’ eyes as it does in the current amphitheater.
“We do feel that, as compared to the existing stage and location, that this will provide a signature amenity for the park,” he said. “It’s going to be something that’s identifiable (and) exciting.”
Other renovations will include adding a restroom near the amphitheater that can be used, in part, by performers as changing or staging areas, expanding the existing brick house restrooms from 300 square feet to 500 square feet (with two male, two female and one unisex restroom), and increasing the capacity of the parking lot by about 20 percent over the Master Plan.
Although all the council members expressed strong support for this project, several of them raised questions during the briefing.
Councilwoman Diane Polangin wanted to know how the tensile amphitheater would fare in the harsh storms Maryland can experience in both the summer and the winter.
“How is it going to hold up to storms? You said it was very light so I can see it like the Wizard of Oz,” she said.
Design Architect MJ Wojewodzki assured her the materials, which include fiberglass, are all very durable and the frame is built so there will be no movement in the roof.
“It’s light in terms of how you perceive it, but not light in terms of its structural capacity,” she said.
Councilwoman Courtney Glass wanted to know if any trees would be displaced by the new stage and if they would be replaced.
Osband said any trees lost would be younger, weaker trees, and healthier specimens to replace them are already in the project’s budget.
“A lot of these trees are not in the best of shape. We are avoiding any high-quality trees,” he said. “We may have to remove a dozen or they may even be two dozen in there, but they are small trees.”
Councilman Michael Esteve praised the team for including amenities that the citizens of Bowie have told him they value.
“I like that in your plan you include a shuttle access, which is important. A lot of my residents are telling me they increasingly want alternative transportation in public spaces like this,” he said.
He also asked about what accommodations, like trails or parking, have been made for bicyclists who use or would want to use the park. Wojewodzki admitted this was not something they had looked at so far.
“That’s actually a great point and something we’ll keep in mind going forward,” she said.
With the council’s vote, the city staff will need to work on an updated funding request for the FY18 budget and that cycle’s CIP, which will be debated in the first half of 2017. If the funds are approved then, the renovations will begin in stages, with the amphitheater being the first.