Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Leon Young Pavilion meeting a 'turning point,' one Hillside advocate says

Posted By on Tue, Nov 6, 2018 at 3:59 PM

click to enlarge Attendees of the city's latest meeting on the Leon Young Pavilion look at photos of the park. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Attendees of the city's latest meeting on the Leon Young Pavilion look at photos of the park.

The meeting Nov. 2 at the Hillside Community Center was the third since August discussing plans for the Leon Young Pavilion. This one had marked differences from an Aug. 22 Hillside neighborhood meeting, the last one we covered related to the pavilion project.

At that meeting, emotions ran high as Hillside residents expressed disappointment with the city's rejection of plans to rebuild the pavilion — an aging and neglected wooden structure named for the city's only black mayor — and a city parks representative refused to admit wrongdoing on the part of the department.

At this meeting, attendees were met with an array of refreshments, and were invited to leave comments on poster boards about aspects of pavilion redevelopment. Tilah Larson, senior analyst for the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department, took on a more optimistic tone. Catherine Duarte, senior analyst for the city's Community Development Division, and Steve Wood, the founder and director of Concrete Couch, shared considerations and ideas for the space. But some neighborhood advocates remained guarded.

Hillside activist Victoria Stone says there's still more work to be done to get the city and community on the same page, but felt that by the end of the meeting, they'd been able to nail down what mattered most: memorializing the late Mayor Leon Young.

"The next step is going to be to really thoughtfully look at the budget, which again, will shake things up," Stone said a few days later. "I think that last meeting was a turning point to really put us in the right trajectory."

click to enlarge The Leon Young Pavilion is near the southern end of Shooks Run trail. - ALLEN BEAUCHAMP
  • Allen Beauchamp
  • The Leon Young Pavilion is near the southern end of Shooks Run trail.

Last year, although a $150,000 federal community-development block grant was available for pavilion redevelopment, the Parks department said the project couldn't go forward because it might interfere with the Envision Shooks Run and Legacy Loop plans for a connected trail system. But it wasn't clear what the interference would be — wide cement paths are already in place in the park.

That $150,000 will likely be available again this year, Duarte says, and city officials are hoping to get the community on board with a new plan. While community members have differed over whether the pavilion should be demolished and replaced, or restored and refurbished, the general consensus now appears to be to keep the original structure, Larson says. She also says Parks can't accommodate completely demo-ing and rebuilding the pavilion.

The city is limited by several considerations, including accessibility requirements outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act, stormwater issues — the pavilion is positioned on a floodplain — and the need for revitalization of the area. People experiencing homelessness frequent the pavilion, as there are a number of camps nearby, and trash has been an issue.

click to enlarge Attendees of a Leon Young Pavilion planning meeting were invited to leave comments. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Attendees of a Leon Young Pavilion planning meeting were invited to leave comments.

Wood, whose Concrete Couch is a nonprofit focused on creative construction, community and sustainability, suggested the project could employ three to five local teenagers for about 30 hours to re-oil and hydrate the tall wooden beams of the pavilion, dig out low, rotted walls, and rebuild any damaged tables. (The pavilion is located near the site of the nonprofit's future campus.)

Pastor Paul Nelson, of The Living Word Baptist Church, which often hosts Hillside neighborhood meetings, worried that those steps alone would not make the splintering structure safe. "I would not bring my grandkids there to play," he said.

Stone says she's hopeful that the $150,000 grant will pay for more than what Concrete Couch's revitalization ideas entail. She wants the city officials who presented at the Nov. 2 meeting to come to a weekly neighborhood meeting, where she thinks they'll be able to interact with more of the community that's been involved in planning efforts from the beginning.

"I just think maybe we need one more meeting to hash out some stuff," she says, "because I think the other piece that maybe gets lost in public process, is public process I think maybe feels a little bit benign, but when you're thinking about things actually happening in your community, it's an emotional space. It's a big deal to decide where to move, it's a big deal to think about what kind of amenities you want."

Larson says that Parks hopes to have a detailed action plan at the next big meeting in January, date TBA.

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