Mini Park design takes shape

Posted: January 26th, 2018 | Communities, News, North Park, Top Story | No Comments

By Ken Williams | Editor

The final design is now coming into focus for the long-awaited North Park Mini Park, expected to open in early 2020 on a half-acre lot behind Observatory North Park, Stern’s Gym, and New Life Cleaners and Laundry.

The Mini Park has been described by its designers as a future “town square” for North Park, a place for the community to gather for special events and an important pedestrian connector between the business corridors of University Avenue and 30th Street, and the residential neighborhoods south of North Park Way.

Artist rendering shows an overview of the North Park Mini Park design, including food trucks, an entertainment stage, an outdoor movie screen, two wayfaring pylons, a children’s play area and three pergolas. (Courtesy of KTUA)

Amenities will include an open stage for live entertainment, a giant movie screen on the southern wall of the historic theater, a children’s play area with a climbing apparatus and interactive musical instruments, and three large pergolas scattered across the plaza to provide shade.

The bulk of the trees and landscaping will be installed along Granada Avenue and North Park Way, on the western and southern edges of the park.

“We’ve hit 60 percent of the construction design, a milestone moment for us,” said Chris Langdon, team leader at KTUA – Landscape Architects.

What about a fence?

KTUA, based in Hillcrest, briefed several dozen residents on the design progress at the Jan. 22 meeting of the North Park Recreation Council. This was the second appearance before the rec council to update the community on the project, but the first time that officials floated the idea of erecting a tall fence around the park.

Adding a metal fence — with wide gates placed along Granada Avenue, North Park Way and 29th Avenue — would cost about $350,000. Kevin Oliver, project officer II with the city, said police suggested that the fence would have to be 7 or 8 feet tall to be effective to keep people out of the park after hours. Contractors would have to be hired to lock and unlock the gates, he said.

A children’s play area will feature a spinning structure. (Courtesy of KTUA)

Several residents scoffed at the assertion that the gates would be operational as planned, based on their observations of the joint-use park at nearby Jefferson Elementary. The public is supposed to gain access to the park after school is over, but the gate along 28th Street is routinely locked, day after day, forcing residents to walk four blocks out of their way to access the open gate on Utah Street.

Several examples of fencing were shown during the PowerPoint presentation, but didn’t impress the audience. One resident muttered that the fences looked more suitable for a prison.

A poll of the audience found 16 residents opposed to a fence, seven in favor, and four wanting more information.

What’s the cost?

The park’s construction cost is estimated at $1.7 million, with the overall budget set at $2.4 million, including design and administrative fees. The city has already budgeted the money to build the Mini Park.

An entertainment section will feature a stage for live music and a movie screen for screenings. (Courtesy of KTUA)

“This will be a transformative space,” said Matt Wilkins, project manager with KTUA.

To draw attention to the park, designers will place wayfaring pylons on the northwest corner of the plaza along Granada Avenue and on the east side facing 29th Avenue. The base will feature colored tile patterns, similar to the one on the wayfaring pylon on University Avenue near Walgreens or the iconic North Park neon sign. The top will be a three-sided giant flame made of custom-formed perforated metal sheet with a painted finish.

Another branding tool will be a “monument wall,” giant concrete letters spelling out “North Park,” to be located on the plaza’s southeast corner facing 29th Avenue and North Park Way. There is a public parking garage across the street, with the entrance on 29th Avenue.

Dealing with security

City officials addressed security issues, which concerned many residents.

Security cameras will be strategically placed throughout the park, in case of crime.

At night, security lighting will be subtle enough to not disturb nearby residents but effective enough to allow police officers to see throughout the park.

Some residents worried that the Mini Park would be overrun by the homeless, who camp out at the much larger North Park Community Park bounded by Howard and Lincoln avenues, and Oregon and Idaho streets.

KTUA officials said design elements will discourage people from sleeping on permanent benches and seating, and specialty painting and design elements will be deterrents to taggers.

The concept is that the Mini Park will be an active and open place, not a passive one, so that there will be no hiding places for trespassers.

Also, the city is intentionally leaving out public restrooms, although officials said portable toilets could be rented for special events.

Who will use the park?

North Park Main Street (NPMS) is expected to be one of the frequent users of the Mini Park. Headed by executive director Angela Landsberg, NPMS promotes development that supports arts, culture and entertainment while preserving the historical integrity of North Park.

The agency is associated with the national Main Street program that is affiliated with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and it is also a business improvement district.

City officials said they would be looking to public partnerships, such as the NPMS, to help operate the Mini Park. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department will maintain the park.

Artist rendering of the concrete North Park letters (Courtesy of KTUA)

For example, NPMS has said it would love to expand the Thursday farmers market into the plaza, or perhaps sponsor food truck nights. Food trucks could set up in the plaza, where portable furniture would be set up to give participants a place to sit and enjoy their meal. Or a community group could stage a play, show a movie, or sponsor a concert in the park.

Festivals could be expanded into the park, too.

The movable furniture would be stored in a shipping container that would be hidden behind a fence, along with trash bins, in front of the south wall of the building housing the laundry and gym.

To accommodate the Observatory, a 12-foot lane will extend from Granada Avenue to stage doors on the southwest corner of the theater. This will allow band vehicles to unload gear and park during concerts.

The park’s design is also meant to be environmentally friendly, so a bio retention basin will be established at the southwest corner of the park to filter water before it runs off toward the ocean.

Since the park is designed to be a public plaza, there will be no grass. Large planter rings will be placed around trees, and can serve as additional seating. Four to six bicycle racks will be set up around the park to accommodate those who wish to pedal to the park. At least one water fountain will be installed near the children’s play area.

KTUA said it would be finalizing the design phase soon, get the city’s blessing, and then the project would go out to bid.

To read a previous Uptown News article about the Mini Park, visit

—Ken Williams is editor of Uptown News. Follow him on Twitter at @KenSanDiego, Instagram at @KenSD or Facebook at KenWilliamsSanDiego.

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