The Japanese Friendship Garden has signed a five-point agreement with the city’s parks and recreation department. The hope is to mitigate the impact of a planned play area opening at Hance Park in late 2020.
Hance Park, which was named for the city’s first female mayor, is a 32-acre park located on the deck that runs over the Interstate 10 freeway tunnel between Third Street and Third Avenue.
The plans for the 20,000-square-foot play area, which is being funded with a $2 million donation from Fiesta Bowl Charities, were announced in August. It will be located just north of the garden, which is also located in Hance Park.
Garden officials responded quickly by posting their objections to the location on their Facebook page.
Although garden officials support creating a play area for children, they asked the city to situate the play area farther from the garden.
They want to assure that play area noise levels don’t disrupt the garden’s tranquil setting, according to Executive Director Reiko Reavis.
The agreement follows months of discussion between the city and the cultural center, which were undertaken to address concerns of garden leadership.
It was signed on Wednesday, November 13, by Kiyoko Toyama and Inger Erickson. Toyama is president of the garden’s board of directors. Erickson is the director of the Phoenix Parks and Recreation department.
The agreement is based, in part, on the results of a sound study conducted through Newton Environmental Consulting. A report released by the city indicates that sound levels are not sufficient to warrant moving the play area. Its conclusions are based in part on brief sound measurements undertaken in September at several garden locations.
The November 13 memorandum of understanding begins by addressing this issue, but it also addresses issues related to light and parking. Here’s a summary of the five points in that MOU:
- Within one year of the completion of the play area, another acoustical analysis will be done, using a consultant agreed upon by both the garden and the city. “If scientific evidence (no more than 60 decibels) supports building a wall to mitigate noise from the play area, the City will pay for the wall to be constructed,” it reads in part.
- Following the construction of the play area, the city will work with garden staff to post signs near the entrance to the play area when a wedding is taking place at the garden. The city will also position city staff near the play area entrance to alert people when a wedding is taking place.
- The city will “continually assess the status of parking lot spaces” near the garden and other areas of Hance Park. The agreement does not mention specific steps that will be taken if the play area results in reduced parking for garden visitors.
- The city will install LED lighting for the play area and “work to assure that that positioning of lighting fixtures does not affect the Garden."
- The city will keep garden officials informed about planned repairs to overpass joints that need to occur on garden grounds as part of the Hance Park renovation.
The document concludes with three requests from garden officials.
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First, the garden requests that city officials communicate with the garden on all decisions that affect the garden. Secondly, the garden wants to be notified of all meetings related to repairs that affect the garden. Finally, the garden is asking ADOT to bear the full financial burden for restoring garden conditions once repairs are completed.
The agreement follows modifications to the play area design, which were made in response to concerns expressed by garden officials. City officials presented those changes during the October meeting for Downtown Voices Coalition, which includes representatives from several downtown neighborhoods.
Those changes include moving the play area 14 feet to the north, as well as shifting the entrance from the south to the east side of the play area. Other changes include widening the path along the southern edge of the play area and adding a planted buffer along the west and south portions of the play area.
The city expects play area construction to begin in early 2020. The play area is just one element of the first phase for the planned renovation. Several factors will affect the timeline for moving additional elements forward, including the results of fundraising efforts.