By BRADEN LAMMERS
The former railroad bridge helped by lending a name and the nearby Falls of the Ohio served as an inspiration for one of its main features.
The city of Jeffersonville along with the Estopinal Group unveiled its preliminary plans for Big Four Station, which will be a park at the foot of the Indiana landing to the Big Four Bridge — the former railroad bridge that is being converted into a pedestrian and bicycle path crossing the Ohio River.
“This is what I’m considering to be the front door into Indiana,” said Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore.
About 75 local residents packed in the Jeffersonville City Council chamber to hear Wayne Estopinal, president of the Estopinal Group, present the initial plan for the park.
Plans for Big Four Station are to construct a park that will encompass two-square city blocks between Market, Mulberry, Pearl and Maple streets.
At the foot of the ramp, an obelisk would serve as the main focal point with a small water feature — modeled after the Falls of the Ohio — adjacent to the ramp, running to a pool at the foot of the obelisk. Also, at the foot of the ramp in a landing area, which will drop off at Pearl and Chestnut Streets, is a multi-use open air pavilion that could host a farmers market, concerts or art showcases and 23-foot light towers that serve as an art feature in the day and a safety feature at night.
Two open air lawns — being referred to as a north lawn and a south lawn — serve as bookends to the park with a winding walking path running through the middle of the park and along a tree grove with limestone seating.
Other features include a covered playground with a synthetic, padded surface and a restroom and bicycle rental facility.
While there are access points from each street surrounding the park, the main access point near the foot of the ramp opens to Pearl Street in order to direct traffic to Jeffersonville’s historic downtown business district one block away, Estopinal said.
The plan also allowed for the potential of including mixed use developments — which would include businesses and residential spaces — in the future.
Despite the detail in the plan, Estopinal said it was a draft and requested comments to refine what the city’s residents want to see developed.
“The purpose of this meeting tonight is to get your input,” he said.
And it was offered.
Some residents have been concerned about what would take the place of a plan that former Mayor Tom Galligan offered as part of his proposed canal project and featured a large park space with several shade trees, with the canal running through it.
“This is really the first public forum, so having gotten this far it really is a relief to come on board now and see what’s going on ... because it is smack dab in the middle of our neighborhood,” said Mary Jo Carrico, a Rose Hill resident. “Seeing it, it does take away a lot of the mythical fears,”
She did offer some concerns about flashing lights similar to the lights on the Louisville side of the bridge being in the park that may bother nearby residents, but added that she wants a well-lit park for safety reasons.
“We actually like people coming down and walking in our neighborhood,” Carrico said. “We’re used to it. We would like to see our neighborhood revived and welcome bicyclers and pedestrians.”
Phyllis Antz, who lives along Riverside Drive, said she did not like the water feature planned for the park and would prefer to see a fountain. She added that she would also like to see less money spent on the park.
“I’m seeing too much concrete,” Antz said. “[And] the fact that this thing’s going to be open 24-hours-a-day is a concern.”
For the owners of Schimpff’s Confectionery, Warren and Jill Schimpff, said there was no real change from other plans presented in how the design could draw people into the business district and were impressed with the conceptual drawings.
“We were equally impressed with the canal at this stage, too,” Warren Schimpff said, referencing it was still the design stage of the plan.
Jill Schimpff did present one concern for the Big Four Station plan.
“It looks good [but] I’m really concerned about the houses that are going to have to go,” she said.
Moore said there are six homes in the planning area that would have to be removed in order to complete the park. But he added that he would like to try and preserve the homes.
The city is looking to put out a request-for-proposal that if an interested party would like to buy the homes, the city will grant the purchaser $10,000 to move the structure.
Once the public comments are collected, Estopinal said he could incorporate changes into the plan and have an updated design ready by September.
However, he said construction could not be begin until, at least, eight months later. Crews wouldn’t even be able to get on-site until Gohmann Construction finishes the ramp to the bridge, which has a completion date of April 2013, he said.
Moore was optimistic that a plan would be in place quickly.
“I hope to say we have a plan in place and be ready to go in 30 to 40 days,” he said.
Jeffersonville’s Redevelopment Commission approved having the Estopinal Group create a conceptual design plan for $54,450. A full construction plan, which would be open to other design firms, would need to be approved before construction could begin.
Estopinal said at a redevelopment commission meeting, the full estimate for design through construction would total $363,000. In a plan presented to the Jeffersonville City Council, Moore asked that $3 million be allotted for the construction of the park next year out of Tax Increment Finance funds.
Louisville has completed its ramp on the Kentucky side of the Big Four Bridge and is currently working on resurfacing the deck of the former railroad bridge.