People stand around in a circle Tuesday during a meeting about a planned pocket park at the corner of Central and Water streets in downtown Hallowell. The city owned lot on the busy corner is currently used for parking. Several times during the meeting people had to stop talking and wait until motorcycles or other traffic went past and it was quiet enough to be heard again. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

HALLOWELL — Plans for a test park in the heart of downtown Hallowell began to take shape following a site visit.

About 20 people, formed in a large circle, attended a meeting Tuesday at the corner of Water and Central streets, the proposed location for a small park, or “pocket park.” The consensus by the end of the meeting was that the Water Street-half of the lot would be used for the test park, which is aimed to start a discussion about how to best use the space.

Earlier this month, the City Council approved a test-run of a park on city land which is now used as a parking lot. The project is being pushed by Vision Hallowell, a nonprofit group that promotes downtown.

The test park, expected to be about 30 feet by 40 feet, would feature some of Hallowell’s iconic brightly colored Adirondack chairs, faux-grass mats and potted plants. Deborah Fahy, Vision Hallowell’s secretary, said Home Depot is willing to sponsor the park. It was not known at the meeting how much value the sponsorship would have, but it would likely include some plants and faux-grass mats.

Envision Hallowell secretary Deb Fahy speaks Tuesday during a meeting about a planned pocket park at the corner of Central and Water streets in downtown Hallowell. The city-owned space on the busy corner is currently used as parking lot. Several times during the meeting people had to stop talking and wait until motorcycles or other traffic went past and it was quiet enough to be heard again. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Fahy also said games, like a large chess board or bocce, could be featured in the pocket park.

Some expressed concern during the gathering that a handicap space would be blocked off by the park, but City Councilor Diano Circo said a sign could be moved to another place in the lot.

Resident Frank O’Hara said the front half of the lot should be used, as park-goers would not want to look at a vehicle while sitting in the park.

Aurilla Holt, owner of the neighboring business Berry & Berry Floral, told the Kennebec Journal earlier this month that the park was a “crazy thought” in a downtown that is “struggling so for parking.”

Aurilla Holt, owner of Berry & Berry Floral, speaks Tuesday about losing parking for downtown businesses during a meeting about a planned pocket park at the corner of Central and Water streets in downtown Hallowell. The city-owned land on the busy corner is currently used as parking lot. Several times during the meeting people had to stop talking and wait until motorcycles or other traffic went past and it was quiet enough to be heard again. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Holt, speaking at the meeting Tuesday, said that when she and her husband rented the building they did so because of the lot. She said her customers often use the lot to pop in quickly and her delivery drivers also stock vehicles quickly in the lot.

“I totally agree that the lot needs improvement; it looks horrible,” she said. “There’s a lot of people that park there.”

Holt suggested placing games at Granite City Park or lining Water Street with benches as alternatives to a park.

Parking, or lack thereof, has been a heated topic of discussion in Hallowell for many years. Councilor Michael Frett said during Tuesday’s site visit that he and O’Hara would head up a committee to look at the city’s parking situation.

In June, a document released by the city’s Comprehensive Plan Committee addressed transportation within the city, saying Hallowell had 225 on-street parking spaces and another 20 at the new lot on Central Street.

While parking always seems in short supply, that is a reasonable amount for a downtown of this size,” the document reads. “Providing additional parking may make driving downtown easier, but would also reduce the amount of land available for shops, housing and other uses that contribute economically and add to the attractiveness of downtown Hallowell.”

The city took ownership of the lot after trading land with Linda Bean, owner of the Dummer House, as part of the project that moved the house to Second Street. The lot where Dummer House once sat is now a dirt parking lot, just west of the parcel where the mini-park would go.

The mini-park concept was introduced to residents as part of the reconstruction of Water Street in 2016, when urban planner Brian Kent recommended bump-outs at crosswalks and intersections. The bump-outs were a contentious issue in the planning phase of the project, but they and the mini-park never happened.

Kent’s design is still being used for the current talks. The design shows a 40-foot, circular sitting area with benches and chairs. It is contained by a 3-foot stone wall, and includes a granite sculpture, granite bollards and native grasses and trees. Another proposed design divides the lot in half and retains some parking.

Fahy said the project could be funded through the tax increment financing district, but she did not have an estimate on the park’s cost.

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