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'Quality of Place'

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GROUNDBREAKING:Some of the donors and public officials who helped make Prairie Creek Park possible break ground on the project Wednesday.
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Rendering: A birds-eye-perspective of Prairie Creek Park.
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DONORS: A long list of donors and public officials were recognized at Wednesday’s ceremony. Among them was the Rotary Club of Frankfort. Above, Richard Greeno accepts a plaque from Mayor Chris McBarnes on behalf of the Rotarians at the ceremony.

By AARON KENNEDY - akennedy@ftimes.com

In a celebration of a project that has moved from idea to creation over four-plus years, the city of Frankfort broke ground on Prairie Creek Park during a ceremony Wednesday at the site on 208 E. Washington St.

“It is just a monumental day for our city, and it was a family of people coming together that believed in something bigger than themselves,” Frankfort Mayor Chris McBarnes said. “What we were yesterday doesn’t have to limit or define what we can do today. This is Frankfort moving forward. This is us increasing our quality of place and taking a step that is going to attract families, retirees and people who come to Frankfort not just to visit, but to live. And this is what this is all about.”

Once construction of Frankfort’s newest park is complete – those involved hope to open it in mid-July – it will offer vending spaces, two outdoor stages, a splash pad, a playground equipped with adaptive equipment and a pedestrian walking bridge that spans Prairie Creek.

“It is extremely exciting,” Frankfort Parks Superintendent Travis Sheets said. “It is one of those things that is once-in-a-lifetime. This park will impact generations to come, and we are all part of that.”

Main Street Frankfort Executive Director Kim Stevens spoke on why she believes the park is so important to Frankfort.

“It is important because of a new, 74-unit apartment complex (Nickel Plate Flats) that was built here on the corner,” Stevens said. “That apartment complex (reached) 80 percent capacity in six months. Of those, 70 percent are from outside of Clinton County.”

Stevens went on to point toward new businesses that have sprung up downtown in the last year and a record number of visitors that came to see the Christmas lights at TPA Park and downtown this holiday season.

“So why is Prairie Creek Park important to downtown?” Stevens asked, rhetorically, “Continued development. We are growing. We are open for business.”

In addition to Sheets and Stevens, McBarnes also used the ceremony to thank Main Street Frankfort President Joe Palmer, Frankfort City Attorney Les Bergum, the City Planning Commission, the Economic Development Commission, the Board of Public Works and Safety, the Historic Preservation Committee, the Utility Service Board, the Redevelopment Commission, the City Council and a long list of donors, who contributed $716,000 to the project.

Cecil Penland, principle at Rundell Ernstberger Associates, described a rough timeline of how work will progress on the site, from this month up until it opens in the summer.

“Once we get started, hopefully in the next two weeks or so, you will see a lot of equipment mobilize, and there will be a lot of excavation going on,” Penland said. “The first thing we do is utility work, so we will start to put in water lines, electric lines and any other infrastructure that is underground. We will start to establish a sub-grade and address any issues that we may find underground – old foundations or things of that nature – and any demolition, which is pretty minimal on this project. Basically, they will establish the grades and start to form-up foundations for new buildings and new elements throughout the park. So, a lot of the work in the first month or two will be underground or at ground level.

“Then, within three months or so, you will really start to see things pop up out of the ground. You will see the finishes coming in, like steel structures and buildings start to be erected. As we move into the summer, that is when we get more into the finishes – side furnishings, pavers, concrete pavements and all of the pretty stuff.”

Work on the parking garage on the northwest corner of the park will take a little longer to complete.

“What we talked about today is currently planned to begin renovation in early to mid February,” Penland said. “I believe the mayor and Joe (Palmer) are working with the tenants who lease spaces there to find other available parking for them while the garage renovations are underway. Once those are done, they will be available for them to come park there again. The garage is tracking a little later than the rest of the park. The park will be done July 19. The garage will be done more toward the end of August or first of September.”