A long-awaited dream moved a step closer to becoming reality this past Tuesday, when Rosemary District Association board members presented an outsized check for $120,000 to the city as its part in paying for land in their neighborhood that will become a park in the rapidly growing district.
Plans for a park in the area stretch all the way back to 2000, when the city created a downtown master plan with the help of architect and urban planner Andres Duany. But with the recent burgeoning of the Rosemary District—home to a mix of retail, subsidized housing, traditional condos and newer apartment buildings, with a population of 3,400—the need for green space became more pressing.
According to Rosemary District Association president Debbie Trice, it took time to find a property owner willing to sell. Eventually, a two-parcel quarter-acre of land in the heart of the neighborhood, at Central Avenue and Boulevard of the Arts, became available. But a partnership with the city was needed to make a purchase possible.
The owner wanted more than $1 million for the land. A property appraisal during the tenure of former City Manager Tom Barwin found the property’s worth to be $890,000. Someone needed to come up with the difference of $120,000.
Enter RDA board member David Lough, a newish Rosemary resident, who, with fellow board member Jim Lampl, spearheaded the effort to raise that sum, primarily from some large donors in the community, but with smaller contributions along the way from Rosemary dwellers, fostering a sense of ownership. Lough says it took about three weeks to meet that goal, with the Gulf Coast Community Foundation handling the donations for the neighborhood, as the foundation has the necessary 501 (c)(3) status.
The current property owner will remain in place until July. Then the two 1950s-era concrete block buildings on the site will be demolished, and design work on the park will commence. While construction will not being until next year sometime, Lough says perhaps some irrigation and sod can be installed after demolition to at least make a start towards creating what he hopes will be a “unique community park.”
Closing on the sale is slated for Jan. 29.