Carmel Central Park project keeping contractors busy: $55M project on Monon won't open until 2007

March 28, 2005

There won't be skyscrapers, horsedrawn carriages or a subway stop, but come 2007, Carmel will have its very own Central Park.

Officials broke ground in November on the 161-acre site bordered by College Avenue, 116th Street, Westfield Avenue and 111th Street. When completed, Central Park will be the largest in the Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation 280-acre system.

The $55 million project isn't anywhere near the scope of the New York City original, but construction manager Geupel DeMars Hagerman still has a Gotham-size task on its hands.

The locally based firm is overseeing the construction of a 147,000-square-foot indoor recreation center, an outdoor aquatics park, a skateboarding park, a lagoon, multi-use paths and man-made wetlands. The popular Monon Trail cuts through the site and will be incorporated into the park.

To date, eight contracts have been awarded to subcontractors, while others are still expected to be handed out. Williams Associates Architects, based in Carol Stream, Ill., designed the park.

Now that the construction phase has begun, one of the biggest challenges, according to GDH Executive Vice President Dave Hall, will be getting all the work done without disturbing nearby residents over the next two years.

"Our biggest concern is making sure while we go through two years of construction that neighbors not only under stand what's going on, but also have a way of communicating with us," Hall said.

To that end, the firm has set up a telephone hot line and e-mail account for questions and comments. Residents can also find out what is taking place by reading periodic newsletters updating the project. About 200 households receive the electronic newsletter, according to Hall.

The lines of communication have been open since last fall, when preliminary work on building pads began. Since the recent ground breaking, GDH has begun laying the foundation for the indoor Monon Community Recreation Center, which will serve as the park's main attraction.

The two-story center will actually consist of two buildings straddling the Monon Trail. The west side of the complex will include a natatorium with six-lane lap pool and zero-depth entrance leisure pool, three-court gymnasium, indoor walking and jogging track, workout center, trailside café and baby-sitting service for facility users.

The eastern half of the center will include classrooms and meeting space for recreation programs, a multi-use banquet and catering facility and offices for the Parks and Recreation Department. The two buildings will span the trail with a second-story pedestrian bridge.

"The challenge will be to keep the trail open throughout the construction period," Hall said, adding that officials plan to do so. When the trail was closed for about two months last fall during preliminary site work, undeterred trail users scaled fences.

This time around, fences will be placed around the trail for safety, and viewing areas will be provided so walkers, runner and bicyclists can watch the project's progress.

Once the center's foundation is completed this spring, GDH will spend the summer adding structural steel. Walls and enclosures will go up over the fall and winter, while the building's interior will take shape throughout 2006.

The entire project is slated for completion in December 2006, so the park will be ready to open as scheduled in spring 2007, Hall said.

The recreation center will be the most time-consuming and expensive portion of the project, costing some $24 million. Another $7 million has been set aside for outdoor aquatic facilities, including a 25-meter lap pool, an activity pool, kids' pools, slides, a winding pool known as a "lazy river" and a splash pool.

About $10 million will be spent on infrastructure. Part of that budget will go toward making sure any wetlands that are destroyed during construction are created elsewhere on the grounds, as state law requires.

"The park is riddled with wetlands, some of which are being mitigated and relocated," said Mark Westermeier, director of the Carmel Clay Parks and Recreation Department. "All the wetlands had to be protected."

The remaining $14 million in the budget is allocated toward design costs, management costs and purchases of items such as park benches, Westermeier said.

Financing was finalized last fall with the sale of a $55 million bond. The bond will be managed by Clay Township and repaid over 20 years with property taxes from the township and the city of Carmel.

Money will also come from admission fees to the Monon Community Recreation Center and the outdoor aquatic facilities, though other areas of the park will not require admission.

Fee amounts have yet to be established, according to the department's Web site, but it says Carmel Clay residents will receive discounted rates.

Operating costs for the recreation center and outdoor water activities will be funded exclusively by the admission fees, not tax dollars.
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