DECATUR — Those interested in the redevelopment of the Nelson Park area have seen a veritable onslaught of documents accompanying the process over the past few years.
By necessity, any large-scale, long-term collaboration between entities such as the Decatur Park District and city creates plenty of paperwork. There have been public meetings with surveys, concept plans, preliminary designs, intergovernmental agreements and zoning changes.
In a well-attended ceremony near the Beach House restaurant Sept. 19, officials and consultants associated with the newly christened “Lakeshore Landing” project spoke in broad strokes of their vision for various areas of the park.
They also released a 210-page manual, called a “brand standards and parkscape sourcebook,” that contains some of the most specific information about the project released yet to date.
“It’s basically a really big step forward in the implementation of a plan,” said Greg Weykamp, a consultant who has been heavily involved with the lakefront development. “It might look like more paper and no results, but I think what you’re seeing is the work for phase one is really the first physical expression of the book.”
Weykamp’s design firm, Edgewater Resources, developed the book along with Weber Group Inc., DCC Marketing, local architect Larry Livergood and engineer Phil Cochran.
The book depicts logos for several distinct areas:
- Historic Nelson Park, which includes the dog park and disc golf course that were constructed last year;
- Pier 36, which refers to a stretch of shoreline near the Beach House that is slated to include shops and restaurants;
- Overlook Adventure Park, which is planned to include two miniature golf courses, an indoor and outdoor water park and a resort or hotel;
- Chandler Cove, which is the area proposed for condominium-style residential developments;
- Scovill Park, where biking and walking trails are planned as part of ongoing construction.
Nelson Park is to have a “classic” architectural style, while Pier 36 is to have a “transitional” style and Overlook Adventure Park is to have an “exuberant” style. The book describes acceptable building materials and color schemes to be used in each.
The pages also contain information about the types of benches, trash cans, drinking fountains, lights and even chains to be used in each area of the park. There are guidelines about what type of “public art” would fit well into the design. There is also a section of “recommended plantings” in different categories: native grasses, native perennials, deciduous and coniferous trees, and shrubs.
“The whole idea was, we want everything to look the same as construction happens or as new things are added,” said Chris Riley, president of the park district board of commissioners.
Portions of the book also define the project’s “brand identity,” how the planners want others to view the finished product.
“A rebranded Lakeshore identity will help parkgoers change their perceptions of Nelson Park and Lake Decatur,” it reads. “When the citizens of Decatur and Macon County think of the water and recreating by the water, they will think of Decatur’s Lakeshore Landing. The Lakefront will be known as ‘the place to be’ for relaxation, dining and entertainment, active adventure sports and even living.”
Riley said some negative perceptions of the lake might be that it is dirty or unsafe, or the area is run-down. He said some boat docks in the Nelson Park area are in bad shape.
“We need consistency,” he said. “When you go to nice communities and you see beautiful boat docks, I mean, it makes you want to spend more time there whether you own a boat or not. To me, that’s how I look at it.”
The book does include information about “marina elements,” such as the docking material, used to construct new docks in front of the Beach House restaurant.
Planners have said they would like all the lake’s docks to look the same. However, information about how those docks might be managed, how changes might be implemented and how much more they will cost has yet to be determined by city and park district officials.
Weykamp said having all of the design information in one place makes for a more efficient process for future developers. He said it could also help give peace of mind to any potential donors, whose financial contributions will be necessary for some project elements to succeed.
“We’ve never been shy about the fact that getting the waterfront built is going to be a collaboration between the city and the park district, public support — you know, philanthropy, and also corporate contributions,” Weykamp said. “So one of the things that you really need to have in place, particularly when you’re asking somebody to provide philanthropic donations, is that they have a sense of confidence that the things around there are going to be of an appropriate quality.
“You’re not going to name something after your mother if you’re worried that the thing next door would embarrass her.”
Riley said the book would serve the project well as the park district and city continue to look for development partners over the next 10 to 20 years.
“The park board is going to change,” Riley said. “So you want to set that up now so it stays consistent no matter really, (who are the) staff or park board commissioners.
“You set the tone now and just let it ride.”