Railyard Park and the Bigger Picture
Monday, November 19, 2018on
Guest Blog Post by John McCurdy with The City of Rogers (originally posted at Rogersar.gov) The Frisco park redesign project is just one part of a very much larger ongoing plan to revitalize downtown Rogers. In the fall of 2014, the Rogers-Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce published “Vision 2030,” a resident-driven strategic plan for the entire Rogers-Lowell area that provided a 15-year roadmap to deal with everything from population growth, infrastructure improvements, economic development, and education. An entire section was devoted to the future of downtown Rogers. The six specific downtown recommendations from Vision 2030 were then incorporated into the Downtown Rogers Initiative Plan, published in July 2015. As with Vision 2030, the Downtown Rogers Initiative Plan drew heavily on public input through charrettes, focus groups, surveys, and other less formal interactions. Among the specific recommendations found in the Initiative plan were a Frisco Park redesign that would more clearly unite the Railyard Bike Park with Frisco Park, and provide a more inviting gateway to Lake Atalanta; improvements to Arkansas Street and its adjacent streets east of downtown; improvements to Monte Ne Road to provide better access to areas to the southeast; and the provision of multimodal transportation improvements through paths, trails, sidewalks, improved lighting, increased on-street parking, and enhanced transit opportunities. Frisco Park sits at the center of this much broader strategic effort. Drawing on the regional and even national equity of the Railyard Bike Park, the new “Railyard Park” with its iconic Frisco logo, will serve as a gateway spanning east and west downtown Rogers through the Railyard Bike Park to Lake Atalanta and beyond. Its primary function is to serve as a vibrant hub of recreational and economic activity. The Park redesign parallels a massive improvement project to provide an easy, direct limited-access route from downtown Rogers to the new Walmart headquarters along I-49 and other points north. We will rebuild Arkansas Street, continuing the work completed under the previous bond south of downtown Rogers along Monte Ne and South Arkansas Street. Arkansas Street will be realigned to the north around RIMCO, and connect to the Easy Street extension project, making downtown Rogers a much more convenient and attractive destination to live, work or play, with the Railyard Park as its centerpiece. Other street improvements related to the Railyard Park project include a Poplar Street redesign from downtown to Dixieland to improve accessibility for bicycles and pedestrians, improve school safety, and enhance the street’s aesthetics. Poplar will flow through the park to the east, and connect to a new hard surface trail leading to Lake Atalanta. Parking has been an overarching concern throughout the project. The Downtown Initiative Plan included specific recommendations to increase the total inventory of on-street parking spaces throughout downtown, and this plan is being refined through a parking study and design project that will be executed next year. Throughout the park redesign the city has worked closely with business owners, land owners, and the general public to receive and incorporate input. Ross-Barney Architects, the design firm chosen for the park redesign, was able to keep the total number of parking spaces within the park project boundaries essentially the same as before. With the addition of on-street parking along Arkansas, Poplar, Walnut, Elm, and other adjacent streets, the total number of parking spots in the area around the park will be increased significantly. We continue to look for additional parking, and depending on final negotiations with the Arkansas and Missouri railroad over right-of-way widths, we hope to be able to add additional parking along the park perimeter. A new bicycle trail loop will connect downtown Rogers to the Razorback Regional Greenway from Blossom Way Creek to the south through the Rogers Activity Center, Regional Sports Park, and then along Turtle and Osage Creeks. This loop will allow Razorback Greenway users to easily access downtown Rogers, bringing thousands of new visitors to downtown Rogers. In addition to bicycle connectivity, the park will incorporate both bus and train stops. An Ozark Regional Transit stop and park-and-ride lot at the south end of the park will provide transit access to and from uptown Rogers, midtown, and eventually the new Walmart headquarters campus. As part of a regional transit plan, the Railyard will provide a beautiful transit origin/destination for both commuters as well as recreational users, shoppers, cyclists, and tourists. Finally, the city has set aside funds to create a water and sewer master plan to serve both the existing downtown area as well as the area east of the tracks with sufficient capacity to support future development. Due to terrain challenges, the lack of sewer east of Arkansas has limited commercial and residential development in the past. The next step will be to work closely with developers to redevelop existing structures, and build new facilities east around the Railyard Bike Park, along the new Monte Ne Road project, and along Arkansas Street. For America’s downtowns to survive, they must be accessible and lived in. With our parks, new roads, and infrastructure in place, downtown Rogers is poised to thrive well into the future. Throughout each stage of this process, beginning with Vision 2030, the Downtown Initiative Plan, Lake Atalanta, the Railyard Bike Park, and now the Railyard Park, city officials have acted as facilitators between citizens and nationally-renowned consultants and design firms to ensure every initiative is taken and each decision is made based on extensive public input. The result has been a series of programs that exude both a contemporary notion of excellence and a firm foundation rooted in the past. This conversation is on-going, and you are always encouraged to join in. The overwhelming desire consistently expressed by the people of Rogers is to ensure we never lose our authentic sense of place. With everyone’s help, we will continue to grow as a unique, authentic community, special in our own way within Northwest Arkansas.