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LAKELAND — The Bonnet Springs Park planners have selected Sasaki, a Massachusetts-based landscape architecture firm with an international reach, to design the proposed 180-acre privately funded park.
“The team we’ve selected has done major waterfront-type parks — urban waterfront parks have been their niche and specialty,” said Bill Tinsley, a former Lakeland Parks and Recreation director who is volunteering his time to the park-building effort.
“The broad base of their firm had a lot of attraction for us because we have so many natural elements,” at the site, which lies between George Jenkins and Memorial boulevards west of Sikes Boulevard, Tinsley said. “One-hundred years ago someone had a vision for Lake Mirror; with this park it is our vision to wrap downtown Lakeland with an amenity that will have that kind of 100-year legacy.”
Sasaki has designed a number of waterfront parks including the Charleston, S.C., Waterfront Park, Chicago Riverwalk and Moore Square in Raleigh, N.C. The firm also designed the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center, a three-story extension to the Capitol built underground to preserve the East Plaza, which is now open to the public.
The firm also has designed major urban greenspace projects in Shanghai and designed the landscape at Euro Disneyland.
A team from the firm will be visiting Lakeland next week for what Tinsley is calling a “power week” where they will meet with city officials, financial backers and the public for an open house.
The meeting will be held Wednesday at the Magnolia Building, 205 E. Orange St. There will be two sessions, from 8:30 to 11 a.m. and from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
Multiple informational stations will be set up inside the Magnolia Building to give visitors a chance to see what it takes to design an urban park.
The Sasaki designers will spend a good amount of time on the property next week as well, Tinsley said.
“The land has historically been earmarked and used for industrial purposes, and this is our opportunity to reclaim it, reverse the environmental impact and transform it into one of the great urban landscapes in the country,” David Bunch said.
The park, much of which was once a freight railyard, was compiled in pieces by Tinsley and Bunch, a commercial real estate broker, who are volunteering their time to the non-profit park project.
The park will be privately funded with the Barnett family leading the charge. The project also will be supported by the sale of the former Florida Tile property on Sikes Boulevard, which planners hope will be developed into a mixed-use commercial and residential area.
The park planners hope to have the first phase of the park open by 2020. The park is expected to include trails, a waterfront restaurant and an outdoor concert venue.