North Park Mini Park finally in the works for parking lot behind theater

The half-acre park approved in 2012 is more urban plaza than green space, but it’s meant to create a connection between homes and businesses.


An urban park in the heart of North Park is now approaching its long-awaited groundbreaking, scheduled for later this year.

Last week, the city began soliciting construction bids for North Park Mini Park, a half-acre park and plaza with family friendly amenities. It will take the place of the asphalt lot behind the historic North Park Theater now known as the Observatory. The solicitation marks a turning point for the capital improvement project, which was originally approved by the Parks and Recreation Board in 2012. Its construction was on hiatus until funding could be secured.

The city is accepting bids for construction through Aug. 14 and expects to award a $2.7 million contract in November. The project cost is estimated at $3.5 million when including staff time and other costs, and the project is fully funded, according to documents prepared by the city. Construction work is estimated to take around 10 months, meaning the park should open to the public in the winter of 2020.

As designed, North Park Mini Park is more of a public plaza than a green space, intended for everyday recreational use. The plan includes a climbing structure for kids, interactive music pieces, a concrete stage for performances and a large screen for outdoor movie viewings. The plaza area will also have concrete tables and chairs, game tables and may feature additional entertainment options such as a supersized chess set.

A so-called monument wall that spells out North Park in large, concrete letters will usher people into the plaza and double as an alternative seating option.

The park will rely on a large grove of trees to provide shade. The trees also serve to buffer park-goers from surrounding streets Granada Avenue, North Park Way and 29th Street.

The overall idea is to build an urban park that matches North Park’s eclectic vibe and breaks up the building-centric nature of the community’s entertainment district. Even seemingly ancillary features should add character to the site. A large pylon will, for instance, be used to help direct visitors but also look like an art installation. And decorative archways, or pergolas, are meant to be both functional and fun to look at.

The little park is a small win for the North Park community, which is deficient in park space. The neighborhood had 16.37 acres of existing park space when the updated community plan was adopted in October 2016. The region’s future, total build-out population of 73,170 residents necessitates 204.88 acres of usable park land, according to the city’s rubric (2.8 acres of public park land for ever 1,000 population).

North Park Mini Park’s revived status is the result of being placed atop the list of neighborhood priorities coinciding with the community plan update. It is being paid for through development impact fees, which are imposed on new developments and meant to finance public facilities.