Cambridge Council discusses future of Cambridge City Park

A band shell, disc golf course and pedestrian bridge are just a few of the new amenities planned for Cambridge City Park.

During the Cambridge City Council meeting Aug. 19, Public Works Director Steve Wegwerth outlined the City Park draft master plan. City Park is located at 810 Second Ave. SW.

The Cambridge City Park Draft Master Plan was presented during the Aug. 19 City Council meeting. The plan includes a band shell, a fishing pier, restroom facilities, a pedestrian bridge, a disc golf course, a playground area, picnic areas and more.
The Cambridge City Park Draft Master Plan was presented during the Aug. 19 City Council meeting. The plan includes a band shell, a fishing pier, restroom facilities, a pedestrian bridge, a disc golf course, a playground area, picnic areas and more. Image courtesy of City Engineer Todd Blank, SEH

Wegwerth explained the Cambridge Parks, Trails and Recreation Commission began looking at the master plan for City Park at the beginning of the year. He mentioned the Commission also met with the Rotary Club, as well as neighborhood residents, to discuss park improvements.

“We’ve had a lot of ideas and multiple plans, but we’ve finally merged everything into one plan,” Wegwerth said. “We’ve spent a lot of time on this, and I think the commission has done an excellent job of putting everything together.”

Current amenities at City Park include a tennis and volleyball court, two sets of playground equipment, picnic shelters, benches, a sledding hill, Works Progress Administration-period park structures and a scenic overlook.

Some of the renovations to the park include a band shell, disc golf course, parking lots, rebuilding the fire ring, open spaces, playground areas, restroom facilities, trail construction, picnic shelters and benches, gated entries and more.

Wegwerth said total project costs are estimated at $5 million, but noted the estimate is high. He said the improvements will be completed in four or five different phases.

He explained the first phase will consist of developing the band shell, as well as the restroom facilities and playground equipment also slated for that area. This first phase is estimated to cost nearly $1.7 million.

After discussion, the council approved a motion to direct staff to complete a Legacy Grant application for improvements to City Park as presented with a maximum 10 percent match from the city for each phase of the improvements.

Wegwerth explained the city has $134,482 set aside for City Park plan improvements. City Administrator Lynda Woulfe noted the city may receive an additional $100,000 from Northbound Municipal Liquor store at the end of year that can also be put toward park improvements.

“I think in years to come, this is really an investment for our future,” Cambridge Mayor Marlys Palmer said. “This project really makes our entire day worth it.”

The council also gave a “thumbs-up” to start the process of building one softball field and one baseball field at Sandquist Family Park and to expend up to $260,000 in park funds to develop those fields.

YMCA discussion

Council Member Howard “Howie” Lewis approached the council about forming an exploratory group to determine the viability of bringing a YMCA to the city.

Palmer said the city looked into bringing a YMCA to the city around 2008 and formed a YMCA task force committee. She explained the YMCA representatives didn’t feel the city could support a YMCA at that time.

“A lot of people want to see a YMCA in Cambridge and have an opportunity to build toward that,” Lewis said. “This city has changed a lot in the past five years: Our economy is up, our building permits are up, our stock market has doubled, and our population has grown.”

Lewis noted, when talking to members who served on the YMCA task force, there were concerns mothers and families weren’t represented.

Council Member Corey Bustrom said during his campaign, there was a lot of interest from residents to bring a YMCA to Cambridge.

Woulfe explained discussions with the YMCA ceased a few years ago when the City Council said it would not issue $10 million in bonds to build a facility.

Following discussion, the council directed staff to reconvene a meeting with the YMCA task force committee and find out who from that original committee would be interested in serving on a committee again.

Lease agreement amended for Cambridge Center for the Arts

Due to a non-compete clause with a current tenant at Cambridge City Center Mall, the Cambridge Center for the Arts move-in date has been delayed. The center has its main office at 144 SE Second Ave.

During the Economic Development Authority meeting held prior to the council meeting, Executive Director Lynda Woulfe explained when she initially read the non-compete clause contained in the lease agreement with In His Steps Ballet, she didn’t view the organization as a competitor with In His Steps.

The non-compete clause states: “Landlord covenants that tenant will have exclusivity during this period of the lease, and for all renewals. Specifically, landlord will not allow any competitor of dance, piano, drama, art or voice to lease at the property as long as the tenant remains current on rental payments.”

The EDA had approved a lease agreement with the Center for the Arts at its June 3 meeting with an expected move-in date of Aug. 1.

Woulfe explained In His Steps owner Lisa McKinnis said she feels the center would be in direct competition. Her business provides piano, vocal, violin, flute and oboe lessons, so this would be in competition if the Arts did the same thing. Woulfe said the city received a letter from an attorney with In His Steps detailing the reasons the business feels the center would be in direct competition with In His Steps.

Woulfe said the revised lease reflects a reduced rent from Jan. 1, 2014, to May 31, 2014, since the lease limits their ability to do business.

“It think both parties can compliment each other very well,” Woulfe said. “The revised lease is in the spirit of compromise, but we will keep working on it.”

Woulfe recommended allowing the Center for the Arts to use its space at City Center Mall free of charge from September through December so it can get its artwork in a climate-controlled storage environment. The center will then move into the space in January and limit activities to visual art and visual art classes such as photography, painting, drawing, etc. until May. The center will maintain its current location on Second Avenue until May.

Following discussion, the EDA approved Woulfe’s recommendation. In the meantime, Woulfe will provide notice to In His Steps Ballet that the city will not allow its lease to go on a month-to-month basis after May 11, 2014, unless different lease language can be negotiated.

Woulfe said she noted in her letter to In His Steps that Center for the Arts representatives would be willing to meet with McKinnis and discuss ways to collaborate together and not compete with each other.

“I hope in the spirit of collaboration, hopefully somehow both of these agencies can work together,” Palmer said. “They both serve a huge need for the city.”