With projects still unfinished, Raleigh mayor eyes another parks bond

Digital Investigations

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – New Raleigh Mayor Mary Ann Baldwin wants to start the next wave of improvements to the city’s parks even though many projects from a prior bond have not yet been completed.

Less than one-fifth of the 27 projects listed in the city’s nearly $92 million bond from 2014 are listed as being finished.

While five are complete, two are in the planning stage, six remain in the design phase and eight more are under construction. The rest are classified either as ongoing or at either 50 or 75 percent complete.

The new mayor is proposing another bond ranging between $100 million and $125 million, adding that the parks department has needs of roughly $300 million due both to the city’s rapid growth and to some facilities slipping over time into a state of disrepair.

“I think you always want to have things in the pipeline, and we know we have parks that need rehabilitation,” Baldwin said. “There’s a ton of parks that people could rattle off and say, ‘We need to get to work on these.’”

Baldwin says she expects to receive polling results on the bond proposal by mid-February and said “we will be discussing this full throttle” in April with a decision due by May 19.

There are still plenty of projects left unfinished from the last parks bond six years ago, when Raleigh voters approved a 1.72-cent increase in the city’s property tax rate that went into effect on July 1, 2015.

The nearly $91.8 million was to pay for a total of 27 projects over a six-year funding schedule from 2015-20. But as of this week, only five projects totaling $8.45 million were listed as complete.

Another five unspecified projects totaling more than $20 million were listed as being either 50 or 75 percent finished, including $8 million in aquatic improvements and $2 million in upgrades for Americans with Disabilities Act compliance. Yet another $10 million has been slotted for ongoing land acquisition.

Two of the most expensive undertakings are still in the early stages.

  • The $12.5 million building of a new community center and renovation of the carousel house at John Chavis Park east of downtown has been under construction since the fall and is expected to finish next spring.
  • And the city says $5.4 million is available for improvements at Baileywick Park in north Raleigh. Initially, $12 million was allocated for the project before City Council reallocated $6.6 million of that total to other projects. The revised plan, which is still in the design phase, calls for a dog park, an upgraded playground and multi-use court space. Bidding is expected to begin this fall with construction starting in 2021.

That project remains the most ambitious of the five still in the design phase. The other four include:

  • The $4.4 million construction of a greenway trail at Crabtree Creek Trail West. Construction is supposed to begin this summer and conclude in Winter 2021. 
  • A $2 million plan for the area near downtown between Capital Boulevard and Peace Street, creating open grass fields and the first segment of a cross-city greenway that eventually will connect the Crabtree Creek Greenway into downtown Raleigh. City spokeswoman Julia Milstead says construction funds for that project were not included in the 2014 bond and could be addressed in the upcoming bond.
  • A new picnic shelter and playground, and a redone parking lot at Brentwood Park at a cost of $2 million. Construction to begin this summer and wrap up the following spring. 
  • A $1 million boardwalk and “interpretive opportunities for sustainable access” into Walnut Creek Wetland Park. The awarding of the bid and the start of construction are both scheduled for later this year.

Among the projects also under construction are:

  • A $6 million expansion and renovation of the Pullen Park Arts Center, connecting it to the Gregg Museum. Construction is supposed to be completed this fall.
  • Construction of River Bend Park north of Interstate 540 in the northeast corner of the city, with the $2 million project expected to be finished this fall.
  • Two top-to-bottom renovations of community centers, each costing $600,000, at Ralph Campbell Neighborhood Center in southeast Raleigh and the Eastgate Park Neighborhood Center in north Raleigh. Construction at both is expected to wrap up this spring.
  • A $500,000 comfort station at Shelley Lake Park north of the Beltline.
  • Two additional projects are still in the planning phase – the $2 million Lassiter Mill/Allegheny Trail, and the $1 million greenway connection to Trenton Road.

Among the completed projects:

  • A $5 million renovation and construction project at the Walnut Creek Athletic Complex in southeast Raleigh for nine renovated baseball and softball fields plus bleachers and a food truck plaza.
  • A $1.25 million improvement to add a picnic shelter, comfort station, playground and other amenities at Mary Belle Pate Park in southwest Raleigh.
  • Spending $1 million to build the Sassafras All-Children’s Playground at Laurel Hills Park in northeast Raleigh.
  • A $700,000 project to replace the picnic shelter, comfort station, playground and basketball court at Kiwanis Park in north Raleigh.
  • A $500,000 renovation of an unspecified historic cemetery.

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