City Council greenlights Block 34 improvements

Provided A rendering of one of the possible options for a performance stage in downtown Stillwater. The Block 34 Trust was approved to seek funding for the stage and move ahead with design plans.

After years of study and debate, Block 34 is about to start making visible progress toward becoming a welcoming, multi-purpose, public space. The vacant lot east of the Stillwater Community Center is owned by the City of Stillwater, which has been weighing options for developing it since 2012.

“Historically, downtown Block 34 has been used as an industrial/commercial site. This legacy left unsightly abandoned alleyways, boggy green spaces and significant mobility challenges,” a report submitted by City Manager Norman McNickle said.

After reading that report and hearing a presentation from Block 34 Trust Authority Chairman Jim Beckstrom, the Stillwater City Council approved a plan to begin tearing out the unused alleyways that divide the block, address drainage issues, level the ground and install sod.

The goal is to have it complete in time for a series of holiday pop-up shops the Council approved for Block 34 starting in November.

City staff believes combining the work with work that is already being done to bury utility lines will yield savings. The City will use $70,000 from an unused balance left over from the previous fiscal year combined with funding that was already approved to create walkways for the pop-up shops.

The Council also authorized the Trust to move forward with securing funding for a stage to be built on the northwest corner of the block. Once funding is secured, the trust is authorized to begin the design and construction process.

The Council had two design options, each with a smaller or a larger stage. In the end the councilors authorized the Trust to proceed with the larger version of an open-air design that has a roof of intersecting corrugated steel panels above a concrete slab and stone retaining walls.

The cost is estimated at up to $450,000.

Also pertaining to Block 34, the Council approved a conceptual design for a mural that will be painted on the wooden fence that surrounds the footing of a large wind turbine installed last spring on the southwest corner of the block. The design incorporates colors inspired by a Native American palette and the flowing abstract design being proposed is meant to represent the city’s energy, Block 34 Task Force member Victoria Berry said.

The goal is to have the mural completed by September. The artists creating it are volunteering their time so there will be no cost to the City of Stillwater, Berry said.

Twitter: @mcharlesNP