Riverfront Park (KGW)

A drawing of the proposed Riverfront Park.

Work on the long-discussed Riverfront Park in downtown Fredericksburg is expected to begin in March, weather permitting.

City Council voted 6–1 earlier this month to award an approximately $4.56 million contract to Athena Construction Group in Triangle for the 3.63-acre park project in the 700 block of Sophia Street. Athena was one of two bids the city received for the project, and both were lower than the $5 million the city had budgeted. McDonnell Landscape Inc. of Brookeville, Md., bid approximately $4.73 million.

City officials and a Riverfront Park task force have been eyeing various plans for the property for about a decade. The final version calls for two intersecting, semicircular promenades that help divide the property. It includes a picnic area, a permanent stage, two play areas for children, an interactive water feature, a restroom and parking areas. There would also be a meadow with a mowed path where the land slopes down to the waterfront.

Athena’s contract includes construction of sidewalks, paths, the water feature and utilities for restrooms, said Assistant City Manager Doug Fawcett. It does not include the stage, lighting and fencing that were in the original design, but they are included as separate “add alternates.”

“We are working to get some, if not all, of the add alternates included in the contract, through negotiation with the contractor, substitution of product and/or use of private funds, so it’s premature to say those features will be in the next phase,” he said.

“I am thrilled to see, after a decade of working on this, that it’s coming to fruition,” said Council member Kerry Devine. “It’s another amenity that the community can enjoy.”

But fellow Council member Matt Kelly said he is still concerned about the city spending so much money on the park when there are other pressing needs, and about how the design takes away some of the parking spaces downtown. He said he wasn’t aware that the stage had been dropped from the contract, and worries that the park will get flooded. He cast the sole vote against it.

Council member Tim Duffy complimented city staff for finding ways to preserve some of the parking spaces on the park site, which contains an unpaved parking lot.

“I think this is going to benefit the city in ways we can’t even know of yet,” he said.

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Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407

cjett@freelancestar.com

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