Friday, January 27, 2012
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Draft of plans for APEX at City Center completed

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[January 27, 2012]  Thursday evening there was a public meeting at the Lincoln Park District to unveil the drafted plans for the "APEX @ City Center." 

While the name might not be familiar, the topic is. The APEX is the official name for what was called a health park in the beginning. 

At the first public meeting in October, it was announced that Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital had gifted to the city the property where the old hospital had stood on Eighth Street. 

At that time Mayor Keith Snyder said it was his goal to see a health and wellness facility of some type erected where the hospital once stood. He said it would be a fitting homage to a location that for over 100 years had seen to the health and well-being of Lincoln and Logan County residents. 

At the same time, Snyder announced the Woods Foundation had gifted money for the development of a design for a health and wellness park. 

At the October meeting, Kent Massie of Massie Massie and Associates along with Lisa Kramer of Prairie Engineers had talked about the options available for such a facility. 

In the end a committee was formed and work began on creating a viable plan for the space. 

At the October meeting, there were those who were opposed to the development of another "park' in the city of Lincoln. The most vocal of those was Lincoln resident Ray Payne, who spoke out several times against the plan before leaving the meeting midway through. 

At this week's meeting, Snyder said the committee for the development of a plan had been very active in the last few months, and they had come up with something that would benefit the residents of Lincoln and pay the suitable homage to the old hospital. 

Massie provided a slide show of the initial drawings that have been completed. He said the input of the committee had driven the drawing, and he had gotten really excited over their enthusiasm for the project and the imagination they had put into it. 

The APEX, first of all, is a new name given to the site by Andrea Burris. The name came about when committee member Njere Berry sent out a mass email from her workplace, Lincoln Christian University, asking students and co-workers to offer their suggestions of a name. 

Berry said the response to her request was amazing. She compiled a list of all the suggestions, brought it to the committee, and APEX was the one that stood out. 

APEX is an acronym for Area for Personal Enrichment and eXercise. 

After the name was chosen, the committee's youngest member, Tate Mourning, came up with a logo for the APEX, and it evolved into the APEX @ City Center. 

Massie said the design of the park began with a one-fifth-mile walking path. From there, he inserted circles and ovals into the path to add options for walkers. This is something the committee had felt was important to have. 

The rest of the APEX was then divided into regions, with the central focus being a large mound or hill. The hill is currently designed to have a rope-climbing feature, a boulder-climbing feature and a set of steps, all leading to the top, where there will be wind sculptures.   

Another area of the APEX will have a water feature where children can play in sprinklers. The area will also have a sidewalk around it suitable for roller skating or tricycles for tots. 

A third area will be established for low-impact exercises such as yoga or meditation, and a fourth area is currently designated as an outdoor amphitheater for live entertainment or outdoor movies. 

Throughout the APEX there will be trees, benches and outdoor exercise equipment stations. 

Kramer spoke about what the next steps would be, now that a drawing is completed. She said the plans will first be taken to the Lincoln City Council for their approval. She hopes to do that at their Feb. 28 meeting. 

Once the plans are approved, the next big task will be to secure funding for the project.  She said there are a number of state and federal grants for these types of developments, and there are also possibilities of private donors helping to fund the project. 

Snyder mentioned the city was also gifted the ALMH parking lot on the north side of Eighth Street. He said if that parking lot were sold to a developer for housing, the money from the sale could be invested in the building of the APEX. He noted the size and shape of the lot lent itself to the building of a multi-unit development more than to single-family homes. 

After the talks given by Massie, Kramer and Snyder, the floor was opened for discussion.   

Payne was present once again for this meeting and continued to raise his objections to another park in the city of Lincoln. He said he felt the ideas presented for the APEX could be incorporated into the other city parks, and this property could be developed into housing. 

Bill Gossett, who is a member of the planning committee for the APEX, said he didn't see the need for a housing development. 

Snyder said the property was a gift to the city, and the city didn't intend to sell it for profit. He told Payne if the area can't be used for the good of the community, he would rather see it given back to the hospital. 

Payne said the city gave the property to the hospital in the first place, just as they had given the property to build the new hospital last year. However, Snyder said Payne had been misinformed; the city did not give property to ALMH so they could build their new hospital. 

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Payne also said he didn't believe anyone would use the APEX. He noted the park district was heated in the winter and air-conditioned in the summer and that no one was going to go walking in the extreme heat or cold. However, there were more than a few in the audience who disagreed with him. 

Payne finally asked what would be wrong with putting it on a ballot and asking the taxpayers if they wanted another park. Snyder said the taxpayers would have a voice in the matter through their city aldermen. He told Payne the aldermen will be given the opportunity to decide how to go forward. If voters in their wards have opposition to the APEX, they should contact their aldermen with their concerns. 

Moving on in the discussion, others spoke out in favor of the APEX.  

Among them was Ron Tomczak. Tomczak said his father-in-law, Dr. Ed Ulrich, practiced medicine at ALMH for over 30 years. He said Dr. Ulrich, now deceased, would have been very happy to see the old hospital site being used in this manner. 

He also spoke about living in Chicago for a time and recently returning to find some old buildings gone and a site similar to the APEX in its place. He said it added to the community, and a lot of people were using it. 

Wayne Cox and Berry both spoke about a site in Bloomington that offers many of these same components. Both said they took their families to Bloomington to enjoy that place and would love to be able to have something like it in Lincoln. 

Andy and Melody Anderson were present at the meeting. Andy is a member of the Logan County Board, and Melody is a Ward 1 Alderman. Andy asked Massie if there were other sites in the area like the APEX, and if so, were they successful, did people use them? 

Massie said the APEX is a unique space he has really enjoyed putting together. In other areas there are parks with bits and pieces of the same components, but there is nothing like the APEX. As far as being successful, he said yes, the majority of them are. He added, though, there are a few that are not, and he sees that as being due to a lack of involvement and proper planning. 

Alderwoman Kathy Horn also commented, saying the APEX was creating a place for the imagination. There are no typical playground areas in the APEX; it has spaces that will allow people to imagine for themselves what they are. 

Other items that were discussed involved parking. Snyder pointed out there is one short bank of parking along Walnut Street specifically for the APEX, but there is also an abundance of street-side parking. 

It was also pointed out there will be a bike parking area, and it is hoped that many folks will bike, walk or run to and from the park. 

Cox also commented about what a place like this can do to attract people into the community. Cox's wife is Dr. Melissa Cox, who practices medicine in Lincoln. He said there was a time when she was involved in trying to draw new doctors into the community, and for many of them, they felt Lincoln didn't have enough family-oriented activity spaces; they wanted more from a community if they were going to bring their families into it. 

Mike Maniscalco of the Lincoln & Logan County Development Partnership also spoke about this, saying investing in the community was attractive to those he is trying to bring in. He said it was good to be able to say to a company looking to come to Lincoln: "This community invests in itself; why don't you invest in it too?"  He said what he saw was exciting for economic development, and he looks forward to seeing the APEX completed. 

As the evening wound down, another topic was introduced. Snyder said he would like to work with Marsha Greenslate and Roy Logan of the Lincoln Park District at some time in the future to develop a city park master plan. The city of Lincoln does have small parks scattered throughout the city and the larger Memorial Park on the city's far west edge. Snyder said it would be good to look at all the parks in the city and see what needs to be done to make them better for the community. 

Snyder said if the plans for the APEX @ City Center are approved by the council in February, he hopes to put together a fresh committee for the purpose of finding the funds to build it. He noted that there are, as Kramer said earlier, grants that can be applied for, but he also believes there are people in Lincoln who will contribute. He said as a matter of fact, he's already heard from some who do want to help, and he will be contacting them when the time is appropriate. 


See copy of concept plan.


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