City invests $6.5 million in Stephenson Park
Edmond’s oldest park is getting an upgrade. Stephenson Park has undergone construction as part of the city’s $6.5 million investment in the public space and surrounding areas. Stretching from Litter to Boulevard between 4th and 5th Streets, the park has a rich history and a bright future serving Edmond.
According to the Edmond History Museum, the 3.1-acre green space was donated to the City of Edmond in 1892 as “South Park.” It was renamed after then-City Manager Fred M. Stephenson in 1934, which is also the year of the most recent park renovations.
Those improvements included tennis courts, a rock garden, additional greenery, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Building (now American Legion), and the Edmond Armory. As recent conversations about the new investment began, the City of Edmond and Assistant City Manager of Administration Andy Conyers understood the importance of preserving the original elements of the park that have served generations of local families.
“One of the overriding goals of the park portion of this project was to make sure we honor the history of this special place,” Conyers said. “Some ways we believe we are accomplishing that is by preserving the WPA signs on the northwest and northeast corners, as well as the rock bridges.”
The city hired consulting firm Freese and Nichols to begin gathering feedback from citizens in 2018 to ensure the community was in support of the upgrades. One of the most important considerations was the playground area, which included the historic 1960s rocket ship slide. The landmark was removed in September but will stay in the area.
“We are refurbishing and repurposing the rocket ship slide as an iconic art piece,” Conyers said. “The project also includes adding green space, upgrading stormwater infrastructure and water infrastructure, adding new lighting, and a new playground area.”
The city’s investment expands beyond the park area to 4th and 5th Streets and the ground below. The goal is to create a space that better serves both individual community members and the surrounding business development.
“I would describe the project as having three components that are focused on the area around the park, not just the park,” Conyers said. “The first component is the upgrades to the park, which include building a pavilion, new playground equipment, a resurfaced basketball court, and new picnic tables.”
The upgrades will create more passive, open spaces and encourage additional community events. To support the improvements to the park, the area required more functional upgrades.
“The second component is streetscape improvements to 4th Street between Boulevard and Littler,” Conyers said. “The improvements will include 55 parking stalls, street lighting, trees, and landscaping.”
5th Street is now open again after underground detention work, and 4th street recently closed to start its significant makeover. The entire street will be redesigned and rebuilt over the next few months, with a projected reopening date of July 2023.
“The third component is the portion that is taking place right now, adding stormwater infrastructure,” Conyers said. “This will not only meet the current needs of the area but also act as a catalyst to future redevelopment of the areas directly north of the park.”
The stormwater infrastructure will act as regional detention for the entire park and beyond. It will allow for maximum use of the developable land in the area rather than the previous method of parcel-by-parcel detention. The city hopes this will support existing tenants and attract more businesses to the block.
“After construction is complete, it’s our hope that all three components will make a great area even better,” Conyers said. “The park improvements will lead to more visitors, the parking associated with the streetscape will lead to economic development, and the stormwater detention will help promote redevelopment.”
With the street closures and significant construction, businesses surrounding the park have felt the effects, including the Edmond History Museum located on the southeast corner of Stephenson Park.
“During the construction, we understand that the area businesses will be faced with some challenges, and we encourage everyone to frequent these establishments,” Conyers said. “The Edmond History Museum will remain open; however, some of the programming they traditionally have in the park will be inconvenienced. They have been a great partner throughout this process and see the benefits the improvements will bring.”
The project is expected to be complete in 2023, and despite some unsurprising supply chain issues, the city is working hand-in-hand with the contractor to meet the 240-calendar-day construction timeline. City officials say the community has been supportive throughout the process.
“Their reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, and we have been in communication with them since the early stages of the project,” Conyers said. “We appreciate your patience, and hang with us during construction because the finished product will be worth it!”
Conyers and his team strive to communicate with the community often but recognize they can always improve. He encourages anyone with questions to reach out to his direct line at (405) 359-4728.
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About Tim Priebe
Tim is a public speaker, author, publisher of Edmond Business, and the owner of T&S Online Marketing. He helps businesses that are worried they don’t have the expertise or time required to invest in doing their own digital marketing. He helps them plan where and how much to invest and often helps execute the plan.
Tim started the Edmond Business online magazine in May 2020 to fill a need in the community when The Edmond Sun shut down and stopped publishing their monthly magazine, The Business Times.