Crite Park gets a start with nomination for $250K CPA grant

The Friends of Crite Park have taken one step in the right direction to completely change the landscape and programming for Crite Park in the South End with a $250,000 Community Preservation Act (CPA) grant  awarded to them last Thursday.

The grant is still contingent upon approval by the City Council in March, and the signature of the mayor, both of which are expected.

Cheryl Dickinson, president of the Crite Park effort, said they were overjoyed by the grant, but it is only Phase 1 in what is now a five-phase project.

“I hope people are patient with us because it’s going to take time due to funding,” she said. “We are working vigorously to do this as quickly as we can so it’s ready to go further. Phase 2 may not have all the furniture in place yet, but we can bring lawn chairs and still have our programming. The key to our message now is we will remain committed until our work through the funding and it’s complete. Then wait until you see what the programming will be like then.”

Crite Park is not more than a brick wall stopover with some overgrown, and some dead, trees at the zenith of West Canton, Appleton and Columbus Avenue. Named after the late, famed African American painter Allan Rohan Crite of the South End, the park had seen better days when the Friends began working in tandem with the Ellis South End Neighborhood Association, Councilor Ed Flynn, Crite’s widow and a number of other partners with the goal of making it more of a destination and less of a stopover.

The Phase 1 funding will cover the cost of demolishing the brick wall that’s currently there, getting rid of the dead trees, transferring some of the unwanted plantings to the Southwest Corridor Park, grading the site, putting in irrigation and hardscaping the site.

The Community Preservation Committee (CPC) asked that the project, estimated at around $950,000 in total, be broken up into five phases in order to be funded this time around. One of the issues with the project is that is has to be re-created and not just refurbished.

“We have to do it one by one now in five phases,” said Dickinson. “The project is so big and we’re not just building a new park; we’re establishing a new site by demolishing something that’s already there. This is just to set it up so it can be built on.”

She said Phase 2 would likely include the historically-appropriate frames for the pergolas and the lighting. Phase 3 would include the granite curbing on the site, the fencing and the street furniture in the park. Phase 4 would be the plantings and trees, and Phase 5 would include the extras like the all-weather Crite painting of the South End that will grace the centerpiece of the park.

Dickinson said they would be competing for other grants from the Henderson Foundation and the Browne Fund – as well as a robust private fundraising effort also. She said they will have to return to the CPC for future funding rounds as well.

“The message here right now is we’re not stopping until this is complete,” reiterated Dickinson.

The work on Phase 1 is expected to begin in the summer after the grant money is approved and delivered. A design has already been completed and submitted and vetted by the community as well.

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