When discussing the keys to renovating downtown Plant City, it’s impossible to ignore the untapped potential in McCall Park. The city has agreed to enter a concept phase for sprucing up the space.
One of downtown’s most iconic destinations, McCall Park, is facing a promising future.
Stretching from one side of the downtown core to the other the park acts as a divider as much as a beacon for downtown. The list of events centered around the park that are held every year is near-endless and regardless of what time of day you head downtown, you’ll always find someone lounging in the gazebo, reading under the shade of the trees or chatting with a friend on one of its many benches. However, outside of the events scheduled downtown, attendance at the park is never high.
The untapped potential has been stirring beneath the surface for years. Now, it seems the city is ready to begin exploring the possibility of adapting McCall Park to meet the needs of generations to come. During a special commission meeting on Dec. 9, Community Design Solutions, a consultant group hired by Main Street Plant City and the City of Plant City to create a downtown vision plan, said the city would benefit from considering renovating the park.
“Plant City has a gem in McCall Park,” Tripp Muldrow, a presenter with CDS, said. “We’re recommending some really radical changes, but ultimately it’s up to the city to choose how far they want to go if they decide to rework the park. We want to highlight its family friendliness, to make it a destination downtown for people of all ages. If people are coming just for the park they’re bound to wander outside of it, which will benefit the businesses surrounding the area.”
CDS presented two suggestions. The first was to preserve the existing oak trees and bathroom in the park and to add a water amenity —like a splash pad — and lawn space. They also discussed adding vibrancy to the site by incorporating colorful vegetation and activities, whether that be movable lawn games or fixed amenities.
The lawn space would also benefit events held in the park as it would have a focal point for crowds. The second suggestion was more intense as it would require the city to remove or possibly relocate the approximately 20 parking spaces along Drane Street. With those gone, there is more room for renovation including adding a wider green space and increasing visibility and the presence of the park. The green space allows for more amenities to draw people to the park. This plan also focused on adding a splash pad or water amenity to the park.
There has already been a push in the community for renovating McCall Park, so the suggestion was by no means new information for city leadership. However, the discussion spurred City Manager Bill McDaniel to officially add it to his to-do list. Commissioners unanimously approved the idea, so the conversion is now officially on the table.
“I think McCall Park has served us well, but I do believe it’s time to update it and turn it into a space the people today want to have and be able to use,” McDaniel said. “It needs a little bit of pizazz put into it. I think it’s a great park, but like the consultant showed, there are other uses that you need open spaces for and so forth, and it’s time to refresh the park. Right now we’re entering a concept phase. This won’t be a design, this won’t be anything we can build from. It’s just a concept. We will have an expert look at it and we give them all this input. We share with them the consultant’s recommendations and suggestions. We get input from all of the stakeholders and we let a design professional come up with a concept or multiple concepts for us to choose from. I love pictures. Listen to me and then show me a picture of what I’m trying to get you to see. I think that would be very helpful for everyone to see what the possibilities might be.”
Before any of the plans in McCall Park ever see true action, however, the city is prepared to add a new touch to the current park. McDaniel said the plan is to add special lights to the park year-round. The Christmas lights are always a massive hit and they lead to pedestrians flocking downtown to take in the unique decorations. Lights add ambiance to a space and the tentative plan is to introduce string lights to the area.
“I see it up in the trees and there might be some crossings on say the Drane Street areas where we run the lighting across the street and the parking areas,” McDaniel said. “I just see that bringing a whole other level of quality, ambiance and appeal to it. Maybe it’s the kind of thing that helps to draw people in to downtown after dark.”