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Depot Park, Phases 1 & 2

Landscape Performance Benefits

Environmental

  • Manages and treats an estimated 600 million gallons of stormwater from downtown Gainesville annually. The purchase of stormwater credits under the City’s trading program has generated over $657,000 to date.
  • Improves water quality by reducing the concentration of cadmium by 60%, chromium by 55%, copper by 71%, zinc by 76%, ammonia by 69%, total phosphorus by 65%, and total suspended solids by 56% on average for 6 monitored rain events.
  • Sequesters 13 tons of atmospheric carbon annually in 315 newly-planted trees. The trees will sequester a projected 31 tons of atmospheric carbon annually after 10 years.
  • Provides habitat for over 130 bird species observed by citizen scientists.

Social

  • Improves recreation and leisure opportunities according to 75% of 325 surveyed visitors. 63% of surveyed visitors report they visit the park for at least 3 types of activities. Respondents are most attracted to the park for exercise, contact with nature, spending time with friends and family, children’s recreational opportunities, and eating and drinking.
  • Enhances social interactions with 53% of 324 surveyed visitors reporting they get to know new people in the park. 87% of respondents meet with family and/or friends in the park, with 32% of them meeting at least once a month.
  • Encourages repeat visits and longer stay times. Of 325 surveyed visitors, 56% reported spending more than 1 hour in the park during each visit. In terms of frequency, 64% reported visiting the park at least once a month, 31% at least once a week, and 3% about once a day.
  • Serves local users and draws users from around the city as demonstrated by more than 97% of 325 surveyed visitors reporting that they live in Gainesville, and 64% reporting that they live within 5 miles of the park.
  • Improves the perceived health of park visitors with 60% of 325 surveyed visitors reporting the park has improved their physical health and 65% reporting the park has improved their mental health.
  • Improves family relationships with 51% of 325 surveyed visitors reporting that the park has improved their family relationships. 185 of these visitors reported visiting the park for the playground and/or for a family reunion, and of these, 73% felt that the park has improved their family relationships.
  • Improves park users’ sense of community according to 61% of 325 surveyed visitors. 91% reported being very satisfied about Depot Park overall as a City Park.
  • Creates a feeling of safety as reported by 95% of 325 surveyed visitors. 73% of respondents reported feeling safe because of three or more of these factors: the park’s visibility, maintenance, increased use by people, wide trail and sidewalks, and lighting.
  • Improves or maintains connectivity of the pedestrian network within a half-mile of the park for 37 out of 41 sidewalks/trails. The average integration of the pedestrian network increased from 2.5 to 2.6 as calculated by spatial configuration analysis.
  • Provides very high levels of satisfaction for 91% of 324 surveyed park visitors.

Economic

  • Contributes to a 14.8% increase in the mean assessed value of parcels within ¼ mile of Depot Park from 2017-2018, compared to a 4.0% increase in downtown. From 2012-2014, before the park’s opening, mean assessed value was a 3.5% decrease in the Depot Park area compared to a 6.2% increase in downtown.
  • Contributes an increased rate of new businesses opening. The percent increase in the number of new businesses was below downtown Gainesville’s before the park’s opening, and became higher than downtown Gainesville’s percent after the park’s opening.

At a Glance

  • Designer

    JOLA, Inc.; CRJA-IBI Group (now IBI Placemaking)

  • Project Type

    Park/Open space
    Stormwater management facility

  • Former Land Use

    Brownfield

  • Location

    874 SE 4th St
    Gainesville, Florida 32601

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  • Climate Zone

    Humid subtropical

  • Size

    32 acres

  • Budget

    $6.75 million (park) + $30 million (remediation)

  • Completion Date

    2016

Depot Park is a 32-acre urban park adjacent to downtown Gainesville, Florida. Formerly an industrial brownfield, the site was polluted with coal tar and arsenic. Following over 20 years of site remediation to treat the contaminated water and soil, the newly constructed park drives redevelopment within the industrial corridor and promotes downtown community rejuvenation. With a one-acre playground, a splash pad, walking and biking paths, open green spaces, and a 20-ft-wide promenade and overlook, the park increases the local community’s access to recreational spaces and provides opportunities for events. The site’s pond and marsh system not only captures and cleans runoff from downtown, but also creates a natural area inhabited by birds, amphibians, and insects. To embrace the site’s history, the 1860s-era train depot was renovated and portions of the historic railroad were repurposed, and each section of the playground has a theme inspired by local history and culture.

  • Before project construction, over 40 million gallons of contaminated groundwater were processed through sand filters and activated carbon and discharged, and soil was excavated to a depth of 50 ft with over 147,000 tons of contaminated soil removed and transported to a certified landfill for disposal.
  • The park’s stormwater treatment system consists of 2 trash traps, 2 large forebays, a braided stream, and 2 ponds of about 1.2 acres and 5.6 acres. The system is connected to previously existing marshes to capture and treat runoff from approximately 89 acres of downtown Gainesville before it flows into Sweetwater Creek and onward to Paynes Prairie.
  • A pedestrian system consisting of more than a mile of trails, pathways, and a 20-ft-wide promenade with overlooks accommodate daily recreational use and events. This pedestrian system connects to the 16-mile Gainesville-Hawthorne state trail which runs through a city park, a state park, and other local and state conservation lands.
  • A 1-acre playground accommodates children of all abilities and reflects local history and culture. An ADA-compliant play train harkens back to the site’s history as a train depot, a smokestack climber is a miniaturized version of the recently demolished Gainesville Regional Utilities smokestack, replicas of invasive air potato vines teach children about non-native plants, and climbing domes evoke Native American mud dwellings. 
  • The Blue Grotto features a splash pad inspired by the underground caverns of Central Florida. The area also has water cannons, waterfalls, ground jets, and hidden fossils.
  • Over 20 acres of natural and manmade wetlands provide habitat for wildlife such as birds and amphibians and increase the public’s access to nature and green space in the city. Wetland boardwalks allow visitors to enter the area without disturbing it.
  • The 6,000-sf historic depot building was renovated and converted into a small market, an outdoor cafe, and event spaces. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and certified by U.S. Green Building Council LEED Gold standards. Prominent features include energy-efficient lighting and rain barrels that capture rainwater from the roof’s copper gutters.
  • Native tree species including red maple (Acer rubrum ‘Autumn Flame’), American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), redbud (Cercis canadensis), southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), southern live oak (Quercus Virginiana), bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), winged elm (Ulmus alata), and cabbage palmetto (Sabal palmetto), as well as native shrub species including saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) and coontie (Zamia floridana) make up a landscape with low maintenance demands.
  • A series of features make Depot Park easy for visitors to arrive using eco-friendly modes of transportation. These include the Downtown Regional Transit System station, which brings passengers from 19 different bus routes; the Depot Avenue trail and the Gainesville-Hawthorne trail for bikes; the newly-redeveloped Depot Avenue streetscape with wide sidewalks, palm trees and bright lighting to provide an inviting pedestrian experience; and the redevelopment of the SW 5th Avenue streetscape, which adds a sidewalk on the north side of SW 5th Ave as well as neighborhood gateways to improve connectivity, safety, and identity around Depot Park.
  • The Gainesville Share the Road Memorial, which is made up of six rammed earth sculptures, was built to commemorate 2 fallen and 4 injured cyclists that were struck by a distracted driver in 1996 and communicates how the bicycle safety movement in Gainesville began.
  • The 21,000-sf CADE Museum for Creativity & Invention is located in Depot Park.

Challenge

  • Provide space for recreation and events for both downtown and the city at-large.
  • Promote downtown redevelopment and foster the city’s economic vitality.
  • Maintain and support high water quality standards for Sweetwater Creek. 
  • Serve as a model for brownfield site remediation and high-quality urban parks in Gainesville.
  • Maintain and revitalize the history and culture of local archaeology, flora, and industry.
  • Help to create a pedestrian-friendly environment in downtown Gainesville and enhance the interconnection and walkability of streets for neighbors. 

  • Though the response to Depot Park has been mainly positive, issues with insufficient parking and lack of shade have repeatedly come up. However, thanks to projects in the surrounding area on South Main Street and in the Power District, parking issues will soon be resolved with additional parking near the site. The City of Gainesville added shade structures to the playground, and as trees mature, they are anticipated to add shade and increase comfort in the park during the hot summer months.
  • The proposed Phase III includes an amphitheater. However, the construction of the amphitheater was postponed because 1) public has been enjoying the flexible grassy mounds, and 2) the residents living to the east of the park had complained about the potential for noise during large music events.
  • In a survey of 325 park visitors, 122 provided suggestions for park improvements. Adding shade (21.3%), water fountains (12.3%), and parking (7.4%), and offering more food choices and lowering food prices (5.7%) were most suggested. Other suggestions for the park include designing more space for different types of activities, adding seats and tables, increasing facilities and activities for young children, increasing dog clean-up services and dog parks, adding lights, and setting mile markers for trails.
  • Due to the brownfield nature and historic value of the site, means and methods for constructability and park safety raised heated discussions at every turn during construction. A third-party contractor was hired to resolve disputes between the City of Gainesville and the original contractor over the construction of the Phase II pond area, and mitigate construction issues for oversights that occurred. The third party helped to smooth project completion. 

Pedestrian bridge: CONTECH Engineering Solution, LLC
Yard drain: Del Zotto Products, Ocala, FL
Parc Vue Bench: Landscape Forms, Inc.
Chase Park Trash + Recycle Receptacles: Landscape Forms, Inc.
Ornamental wire fence: Jerith Patriot 
Picnic table: ANOVA Furnishings
Chase park benches: Landscape Forms, Inc.
Concrete benches: custom by contractor
Play equipment: Landscape Structures, Inc.
Train, Cozy Zone, Oodle Swing, stepper, custom tree climber, custom power tower, custom power line climber, lookout rock climber, small boulders, logs balance beams, Log - Y-shaped, half pipe tunnels, custom pipe climber, swing-bucket seat, swing-2-5 harness, swing 5-12 plus 2 toddler swings, sandbox digger accessible, sandbox digger, recycled rubber curbing, fossil digs - creative play area, saddle spinners, log stepper, mushroom steppers, interactive water fountain 
Sandbox, Custom “flat car” with railroad wheels on sides: custom by contractor
Green hand cistern pump: Lehman’s
Ultra playground grass- green/blue: ForeverLawn

Project Team

Client: City of Gainesville
Landscape Architect:  JOLA Inc.
Landscape Architect: IBI Placemaking (formerly CRJA-IBI Group)
Engineering: JBrown Professional Group
Contractor: Oelrich Construction
Owner: City of Gainesville
Manager: Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency
Partner: Gainesville Regional Utilities, City of Gainesville Public Works

Role of the Landscape Architect

One of the landscape architects (JOLA, Inc.) was responsible for the layout and design of the park, playground, hardscape, signage, planting and irrigation. The other (IBI Placemaking, formerly CRJA-IBI Group) developed design and technical standards, including specification recommendations, engineering requirements, dimensions, patterns, materials, utilities and accessibility provisions. This firm also developed the conceptual design of the CADE Museum of Creativity & Invention. 

Case Study Prepared By

Research Fellow: Yi Luo, Assistant Professor, University of Florida
Research Fellow: Michael Volk, Research Assistant Professor, University of Florida
Research Assistant: Kanglin Chen, PhD candidate, University of Florida
Client Liaison: Ori Baber, Gainesville Community Redevelopment Agency
December 2019

To cite:

Luo, Yi, Michael Volk, and Kanglin Chen. “Depot Park, Phases 1 and 2.” Landscape Performance Series. Landscape Architecture Foundation, 2019. https://doi.org/10.31353/cs1610

Topics

Stormwater management, Water quality, Populations & species richness, Carbon sequestration & avoidance, Recreational & social value, Health & well-being, Safety, Transportation, Property values, Increased tax revenue, Economic development, Bioremediation, Play equipment, Wetland, Trees, Trail, Rainwater harvesting, Native plants, Efficient lighting, Active living, Revitalization, Play

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