Images courtesy of PARA.
The Promenade Area Residents Association (PARA) is throwing a kickoff fundraiser this Friday, August 28 from 5:00PM to 9:00PM to make dreams of a playground in Promenade Square Park a reality.
There will be food, wine and beer provided by local downtown eateries, such as Congregation Ale House, George’s Greek Cafe, BO-beau kitchen + roof tap and more, along with prizes and a silent auction. The event will correspond with PARA’s monthly Final Friday event, a social gathering of neighborhood families and friends from other areas of downtown.
Debra Kahookele, current president of PARA, has largely spearheaded the process of developing plans for the park. She has lived on The Promenade for the last five years and seen firsthand the need for a play area in the downtown area.
“I have seen many couples over the years grow into families with one, two and three kids now,” she said. Kids who their parents were taking to Livingstone Park in Belmont Shore and staying in that area to eat. She also noted that the closest playground options are Cesar Chavez Park or Bixby Park.
“This playground will not only benefit local residents and business owners but visitors from the local hotels and community center as well," she said. "It will encourage everyone to stay and play local, eat local and shop local.”
Allison Kripp, owner of The Den Salon in downtown, said that over five years ago, her then-two-year-old daughter, Devyn, needed a place to play.
“I was doing so much walking around in all parts of downtown Long Beach, marketing for our business,” said Kripp. “But there was nowhere I could take Devyn (in between our guerilla marketing walks) to play. We needed a playground in downtown.”
Kripp has been working on the project for the past three years now, alongside her work with the DLBA’s Friends of Lincoln Park, as well as PARA.
“We are vested business owners and residents that are looking to hope to buy a home in the Wilmore [area] soon,” she said. “We love downtown and all of the peeps that fill it up and can't wait to see all of our goals finally come to fruition.”
In 2013 Kahookele attended a DLBA Capital Improvements Committee (CIC) task force meeting where a request to think of a community-benefitting project that the DLBA could manage was introduced. She immediately thought of a playground at Promenade Square Park based on the needs of her neighbors and her good friend who had recently had a little girl.
Among other major steps, including collecting hundreds of signatures in favor of the project, “It took another year and a half of meetings, surveys and workshops with the City, Parks and Rec and the neighborhood to finally get a design, budget and approvals,” she said.
Then councilmember and current Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal also pledged her support in 2013 in a letter sent to DLBA’s CIC.
“As a proponent of efforts to attract and retain a creative class of residents to our Downtown, I believe projects like this playground contribute to the feeling of ‘community’ and offer families with young children thinking of leaving the downtown with attractive amenities," the letter said.
The PARA Playground Committee, composed of Kahookele, Lisa Callamaro, PARA’s vice president, Kristin Dunn, board member and Joen Garnica, committee member, looked into several companies before choosing Landscape Structures for the project, a company that Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine (PRN) had recommended based on their custom design, warranty and ability to work with the city in managing the public space.
During the fundraising event, PARA hopes to raise $160,000, of which $152,000 will go to Landscape Structures to project manage and build the playground, according to Kahookele. The remaining $8,000 will go toward all other park-related expenses, such as potentially having to move a tree, installing a fence and paying for permits.
According to a letter sent to PARA from PRN on April 24, 2015, “once sufficient funding for the purchase and installation of the playground is available or pledged, the department will propose a Right of Entry Permit for the acceptance and installation of the playground to Long Beach City Council.”
Kahookele says the park is expensive because of how much work went into the overall design. Some features of the park include the use of graffiti-proof materials, rubberized matting, climbing rocks, slides and other climbing features designed to look like waves.
The PARA Playground Committee has also applied for one of the DLBA’s placemaking grants for the park. According to Sean Warner, DLBA’s placemaking manager, all applications will be reviewed at the end of August.
“You don’t want to place just a typical, just-out-of-the-box, play structure there,” said Warner. “You want to definitely have it designed to fit into the surroundings and also place it where it doesn’t infringe on the other uses,” which includes an area in the middle (and beneath) the park that can accommodate an ice rink.
Warner said that in his opinion, the designs seem to fit well with the surroundings of the park and Promenade area.
“I think it’s definitely a positive,” he said. “We’re definitely supportive of any type of improvement that will bring more people out into the public space and this is definitely one of them.”
“We are an urban community and there should be more playgrounds around for us,” concluded Kahookele.
Now the hard part is finding the funds to make it happen.
The Promenade Square Park playground fundraising drive will take place on Friday, August 28 from 5:00PM to 9:00PM at 133 The Promenade Community Room and at the Promenade Square Park.