Park and plaza renovations start to take final form

By Albert Amateau

The $20 million Union Square Park north-end renovation project is right on schedule for its intended completion and opening this fall.

The project, being built by the Parks Department and sponsored by the Union Square Partnership business improvement district, will include a new playground three times larger than the current one and a restored pavilion. The pavilion will serve as a seasonal restaurant during the six warmer months of the year and as a community facility the other six months.

The newly resurfaced north and west plazas were nearly complete this week, and the Greenmarket farmers, who had been temporarily relocated to the park’s southern end, have returned to their permanent north and west plaza locations.

The seven trees that will mark the northern plaza boundary at 17th St. are being planted this week, and the trees on the western edge of the plaza are to be planted in the coming two weeks.

“The transformation taking place in Union Square Park is exciting to watch as we witness firsthand the dramatic changes to the plaza and the expansion of the new children’s play area,” said Jennifer Falk, executive director of the Partnership. “We are on schedule to finish the project by fall, and we expect to welcome back the countless children and their families who will enjoy this spectacular new play space once it is completed.”

By the end of this week, the project, designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, which began a year ago, will be 60 percent complete, according to a Parks spokesperson.

The new pavilion will have three bathrooms — a men’s room and a women’s room and a separate restroom for children and their families accessible from the playground.

Electrical work will take place this week on the park’s western side at the “Mother and Child” statue area, and next week work takes place in the sandbox area in the playground’s western side. A marble table with a water source will be installed in the middle of the sandbox, allowing children to build sand castles.

The city is contributing $12 million to the cost of the project and the Partnership is making an $8 million contribution. Part of the city contribution came from former City Councilmember Margarita Lopez’s Council discretionary funds.