Two parks projects scheduled to begin construction next year will draw new visitors to Southeast Raleigh – for very different reasons.
The Raleigh City Council on Tuesday approved plans for a $950,000 expansion of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Gardens and a $5 million, 21-court tennis center at Barwell Road Community Park.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Gardens opened in 1990 with a statue of the civil rights leader and a water monument. Residents raised money for the park, which was considered the first in the country honoring King. The gardens have a prominent spot at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Rock Quarry Road.
The additions will offer bathrooms and other amenities for visitors as well as a Civil Rights Path with educational stations and a wall recognizing local civil rights leaders.
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Architect Dennis Pitts, whose firm has been designing the expansion, said the new features will mesh well with the 23-year-old garden. “The result, we believe, is a very clean and bold statement that is complementary to the existing statue plaza,” Pitts said.
One goal of the expansion is to better accommodate large groups of students and civil rights veterans. The gardens will get more parking and a roundabout for bus traffic, while a dangerous driveway on Rock Quarry Road will be closed. The new features, which include a covered patio, will allow visitors to bring a picnic and stay longer.
A few miles down Rock Quarry Road from the King statue, crews will start work on the Southeast Raleigh Tennis Center around the same time.
The facility in front of Barwell Road Community Center will feature 21 outdoor courts along with an exhibition court for major matches and smaller “quick start” courts for small children to learn the sport. A 4,200-square-foot building will house a reception area, locker rooms and the city’s first indoor tennis court.
The facility can host high school and collegiate tennis tournaments – particularly for Shaw and Saint Augustine’s universities – as well as after-school programs for neighboring Barwell Road Elementary School.
Combined with facilities at Millbrook Exchange Park and Cary Tennis Park, the tennis center positions Wake County to host major professional tournaments.
Local tennis groups contributed $1 million for the project, with the city picking up the rest of the tab from a recent parks bond.
Both the tennis center and the King Gardens expansion are expected to be completed in 2015.
“This is a good day in the Southeast Raleigh community,” Councilman Eugene Weeks said after the vote on the plans.