The years-long vision of a destination park near downtown is coming more into focus.
At their winter retreat last weekend, town leaders revealed plans for a two-sided, permanent stage and veterans’ memorial plaza they expect to build at Knightdale Station Park over the next year.
They also announced plans for more parking and a promenade running parallel to North First Avenue, adding connectivity to possible future additions to the park grounds. Seven untapped parcels near the front of the park could feature shops and eateries in the not-too-distant future.
“It’s this idea of shopping, eating, entertaining and playing at Knightdale Station Park,” town spokesman Jonas Silver said. “We want people to be able to go to the park and they can go play their soccer, eat their lunch, shop and go to a show. It’s holistic to the use of Knightdale Station Park.”
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The town already has nearly all of the $1 million needed to build the stage and memorial plaza on the north side of Whistle Post Way. Most of the money is leftover from bond projects that came in under budget.
The stage will allow the town to host both big-name acts and smaller ones at a single location. The larger side will face the two shelters at the corner of First Avenue and Knightdale Station Run, and the smaller stage will point in the opposite direction, toward the star-shaped memorial plaza.
Councilman Pete Mangum said the Two Green Thumbs Garden Club, which holds annual Veterans Day tributes at the nearby Blue Star Memorial, was in the loop on plans for the memorial plaza. He said the intention was to work with the club and not impose on its operation.
“We want to include a space at Knightdale Station Park that reflects our support of the military,” Mangum said in a statement on the park updates. “The memorial offers our residents a place to gather and reminds us of the sacrifice of our soldiers.”
Construction on the stage and memorial is set to begin after this year’s Fourth of July celebration and be complete sometime in the spring of 2018.
The council doesn’t have a timeline on other development at the park, but the master plan design calls for adding about 160 parking spaces and village-concept commercial space.
“That’s the No. 1 complaint people have about Knightdale Station Park, is the parking,” Silver said.
The plan shows a 15- to 20-foot-wide promenade running along the middle of North First Avenue and Wilder Nursery Trail, where seven parcels have been identified for public-private uses. The town would maintain ownership of the parcels and lease them for development.
“It’s so we can have control over what the buildings look like and how they are developed,” Silver said. “We want to extend the way Oak City Brewing and Young & Associates Insurance look and feel through the new parcels in the new development.”
Five of the parcels are located where they could feature double-sided storefronts on First Avenue and along the promenade, which would connect to the memorial plaza.
The new plans are part of an effort by the town to boost opportunities at its geographical center.
“We want to make sure this is the heart of Knightdale,” Silver said. “Even through there’s not as much development on the east side of Knightdale, geographically, this is the heart. Once that east side fills in, this is going to feel more like the heart and middle of town.”