Wells Fargo, CMS team on uptown park

Wells Fargo, CMS team on uptown park

Credit: The Charlotte Observer

Work is underway on a "sense and science garden" on 1.25 acres of land in northeast uptown. It is owned by the Charlotte Mecklenburg schools and located next to First Ward Creative Arts Academy in northeast uptown. Wells Fargo announced the project Thursday and will donate $160,000 in cash and services to build it.

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by MARK PRICE / NewsChannel 36 Staff

WCNC.com

Posted on April 20, 2012 at 11:05 AM

Wells Fargo announced Thursday that uptown will soon have a new park with creation of a “sense and science garden” on North Caldwell Street.

Work is already underway on the 1.25 acres of land, which is owned by the Charlotte Mecklenburg schools and located next to First Ward Creative Arts Academy in northeast uptown.

Planners say the intent is to create an “outdoor classroom” for students by day and a green space for the public when classes are not in session.

The Wells Fargo Foundation unveiled plans to give $160,000 in cash and services to the project Thursday, during the Charlotte Center City Partner’s Vision Awards. The event honors those who have made Charlotte’s urban core more vibrant.

Bank officials came up with that amount in commemoration of Wells Fargo’s 160th anniversary.

The total cost is estimated at $200,000, said officials, who predicted the remaining money would come from smaller grants, gifts and donated services.

Work began in January, with the demolition of an old First Ward school building.

Organizers hope the park will be finished in time for the arrival of the Democratic National Convention in September, and speculate that it could serve as the site of some convention activities. The site is about five blocks from Time Warner Cable Arena, between North Brevard and North Caldwell streets,

Features will include a recreational green, performance stage, a bird and insect garden, and at least one commissioned sculpture.

School officials said they plan to name it the Wells Fargo Sense and Science Garden.

Wells Fargo officials liken it to The Green on South Tryon Street, another small uptown park (1.5 acres) that attracts thousands of people annually to its walking trails, green space and fountain.

“We believe this will be a jewel in our center city,” Michael J. Smith President and CEO of Center City Partners. “It will be a beautiful setting of green, gardens, trees and micro-farming in the center of our most urban place.”

The idea for the park was born over a year ago, when staff at First Ward suggested the old building on the school’s grounds be torn down and replaced with trees through the Charlotte Public Tree Fund. However, in the months that followed, the idea caught the attention of backers like Center City Partners and Wells Fargo Foundation, which liked the innovation of a park serving both students and the public.

Another backer, landscape architect Debra Glennon, offered to design the park at no cost. She included areas for learning, performance, art exhibits, gardening and recreation.

“This was an opportunity to do more than plant a few trees,” Glennon said. “It is rare for a school to get a gift of unexpected open space, so we decided to make the most of it. … We see this as a model for future school properties. If this one flies, CMS can see it as way to put hundreds of acres of open space to use.”

First Ward Principal Selestine Crowder said she would like to see the park become a field trip destination for other students in the district.

The school, a visual and performing arts magnet, serves more than 500 K-5 students, most of whom are economically disadvantaged. The school is piloting a year-round school schedule approach for CMS.

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