BELLEFONTE — The plans seemed nice on paper.
A redevelopment of the area along Spring Creek from High to Lamb streets, combining flood control with public use is planned. It would be a place for a nice walk, a place to spend a few hours fishing, or a place to drop a kayak in the water for a ride downstream.
Bellefonte Borough Council was less than thrilled with the look of the design presented Monday night, with some officials suggesting it looks equal parts jail and military base.
Scott Russell, of design firm Buchart Horn, said the plan includes a 9-10 foot high wall, which would cover the 100-year flood plan for the creek. The stone wall would have a middle tier about six or seven feet down, and then a lower trail with alcoves for benches. The water would be accessible at either end, with a wide, grassy area at the High Street side for anglers to drop a line, and on the gentle, ramped slope on the Lamb end that would be handicapped accessible or more easily reached for small watercraft. Recessed lights embedded into the wall would provide nighttime lighting.
“The aesthetics of this are almost institutional,” said Mayor Tom Wilson. “It looks like Fort Sumter.”
Council was assured that the color choices in mock-ups of a gray brick with a fairly simple metal railing along the top was just a representation, but there were still concerns about the look as the community looks to revitalize the site where the Bush House Hotel was destroyed by fire in 2006.
“We have to look at it in terms of context, and it is in the context of Talleyrand Park,” said Councilwoman Gay Dunne.
Talleyrand Park is a recreational draw for the area, with its wrought iron benches, gazebo and dainty metal bridge. The park sits just across High Street from the proposed development.
Other concerns included the lack of railings along the middle tier walkway and the possibility of someone falling to the walkway beneath and getting hurt, or worse, falling into the water. Russell said the drop was low enough, between 1-3 feet, that injury was unlikely, and that the walkway was about 10 feet away from the water’s edge.
“This is a work in progress,” he said.
It is, however, progress nearing completion.
“We are working out final construction details,” said Russell, who anticipates finalizing construction documents for the project in the coming months.