Longtime Gilchrist Park renovations coming to a close?

A driver searches for an open parking space at Gilchrist Park in September 2020. Parking at Gilchrist has been a problem since renovations began in 2016.

PUNTA GORDA — An end could be in sight for the years-long, multi-phased renovations at Gilchrist Park.

Gilchrist Park makes up 11 acres of land stretching along West Retta Esplanade and Charlotte Harbor, west of the U.S. 41 bridges.

Punta Gorda wrapped the first phase on the east side of the park — behind the PG Waterfront Hotel — in 2017 after almost a decade of design, debate and development.

In fall 2020, the city completed “Phase 2A” of the park project, which focused on a new and final piece of the city’s 2.5-mile long Harborwalk that runs throughout Punta Gorda.

At Gilchrist Park, the additional section of the multi-use recreational trail now runs from the park gazebo to the Bayfront Center, 750 W. Retta Esplanade.

On Wednesday, the City Council approved funding for construction at the western portion of the park — from Gill Street to McGregor Street.

The work will include additional parking — an ongoing issue for parkgoers — as well as decorative lighting, landscaping and crosswalk improvements at intersections in that area of the park.

The park has 121 spaces and eight ADA spaces. After the latest renovations are complete, the park will have a total of 155 parking spaces.

City Finance agent Julie Rogan-Sutter told the City Council they expect the work to begin around Jan. 15 with hopes to wrap around mid-September.

She said the total cost for the project comes in at around $3.1 million with funds coming from the city’s 1% sales tax fund.

The 1% sales tax — a portion of which goes to the city— is collected on taxable purchases within the county to serve as funding for infrastructure projects.

Primary construction is estimated to cost the city almost $2.8 million. The total cost also includes a contingency fund of around $125,000, and $180,600 for the installation of “patterned asphalt” at the intersection of West Retta and Dolly, Chasteen, McGregor and Gill streets.

The patterned, or stamped, asphalt will resemble the grayish brick pavers seen along the eastern part of West Retta Esplanade.

The contingency fund is intended to cover any unexpected issues during construction.

“There are a lot of unknowns in Gilchrist Park as far as abandoned pipes and miscellaneous things in the ground that we uncovered (during phase one),” city Urban Design Project Manager Julie Ryan told the City Council.

“Those unknown things that may come up as they are digging up the street or putting in the parking is the reason for the large contingency budget,” she said.

The City Council was eager to get the project going.

“This is one of those projects ... let’s get it done and over with and be done with it,” Mayor Lynne Matthews said.

“I’m tired of seeing it (on our meeting agenda’s),” Vice Mayor Debby Carey said.


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