Tower Center at Unity Square officially opens

Mayor Dale Copeland, center, along with Vice Mayor Alan Gentges, left, and Ward 3 representative Jim Curd, right, perform the official ribbon cutting duties at the grand opening of the Tower Center at Unity Square community green space last Friday night. Gentges served as chair of the committee that oversaw design of the space, while Curd served as vice-chair. The project was approved by voters in the 2018 General Obligation Bond Election.

Tower Center at Unity Square — the voter approved community Green space located at Sixth Street and Dewey Avenue in Downtown Bartlesville — officially opened last week with a ribbon cutting ceremony followed by a “beach party” event that included live music, food trucks and an opportunity for kids to cool off under the spray of a Bartlesville Fire Department truck hose.

About 500 people, including donors to the project and several City and State dignitaries, turned out over the course of the evening for the ribbon cutting and the events that followed. Mayor Dale Copeland kicked off the ribbon cutting by recognizing the community collaboration and effort that went into the funding, design, construction and operation of the park

“This has been a long time coming. I’ve seen a lot of projects in Bartlesville and they’re all important to somebody — but this one has just really been over the top,” Copeland said. “So many people have come together and made this happen. They’ve given it their time, their talents and their treasure. It’s a great day in Bartlesville.”

Bartlesville voters approved $1.75 million in funding in the 2018 General Obligation Bond Election for what was then referred to as “the Tower Green project.” Mere weeks after the votes were tallied, the City Council established a committee to oversee design aspects of the project while working within the available budget.

Chaired by Bartlesville Vice Mayor Alan Gentges and vice-chaired by Ward 3 Councilor Jim Curd, the committee pulled together citizens from varying areas of expertise, including Maria Gus, Annah Fischer, Jay Webster, Brad Doenges and Shelby Brammer.

The committee began meeting in May 2018 to weigh design options and make decisions about how the space would look and what features it would have. All meetings, including several “town hall-style” forums, were open to the public, and citizens were allowed to speak at any time.

The committee used information from these meetings — combined with ideas from students from the School of Architecture at Taliesin, who participated in a weekend-long design “charette” in Bartlesville during which students broke into teams and produced sketches of possible design elements for the space — to make recommendations to the City Council. Those recommendations were approved by the council in November 2018, and a plan was born.

With the design complete, the council voted to hire specialty contractor Jonesplan of Tulsa to provide construction management for the project. Bids were advertised — some of which came back over-budget — prompting the committee to go back to the drawing board and remove several of the design elements pending alternative sources of funding. Those features were put back into the plan, however, when local donors stepped up to help — to the tune of about $600,000.

Upwards of 500 people attended the July 10 events at Tower Center at Unity Square. “We counted throughout the evening and estimate that we had about 500 people come out, though obviously not all at once,” said BCC Director Val Callaghan. Callaghan said food truck vendors did a steady business throughout the evening.

Shining Brow Donor ($250,000)

Ted and Melody Lyon — Lyon Foundation

Taliesin Sponsor ($100,000 and above)

ConocoPhillips

Jeanalee and Charles Parsons — Parsons Foundation

Phillips 66

Falling Water Sponsors ($25,000 and above)

Ambler Architects

Diversified Systems Resources

Prairie Style Sponsors ($10,000 and above)

Arvest Foundation

Ascension St. John Jane Phillips

Cherokee Nation

Leadership Bartlesville Class XXIV

Truity Credit Union

Young Professionals of Bartlesville

Usonian Sponsors ($5,000 and above)

Family of John H. Bond

Dianna and Rachel Molinari

American Heritage Bank

Byron and Irene Reburn

Jim Curd Family

“The City Council approved a bid package that was within the approved budget that, by itself, would have allowed us to build an amazing park,” said City Manager Mike Bailey. “However, through the generosity of our community, this space is even more impressive and reflects the original vision of the citizen-led design committee.”

Construction on the project began in July 2019, immediately following water, sewer and storm water utility replacements in the area needed to facilitate the project.

Diane and Alan Gentges, who represents Ward 4 on the City Council and serves as vice mayor of the city, got a front-row seat for the ceremony.

“We were able to complete those utility replacements without any problems,” said Water Utilities Director Terry Lauritsen, who served as project manager. “That also enabled us to ensure there would be no surprises during construction of the green space project, such as underground rock or lines that might have caused problems.”

Construction on the park faced some delays due to excessive rainfall last fall and winter, and the opening was further delayed somewhat due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite the delays, the Tower Center at Unity Square is open and is already a hit with the public. And while the green space is the culmination of many efforts by dozens of people, those who believed in the project from the beginning couldn’t be more happy with the finished product.

“The Tower Center at Unity Square is a transformational space that ties together two iconic buildings: the Price Tower and the Bartlesville Community Center. Likewise, it is a place where our community can come together in the heart of Bartlesville,” said Gentges, who not only chaired the design committee but worked tirelessly to campaign for voter approval of funding for the park. “It reflects the beauty, creativity and strength of our unique city. I am so proud of the vision and concord of our people that have made this special place a reality.”

Curd, who also campaigned for the project and vice-chaired the design committee, agrees.

“I’m proud of the project and thankful for the vast citizen and business community support and insight to believe in this project,” said Curd. “I believe it will be a transformational project for our community as the years go by.”

While the City of Bartlesville owns the property, maintenance and operation of the Tower Center at Unity Square will be provided by the Bartlesville Community Center and Price Tower. An operating committee has been established to handle programming, landscape management and equipment purchases.

The space features a large multi-functional open lawn area, a performance stage and an immediate lawn area to accommodate more than 400 people, centralized locations for food truck service, a more formal lawn area adjacent to the Bartlesville Community Center that will retain the existing fountain, natural rock, boulders and native grasses throughout, restrooms and a storage facility. Art for the space — “Native Color at Unity Square” — will be provided by Missouri artist Amie J. Jacobsen, who was selected the winner of the centerpiece design competition for the space.

For more information, contact the Bartlesville Community Center or follow @unitysquarebvl on social media.

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