Work continues on Tower Center at Unity Square

October 28, 2019

The voter approved Tower Center at Unity Square — a community green space under construction at Dewey Avenue and Sixth Street — is progressing despite delays caused by recent rains.

Voters approved $1.75 million in funding for the project in the March 6, 2018 General Obligation Bond Election, after which elected officials, interested citizens and City staff went to work to design the space and secure bids for contractors to complete the construction.

First on tap for the City Council was to establish a committee to oversee design aspects of the project while working within the available budget. Chaired by Vice Mayor Alan Gentges and vice-chaired by Ward 3 Councilor Jim Curd, the committee pulled together citizens with varying areas of expertise. In addition to Gentges and Curd, members include Maria Gus, Annah Fischer, Jay Webster, Brad Doenges and Shelby Brammer.

“The design committee met a minimum of once a month beginning in May 2018 to weigh design options and make decisions regarding how the Tower Center at Unity Square would look and what features it would have,” said City Manager Mike Bailey. “The committee has done a remarkable job obtaining citizen input, designing a space that is unique to Bartlesville, and bringing this project in under-budget. This project is an excellent example of the City Council, City staff and the public working together to create something completely new and exciting.”

Following the implementation of the design committee, the council voted to hire specialty contractor Jonesplan of Tulsa to provide construction management. 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.

“Some design elements were removed by the design committee in April to meet the existing budget,” said Water Utilities Director/Engineer Terry Lauritsen, who serves as the project manager. “However, approximately 75 percent of these features have since been added back to the overall design thanks to several donations that extended the initial voter-approved budget of $1.75 million to just under $2.2 million.”

Donors to the project include the Lyon Foundation ($250,000), ConocoPhillips ($100,000), Phillips 66 ($100,000), Parsons Foundation ($60,000), Arvest Foundation ($10,000) and Ascension St. John Jane Phillips ($10,000) and the Curd Family ($5,000). Leadership Bartlesville Class XXVII and Bartlesville Young Professionals also donated $21,200 to purchase and install musical sculptural instruments.

Bailey said additional donations are expected, which will allow even more of the initial design elements to be added back.

“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,” he said. “However, though the generosity of our community, this space will be even more impressive and will reflect the original vision of the citizen-led design committee.”

Maintenance and operation of the Tower Center at Unity Square will be provided by the Bartlesville Community Center and Price Tower. The operating committee, which has already begun meeting, will be tasked with programming, landscape management, equipment purchases — virtually “everything that is not related to the actual property, which is owned by the City of Bartlesville,” Bailey said.

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

“We were able to complete those utility replacements without any problems,” Lauritsen said. “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.”

Lauritsen said approximately one-third of the allotted working days for the project have been lost due to weather conditions, and that the targeted substantial completion date is now January or February of 2020.

The space will feature 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 and the possible addition of interactive fountains and/or a public art feature in the future, 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.

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