After years of discussion and planning, an expanded and reconfigured Virginia Avenue Park re-opened last Sunday with lots of fanfare and sunshine.
The redesigned and reequipped 9.5-acre park located at the corner of Pico Boulevard and Cloverfield contains four buildings, two full basketball courts, a “Beach Blanket Interactive water feature,” a playing field, a children’s play area, barbeque facilities, walking paths and other amenities.
The refurbished Thelma Terry building now contains a multi-purpose room and two classrooms. The park administration offices, police substation, a small conference room, two fitness gyms and community resource room are housed in the new Park Center building. The new 2101 building contains the facilities for the teen center and the new Patio building has spaces for classes and community meetings.
An enormous new mural, “Our Pico Neighborhood,” on the wall of the Park Center facing Pico Boulevard, was done by artists Wayne Healy and David Botello of East Los Streetscapers. It measures 24 X 80 feet, was painted on plexiglass panels and contains images from the surrounding community, including a portrait of Thelma Terry, the farmers’ market and the Ballet Folkorico.
The re-opening got underway with a ribbon cutting at the corner of Pico and Cloverfield by Council member Kevin McKeown. The opening day festivities showcased the park’s new features, and included musical performances and booths staffed by local non-profit agencies and vendors.
In an interview with the Mirror, former Mayor Paul Rosenstein remarked that planning for this park was begun 15 years ago. He continued, “I’ve always been amazed how long things take in Santa Monica, but usually they are well worth the wait.”
McKeown echoed Rosenstein, saying, “I’ve waited a long time to wield these scissors and welcome the community to our newest and greatest family park.”
Karen Ginsberg, Assistant Director of the City’s Community and Cultural Services, said that one cause of the park’s extended planning process was the purchase of 2.9 acres of additional property in 1998.
Once the plans were complete, construction took two years and cost $13 million, and “rehabilitation was a significant part” of the work, according to the City’s Director of Community and Cultural Services Barbara Stinchfield.
Council member Richard Bloom told the Mirror he believes the long planning process will be “paying dividends that the community will benefit from for many years.” He also noted that the “project kept growing and changing” and now it’s “done right… “This is not a situation where the community was ignored because the City paid particular attention to the needs of the local community. This is the model for the future of Santa Monica.”
School Board Vice-President Julia Brownley said, “I think that this park is a great vision, a labor of love and actually what the City needs because parks and schools need to be the center of the community. This is a great celebration and represents what Santa Monica is all about.”
Santa Monica Recreation and Parks Commissioner Phil Brock believes the park “is good for the neighborhood and the whole community.”
Project architect Julie Eizenberg, of Koning Eisenberg Architecture said the “design of this park” was driven by “how to keep it neighborhood friendly, how to unstuff the Thelma Terry Center and how to keep the farmers’ market.”
Preview park programming began on December 5. Additional information about the park’s programs can be obtained from the Community Cultural Services Department at (310) 458-8310 or at the park’s website at vapark.smgov.net.