The College Park City Council discussed the possibility of adding a water feature to its city hall renovations Tuesday night, weighing the potential benefits of an element that has an estimated cost over $200,000.
The proposed water feature could take a few forms: a proposed two feet thick and 25 feet long water wall, with names of city neighborhoods or the city seal incorporated on it, or pop-up water jets.
The renovations of city hall and the plaza are expected to finish in 2022, and Meredith Sullivan, a senior associate at Design Collective, said the designers want the plaza to be a versatile space so residents can use it for outdoor seating, farmers markets and holiday celebrations.
A water feature, Sullivan said, would not necessarily make or break the design plans, but many residents have expressed interest in the idea of one.
“A lot of the response was coming based on the popularity of these things,” Sullivan said of the public’s interest in a water feature, adding that a fountain in nearby Riverdale Park Station inspired some College Park residents to add a similar fixture to their community.
The council eventually decided to generally approve the “permission of infrastructure” for a water vault that could source a fountain or jets in the future. They said this would allow them to move forward with permitting and renovation designs without forcing them to decide on a specific water feature just yet.
The details of the water feature, and whether to include such a feature at all, will be finalized at a later date and after more public comment, the council concluded.
Many council members brought up concerns with the proposal, citing environmental issues and its overall cost.
If the council were to approve plans for a water wall, the cost for equipment and installation would be $235,000, not including final design or ongoing maintenance costs, said city planning director Terry Schum. And a pop jet feature, Schum said, would cost between $580,000 to upwards of $700,000.
Some members spoke out in support of continuing discussions about the feature.
District 1 representative Kate Kennedy said the fountain or jets could bring engagement to the plaza.
“We need other things that bring people to this space,” she said, adding she still has concerns about its potential cost.
District 1 council member Fazlul Kabir said he was not in favor of a water wall option, and said the plaza could be enhanced in other ways.
“The whole idea of this plaza is to give our residents some kind of place so that they can be attracted and come [to], I totally agree with that,” he said. “But that could be done in another way, or cheaper way.”
When asked about the hypothetical feature’s sustainability, Sullivan said she didn’t have information about how many gallons of water would be used, but said, ideally, the water would be recycled.
The mayor and council members weren’t the only ones who raised concerns on these issues. College Park resident Oscar Gregory, who is running for a District 2 position in this year’s election, said in a tense exchange that he doesn’t understand why the council is considering a water feature in the first place.
“You guys are spending money hand over fist,” Gregory said. “Please, pick an alternative.”
Nonetheless, the council moved forward with the approval for the “permission for infrastructure” and its accompanying water vault, with only Kabir voting against the motion.
While each of the council members had cited concerns with cost and sustainability, Kabir was concerned with the council sounding hypocritical by moving forward with a possible water feature.
“We are asking our residents to conserve water and electricity,” Kabir said, “and we’re actually doing just the opposite.”