ALACHUA ‒ A plan to refresh and reimagine the City of Alachua’s Theatre Park is underway. On Alachua’s picturesque Main Street, the hidden gem known best as “Theatre Park” has seen better years. An overgrowth of vines, a dilapidated arbor, and structural uncertainty have left the park in a less attractive condition.

The Community Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board (CRAAB) as well as the City Commission sitting as Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) met separately Monday, May 6, 2024, to consider alternatives for renovations to Theatre Park. A variety of designs were presented to the boards by Monarch Design Group. Among the plans were two overall design themes for the entry to the park. One plan would utilize Corten steel, providing a weathered, rustic metal façade in both the gap above the front wall as well as in portions of the archways. A second entryway design called for a black powder coated façade for a wrought iron appearance in the gap above the front wall and the archways.

In addition to entryway designs, Monarch Design Group presented a variety of accompanying interior elements for the park, such as brick pavers or concrete across the entire ground level of the park, lighting, a stage, seating, and Florida friendly landscaping.

The CRAAB discussed concerns with the park’s use and design. Without a roof over the park, rainfall can become trapped and potentially seep through into adjoining buildings. Use of landscaping requiring irrigation in the park exacerbates flooding concerns. Vines, which have largely since been removed, posed a risk of damage to the historic brick walls. The arbor, which once served as a tranquil and picturesque backdrop appears to be on the verge of collapse. Hosting live music in the park is untenable without sufficient shade and protection from the rain.

Based on discussions at the CRAAB meeting, Monarch Design Group and the City’s Public Services department plan to narrow the wide array of design suggestions and engineering options. While the plans have not been nailed down, the CRAAB seemed to settle on the black wrought iron aesthetic, a small stage with handicap access, and the ability to install a temporary overhead screen or shield to protect performers from the elements. Board members were also in favor of Florida friendly landscaping, maintaining the footprint of the current walkway in lieu of concrete or brick pavers from wall-to-wall. For areas where the concrete is to remain, the board members stated that they were in favor of clay-fired bricks or similar brick veneers rather than stamped concrete and other brick types.

Assistant City Manager Rodolfo Valladares, who is a Professional Engineer, said the City was planning to develop solutions to divert or dispose of rainwater, possibly using a French drain system. Valladares commented that the projected cost of dealing with the structural concerns together with needed renovations to other elements of the park vastly exceed the CRA’s budgeted $150,000, noting that it would likely become a multiphase project, with solutions starting from “the ground up.”

Located at 14900 Main Street, Alachua, Florida, what is now an openair park was once a drycleaner and then a movie house, according to a walk tour developed by Alachua County Historical Commission and the Alachua County Tour Service in 1986.

In March 2011, the Alachua City Commission authorized structural modifications to Theatre Park in order to make the structure safer. For several months, the park remained closed as a scaffolding system was installed over the brick archways on the streetside opening where there were structural concerns over the ability of the entry to withstand high wind loads.

The 2011 project included removing the top portion of the walls to reduce the wind load on the structure as a whole. The removal included the top 12 feet from the front wall and up to six feet from the side walls.

A report from Driscoll Engineering at the time stated that the outer walls of the theatre park constituted an “immediate safety hazard” because of the lack of support and risk of falling debris. The scaffolding system was a temporary measure to protect pedestrian traffic until more lasting repairs could be completed.

Costing in excess of $40,000, the renovations, which included repairs to the east wall of the park, construction of two new columns and reinforced fiberglass rods, were paid for by the Downtown Redevelopment Trust board (DRTB), which was the City’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) at the time.

The park, which is frequently used for special occasions and is one of the most photographed spots in Alachua was reopened in June 2011.

#     #     #

Email editor@