With work completed on Pullen Park, city parks officials are setting their sights on the other city park that has a carousel: Chavis Park just south of downtown Raleigh.
The carousel, which closed for the season in the fall, will be moved next to the park's entrance off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. It will be housed in a new conditioned carousel house, similar to the new carousel building at Pullen, to protect it from the elements.
The $1.8 million project also includes a renovation to the carousel and its band organ and other site work. The carousel, which dates to the late 1910s or early 1920s, is a designated Raleigh Historic Landmark. It's also important for the role it has played for the African American community in Raleigh and across North Carolina. When built in the 1930s, Chavis Park was one of the state's first urban parks for African Americans.
Construction is scheduled to take between 9 months and a year. Click here for more about the project. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Saturday.
The new location for the carousel will provide visitors a view of the downtown Raleigh skyline. And city officials and park supporters also hope it will breathe new life into the park, which sees very little traffic compared to Pullen Park, which is just two miles away.
In addition to the construction project, the city also is launching the Chavis Park Community Conversation to look at the community's concerns and revise the park's master plan. The goal is to create a more cohesive vision for Chavis as the city considers renovating the rest of the park, which also features an outdoor pool, playground and community center.
"I think something you feel when you go into the Pullen amusement center now is that it’s one cohesive space," said Cassie Schumacher-Georgopoulos, a city parks planner who is working on the Chavis project. "That opportunity exists for Chavis. It just needs to be designed and implemented."
I agree with Schumacher-Georgopoulos. There's a lot of opportunity for the park, which sits so close to all the new activity that's happening in downtown Raleigh. It could be a perfect spring and summer destination for families with a pool, playground and carousel all together.
The problem is that few people go. I have visited the park a handful of times with my own kids. I've noted people walking through the park, holding paper bags hiding liquor bottles; broken glass; and trash. On one spring day, my daughter and I visited the park about a half hour before the carousel was scheduled to close. We were the very first people to ride that day. Read my post from 2010 on the park.
Schumacher-Georgopoulos agrees more needs to be done to make Chavis shine. The upgrades to the carousel will help. I'm hopeful the Chavis Community Conversation brings about more change too.
"The plan really is to create a vision for Chavis that will bring all those things together and bring out the true beauty of the park," she said. "As downtown expands and residential opportunities open in the downtown area, this is going to be a key feature for them."