THE NEWPORT DAILY NEWS
Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 9:53 pm | Updated: 12:22 am, Sun Jan 13, 2013.
By Sean Flynn l Staff writer |0 comments
The redesign of Queen Anne Square is well under way with the near completion of a foundation seating area near Church Street, ongoing construction of a water table foundation area near the park’s center, and preparations being made to erect a tent over a chimney foundation area near Mary Street so masonry work can begin there.
All three shallow foundations, designed to be reminiscent of the Colonial homes that once stood at that location in downtown Newport, are meant to be informal seating areas and community gathering spots. The interior floor of each foundation will be bluestone slabs that have been stored at city yard for years.
Masons from QMW Masonry of Portsmouth worked on the two larger foundations Wednesday. When the weather is cold, rainy or snowy, they work in a tented space with propane heaters over a foundation.
Jim Farrar, owner and president of Farrar & Associates, is overseeing the $3.5 million redesign and reconstruction of the park for the Doris Duke Monument Foundation, an offshoot of the Newport Restoration Foundation. Duke funded the creation of the public park in the mid-1970s, and its redesign was conceived as a gift to the public for 2012, the centennial year of her birth. All the funding was privately raised.
“We want to take advantage of the great weather we’re having right now,” Farrar said. “The more we can get done now, the less stressful a situation we will have in April and May.”
The Newport Restoration Foundation is hoping to complete the park by the Memorial Day weekend.
“We are in a great position for a May completion,” Farrar said.
Efforts are being made to use local materials in the redesign and to hire local companies and trades people to do the work.
“We’re looking for natural stones from the area,” Farrar said.
The stones for the foundations come from Prescott Farms in Middletown and were used in former house foundations.
The search for a large old stone for the water table, one measuring 10 to 12 feet long, about 2 feet wide and at least 18 inches thick, took the project designers to East Providence, where the state Department of Transportation had dredged large cut stones from the Providence River.
“There will be nine fountains coming out of the stone, and there will be fiber-optic lighting,” Farrar said. “It will be very attractive.”
Pieter Roos, executive director of the Newport Restoration Foundation, is researching Newport historical documents for quotes to be etched into some of the stonework in the park. Nick Benson of the John Stevens Shop in Newport will do the stone carving.
Maya Lin, the internationally known designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., is redesigning the park with well-known landscape architect Edwina von Gal of East Hampton, N.Y. They have been traveling to Newport every few weeks to walk the park and tweak the design, Farrar said. Most recently, before the Christmas holidays, they reviewed the layout of the walkways, he said.
Chris LaGuardia, a landscape architect from New York, is handling the project management for Lin and von Gal.
Large stones from DOT’s East Providence stockpile are being used to build the low stone wall separating the park from the sidewalk along Thames Street. The wall, also a prime seating area, will be set back in the park so the brick sidewalk can be widened.
The current uneven sidewalk is in bad shape from frost heaves. All the brick will be pulled up and a new concrete base installed before the bricks are re-laid, Farrar said.
The former Frank Street will be re-laid with Belgian blocks and bluestone to form a central walkway in the park, as existed in the past.
On an average day, there are about 15 workers on the site, but that number goes up or down depending on the stage of the project, Farrar said. More than 30 workers are involved.
RJ Cawley Contracting of Newport and J.A.M. Construction of Middletown are working on the park’s infrastructure. Workers were installing catch basins and pipes for the drainage system and laying pipes for the new fountains this week. Water will flow over the stone table at the center of the largest foundation area and there will be drinking fountains.
Shamrock Electric of Middletown is doing the wiring for the new light posts and subdued LED lighting for the park.
“The decorative lampposts have been ordered,” Farrar said.
Other Aquidneck Island companies involved in the project are Northeast Engineers of Middletown and Domina’s Agway of Portsmouth.
J.A.M. Construction has removed the top foot of contaminated soil throughout most of the park. In three “hot spots” where contaminants from fuels, for example, went deeper, there was more excavation, Farrar said.
In one spot, soil to a 12-foot depth was removed. All the remediation was done under a plan approved by the state Department of Environmental Management and overseen by Sage Environmental of Pawtucket. The company had a representative on site Wednesday.
When the weather is warmer, soil around the existing trees in the park will be spaded and removed as well, Farrar said.
“The environmental remediation work is more than 90 percent complete,” he said.
The poured concrete bases for the foundation stonework go deep into the ground to get below the frost line, Farrar said. People viewing the depth of the walls should not be concerned, he said.
They will be filled in, and the foundation-seating areas will be accessible in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Farrar said.
According to the design specifications, the amount of usable space in the park will be increased from 42,104 square feet to 44,876 square feet, and the number of trees in the park will be increased from 33 to 45.
Visitors to the park will enjoy free WiFi connections to the Internet. A shed is being built at the site to house the controls for the water system, lighting and computer connections, as well as to provide storage space for maintenance equipment.
When the landscaping is done in the spring, 10 inches of new soil will be put down and two inches of sod.
“Late May is when we open the park and dedicate it,” Roos said.
Besides honoring Duke, the project was conceived as a tribute to historic preservation as a catalyst for community revitalization, he said.
The Doris Duke Monument Foundation is providing commentary on the status of the project atdorisdukemonument.blogspot.com, to keep the public informed. It will be updated in the next few days.