Spruce Up Austin backs downtown green space

Published 1:45 pm Saturday, June 12, 2010

Spruce Up Austin, Inc. has agreed to become a partner in the proposed new green space project planned for the Robbins Block.

Spruce Up will also accept donations for the project and provide volunteers to perform tree and other plantings.

Project chairman Mike Ruzek said the project is expected to cost between $30,000 and $35,000.

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Funds will come from the Austin Main Street Project. The green space proposal was originally made by Jon W. Erichson, the city’s director of public works. According to Ruzek, former mayor Bonnie Besse Rietz and community activist Belita Schindler were also strong advocates for the green space project.

In addition to removing nine downtown buildings to make way for the new county facilities, a green space in the southwest corner of the two city blocks of jail and justice center facilities was also removed.

The new green space will be across Second Avenue Northeast from the former green space.

It will be located on a portion of the city-block acquired by Mower County as a geo-thermal well field and parking lot for the new jail and justice center facilities being constructed between Second Avenue and Fourth Avenue bad First Street and Secibd Street Northeast.

Mower County is not a financial participant in the community betterment work, Ruzek said.

The Robbins Block acquired its name from the former Robbins Furniture and Design Gallery business, which dominated the west portion of the square block. In addition, a historic hotel and piano bar, as well as the Tower teen center occupied the area as well as businesses, Thoroughbred Carpets and George’s Pizza.

Ruzek said the “driving force” for the project was the Austin Main Street Project.

Ruzek said the work will begin sometime in September.

SUA, Inc. will contribute $1,000 for the purchase of trees, accept donations and pay the bills for the work.

In addition, the organization will provide volunteers to implement the landscaping plan in the fall.

Ruzek told SUA, Inc. directors he “hopes” courthouse employees will be a part of the volunteer work force.

Kim Underwood, another SUA, Inc. director and executive director of the Austin Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department said the design plan would be “low maintenance.” At this time, the city’s PRF department will put the project on the watering needs list it follows in the growing season.

SUA, Inc. directors have also agreed to participate in a Burr Oak Manor Apartments traffic median beautification project.

Harlan Nelson, an SUA, Inc. director, will solicit neighborhood support for the work, which could include planting trees and the use of concrete planters. However, SUA, Inc. directors Howard Nepp and Darlene Thaisen insisted the organization’s participation be contingent upon receiving neighborhood support.

Two other community betterment projects were green-lighted by SUA, Inc. They include the Seibel Visitation and Family Exchange Center landscaping project scheduled Monday, June 28, across from the U.S. Post Office along First Avenue Northeast and the South Main Street area.

The latter may include sculpture and signage as well as a commitment from the Windom 4-H club to provide permanent maintenance attention.

According to project committee chairman Ruzek, more study is required of the South Main Street project, but he said he is “hopeful” it can be done this summer.

Finally, SUA, Inc. directors reviewed plans for the Monday, June 21, book-signing promotion for author and former Austin resident Ann Linnea.

The author will meet the public at Austin Public Library, beginning 4:30 p.m. June 21, when a reception in her honor will be held in the large meeting room.

Linnea’s new book “Keepers of the Trees – A Guide to Re-Greening North America” is being sold by SUA, Inc. as a fund-raiser.

Also, the 2010 Summer Yard and Garden Tour will be held 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 26, with stops at six locations in Austin. The tour is self-guided and the individual gardeners will be present to answer questions and share gardening tips.

Tickets ($6 in advance, $8 June 26) are being sold at Berg’s Nursery, Dolan’s Landscape, Hardy Geranium, Super Fresh Produce and Garden Center and by SUA, Inc. volunteers.

The tour is another fund-raiser to help support SUA, Inc.’s community betterment efforts.