Thousands of people pass by Washington Square Park in Rochester every week, and community organizers say that exposure is the driving force behind their efforts to reimagine the space.
Patrons of Geva Theater, workday commuters, and parishoners of nearby churches may drive or walk by the historic park, but some say it’s under-utilized and forgotten, especially considering its significant past.
"My wife and I live over in the neighborhood and we would love to use this park, especially during the spring, summer and fall, on a daily basis,” said Jason Schwingle, president of the Washington Square Park Community Association. “But at the moment, we just don't use the park. We may walk through it every so often, but it's not really up to par with the standards we think it could be in."
The Rochester Area Community Foundation has given the Washington Square Park Community Association a $15,000 grant to explore ways the park could be enhanced and upgraded to make the park a more vital part of the neighborhood.
They're seeking input from the community in a brainstorming session this Saturday.
Schwingle says any future plans should respect the park's history. Frederick Douglass delivered a number of his speeches there. On Memorial Day in 1892 Douglass and U.S. President Benjamin Harrison dedicated the Soldiers and Sailors monument to civil war veterans.
"Now, if I look at that park today, I'm not sure we would invite the U.S. President down to the park to have events there, or the governor,” said Schwingle.
Participants in Saturday's community input session will be asked to consider everything from landscaping and lighting to mobility and historic preservation.
"It does give us an opportunity to give people a chance to think outside of the box and to share their information and ideas,” said Maria Furguiele, executive director of the Community Design Center, which is collaborating in the process. “Sometimes some of these ideas that seem far-fetched do take hold and become a great idea that leads a project forward."
Saturday's brainstorming session runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 3 City Center.