Court Street Pocket Park

The pocket park is located at the corner of Mercer and Court streets.

NEWTOWN BOROUGH >> Plans to develop a pocket park at 112 Court Street took another step forward in March.

At its monthly Zoom meeting, the Borough Council voted unanimously to hire NAM Planning and Design of Lumberville to provide landscape design services for the project at a cost of $18,635.

NAM will be charged with creating a formal design for the park. In addition, it will oversee the construction of the park and coordinate a community planting of perennials as part of the project.

Last fall, council hired NAM to develop a concept design for the pocket park, which will include benches, sidewalks and landscaping. In addition, NAM produced the documentation needed to apply for grant opportunities to fund the development of the project.

NAM recently designed the Newtown Common pocket park at the base of Green Street. That project earned statewide recognition from the Governor’s office.

The Court Street project has a budget of $110,000, funded by a $70,000 grant from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and a borough match of $40,000, including a generous donation from the Newtown Historic Association and an in-kind donation of volunteer labor for a community perennial planting.

In addition, in late March PECO announced it had awarded a $10,000 Green Regions grant to the borough for the pocket park project. The money will be used toward the match.

Once the final design is complete, the borough council will solicit bids for the construction of the park, which will benefit the community by increasing accessibility to the area through the creation of pedestrian walkways, while also making improvements to the grounds that will highlight the historic Bird in Hand building and lot next door.

A concept plan designed by NAM envisions an open grassy area in the middle of the property surrounded by benches and plantings with two garden trellises marking the entrances to the site.

“This is going to be a park where people can walk to and go and sit,” said Council Vice President Julia Woldorf, who has taken the lead on the project. “We don’t provide enough for the older population of the borough and the borough is getting older. We have playgrounds for younger kids, but we don’t have places for people who are more sedentary who would like to walk somewhere and sit and enjoy the greenery.”

Woldorf said the landscaping will emphasize the plants that were used historically in medicine, cooking and in the textile industry to reflect the history of the site.

The Bird in Hand property is the site of the only Revolutionary War skirmish in Newtown, a 1778 Loyalist raid on the Bird in Hand Tavern where tailors were making uniforms for the troops at Valley Forge. Five American soldiers were killed, four were wounded and others were captured.

The land also is part of the last remaining lot of the original six squares of property that comprised the layout of Newtown by William Penn.

The borough purchased the property known as Lot B in January 2019 to preserve the site’s historic significance and to create a public pocket park that will enhance the surrounding historic Court Street neighborhood, a section of tree-lined streets with brick sidewalks, Mahmoud Colonial-era buildings and period street lighting.

In other business at its March meeting, council approved a professional services agreement with Remington & Vernick Engineers to provide zoning and building inspection and code enforcement services.

Council had publicly interviewed two firms for the job in early March to replace its current zoning officer, Barry Isett & Associates.

“I support Remington & Vernick because I believe they have several advantages,” said Councilor Susan Turner. “They have far more extensive experience. They also have a larger organization with a lot of different disciplines available for consultation. And I like the fact that there will be one person doing the job.”

“We had two strong candidates,” added Council President Tara Grunde-McLaughlin. “Each had different strengths and I appreciate what each brought to the table. We can’t go wrong with either choice.”

Council also approved a proposal by CKS Engineers to conduct a road inventory report of all borough-owned streets at a cost not to exceed $18,300.

The survey will include a detailed cost analysis of each road in the borough, including how much curbing needs to be replaced and how much base repair can be expected.

The survey will assist the council in setting priorities, scheduling road projects and budgeting for the work.

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