June 17, 2024

Project Spotlight : Central Social Park District

Aerial shot of a park. park has a large concrete circle walking path in the middle. Aerial shot of a park. park has a large concrete circle walking path in the middle.

Our Celina landscape architecture team is celebrating winning the Merit Award in Design for Landscape Architecture for the Central Social District Park project in Van Alstyne, TX, during the 2024 Texas American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Conference. This award recognizes our team's outstanding professional achievement.

It was a pleasure working with the Van Alstyne city manager, city council, and city staff, who were key advocates in getting the park project off the ground. The new district park positions the city for future growth and revitalizes its downtown space.

The City of Van Alstyne, 50 miles north of Dallas in Grayson County, is strategically located between Sherman and McKinney. The project site is in the 'Central Business District' downtown, surrounded by residential areas. After meeting with city staff and stakeholders, it was decided that the town's rich history, especially its railroad past, should be incorporated into the park design. This collaborative process ensured the final design truly reflected the city's spirit and heritage.

With respect to the city's history, the design team incorporated elements from the past into the new landscape. The building that previously occupied the site was an old, historic structure with beautiful brickwork. Instead of discarding these materials, the team carefully salvaged the historic bricks. These were then repurposed in the new design, adding a touch of nostalgia and continuity to the modern park. The bricks now form part of the paving, creating a charming plaza area that tells stories of the city's past. They were also used in constructing column fences, adding a unique, rustic charm to the park's water tower screening. This thoughtful use of existing materials not only reduced waste but also preserved a piece of the city's heritage, further enhancing the value of the park.

The design team cleverly incorporated a railroad theme into the Central Social District Park, paying homage to the city's rich railway history. The playground equipment was designed to resemble a vintage train, sparking children's imaginations and providing an educational element to their play. Building structures around the park were also influenced by this theme, with architectural details reminiscent of old train stations. Even the paving and materials used throughout the park echoed this motif. Simulated tracks were stamped into the concrete paths, and rustic, iron-like colors were used in construction, mimicking the look of historic railways. This thematic approach not only added a unique charm to the park but also served as a creative way to celebrate and remember the city's past.

The Central Social District Park features a splash pad that doubles as a seating and walking area during city events. The park's main open space combines turf and concrete paving for various uses, providing a green space for picnics when no events are occurring.

This park is now the hub for community events, satisfying the city's goal of hosting downtown events that were previously held elsewhere. It houses adaptable pavilions used for concerts, farmer's markets, or gathering points, which fosters community spirit and brings vibrancy to downtown life.

Arched walls with trellises at the north end and near the south water tower serve multiple functions - they act as barriers for the splash pad, amphitheater seating, eating areas, sound barriers for nearby residences, and feature iron art installations.

The park also provides dedicated spaces for a farmer's market and food trucks. Trails throughout the park connect it to downtown, regional parks, and schools, promoting community integration.

Considering the downtown's future, the park includes much-needed parking, carefully positioned to cause minimal disturbance to existing trees and residential neighborhoods. This thoughtful design caters to the community's needs and enhances the city's vibrancy.

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