Construction on the second phase of the Owen Dolen Recreation Center is set begin after five years of planning.
The second phase of a $5 million renovation, scheduled to start in July, includes a raised platform for artistic and musical performances that will be visable from most points in the Square itself.
It is part of a plan to bring more arts and entertainment to Westchester Square on weekends to attract customers to the shopping district and drive the economic engine of the area, said Westchester Square Business Improvement District steering committee chair John Bonizio.
“All the BIDs in the city that have had a park attached to them have been very successful,” Bonizio said. “We hope to make the park the centerpiece and an integral part of the Business Improvement District.”
The BID should be in place before the renovated park opens and Bonizio said that he hopes to have large-scale events like the Fair at the Square take place in Owen Dolen Park on a weekly basis.
The reconstruction of the park was made possible throug the millions in grant money secured by Councilman Jimmy Vacca’s office. Issues with the original contractor had delayed the second phase of the project.
“We were concerned about the contracting process, which is sometimes arduous and can take a long time,” Vacca said. “It certainly took a while, and we were concerned about further delays, but now the reconstruction of this park will be moving forward.”
Being at the forefront of a renaissance in Westchester Square is a big priority for Vacca.
“I have committed millions of dollars,” Vacca stated. “I think Owen Dolen could be the centerpiece of a revitalized Westchester Square.”
For Bronx Council on the Arts, which recently moved their headquarters to 2700 E. Tremont Avenue, and the raised performance platform will be a godsend to programing that already takes place at the Owen Dolen Recreation Center.
“One of the hot new words now is platform, but this will literally have a highly visible raised platform as a performance space,” said Ellen Pollan, program director at BCA. “We are so excited to have this kind of space because it is badly needed in the area. It literally raises visibility of arts in the area.”
Groups from the north east Bronx and beyond will soon recognize the Square and the audience that is there as a good place to perform, Pollan said.
“Just having a new performance space and audience should cause artists to want to come to the Square to see and be seen,” Pollan stated.