Although some might say that the fences around Military Park were lifted several weeks ago, Friday marked it’s official opening. Trees were moved closer to the street on either side of the triangular park to create more open space. Permanent benches were replaced with movable outdoor furniture and fences around the monuments, including the Wars of America statue by Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum,were taken down. Due to the stormy weather earlier that day some of the programming events were cut short or eliminated. On what started out as a dreary day, by the time all of the dignitaries had gathered and the music began, something amazing happened: the sun came out.
The opening began with Yoga from the Newark Yoga Movement and cardio aerobic by MAD COOL Fitness, followed by classical music performed by the New Jersey Symphonic, Under a tent in front of the facing the iconic colossal Wars of America monument, created by Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore, all the community was assembled to officially open Military Park. The sculpture itself forms the base of a large concrete sword built into the ground. The sword eighty yards long from the end of the statue to its tip; the blade is over ten feet across at its base vibrant with fuchsia colored pansies, and bordered with violet color planting was calming and welcoming.
Renovations to the park include new lighting, tables and chairs, a reading nook and ping pong tables is now officially open for operation . The Military Park Partnership, and the managing organization Biederman Redevelopment Ventures (BRV) will host concerts, sporting events, and exercise classes in the park. A restaurant is slated to open there next month. The eatery will serve burgers and fries as well as beer and wine. The Military Park Partnership consist of various business organizations around and near the historic park, which include the City of Newark, Prudential, and The MCJ Amelior Foundation, Public Service Electric & Gas, Boraie Development, the city and the nonprofit Green Space. for the explicit purpose of improving and operating a reinvigorated Military Park.
The Military Park Partnership and BRV completed decades of deferred maintenance, restoring elements of the park’s historic design. They will now turn their attention to offering free fitness classes, games, musical performances, art exhibitions and other activities to turn the venue into a downtown destination. “The renovation and rededication of Military Park is just the first step in our efforts,” said Vaughn Crowe, chairman of the Military Park Partnership.
“This revitalization has always been focused on creating a vibrant town square that is sustainable for generations, and we will be working with dozens of community partners to that end.” Dan Biederman, the principal of BRV which is carrying out the work inside the chain link fence, expects that will change. “Military Park has the potential to be Newark’s town square,” he said.
“We did not have a ton of money to redo the park. We did not completely rethink the design and,frankly, there were a few design problems,” he said. “But the major problems with Military Park were that it was dull and neglected. There was a lot of deferred maintenance and things were broken.” In their completed redesign, the organization implemented strategic design interventions. The remaining elements are to include restaurant named, BURG: Jersey Burgers & Taps and the vibe will be casual, hip and unpretentious. The menu will feature hand-crafted burgers, salads and mini-doughnuts with wine and locally sourced craft beer on tap. The new restaurant will be open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner later this summer, and although still in the design stages, underway to include a historic period carousel. That’s the latest “tidbit” from Chef Chris Siversen and restaurateur Marc Haskell, celebrated owners of Maritime Parc. Their new venture, BURG, is scheduled to open in the newly renovated Military Park in historic downtown Newark this August.
The final speakers,Rt. Rev. Mark Beckwith, Bishop of the Epsicopal Diocese of Newark, which church is located at Military Park, who was asked to bless the park at the closing, called it a good sign. Then, for the audience response during the blessing, the bishop asked everyone to use a Swahili phrase, “Harambee,” which means pulling together, which he thought appropriate since the city, residents and Newark businesses pulled together to create this greatly improved and far more beautiful park Changing the aesthetics of the once run-down park is one thing, but for Biederman the key to creating successful, self-sustaining urban parks extends beyond design.”We really are against parks programming themselves once a day or twice a week,” he said,”because then the odds of someone stumbling upon some event in progress is very small.”