After seeing plans for a new riverfront promenade in Burlington City, several people at a special meeting Thursday night pressed the landscape architect for an answer to one question.
"Can you give us a date when this will be done?" Jeri Waters asked. "You've been working on it for a while."
Waters and others said the plans looked exciting, but they wondered if it would be years, maybe decades, before the grassy 14-acre space along the Delaware River is beautified.
Richard Newton, a partner with the Philadelphia-based Olin Studios, told the 100 people at the meeting in City Hall that the availability of funding would set the timetable. "I don't want to make any promises," he said.
The design depicts a small "sunset overlook" that juts into the river, a walkway alongside the Delaware for less than a half-mile, and a "meandering path" through shady picnic groves and past art exhibits and open space to be set aside for theater productions, concerts, and kite-flying.
City Council President David Babula said some of the financing might come from the anticipated $1.8 million sale of city property near the river to a developer who is planning to build market-rate apartments. He said that project, known as Pearl Pointe, could bring the city $250,000 to $350,000 a year in new tax revenue.
The promenade is estimated to cost between $2.5 million and $5 million, based on the final plan, he said. The council is expected to vote on it next month.
Resident Jon Harpool commented that it was a "very nice plan" but wondered whether eliminating the overlook would save money. He said state funding for the project might be difficult to obtain and could take from five to 15 years.
Newton said that the overlook would be a special place. "It's where you would go to propose and where you go to meet someone," he said.
During his presentation, Newton described the new promenade as a "more interesting and more romantic" place than the grassy promenade and sidewalk now there. That space was created about 25 years ago and is used mostly by joggers, boaters, and anglers. Sometimes small concerts and holiday events are held.
Olin's plan calls for areas to be set aside for small shows as well as for larger concerts and events that could attract as many as 7,000 people. He also proposed creating a small playground and a quiet reading area and picnic space.
Some residents asked where the parking would be created to accommodate such crowds. Newton said "that conversation is continuing" and said city officials were looking into it.
Others said they were worried that transients could abuse the shady picnic areas at night.
Jack Fisher, a resident and former owner of now-closed Cafe Gallery, asked if there would be adequate lavatories to handle the visitors.
Newton said all those issues would be discussed and addressed. He said that at least two restroom facilities were planned.
He also said plans call for a bandstand that would be shaped like a boat, a nod to the city's maritime past.
Babula said the council is "100 percent" behind the project. He called it a critical part of a planned redevelopment of the city and revitalization of the downtown.
The promenade stretches between the Burlington-Bristol Bridge and the Oneida Boat Club.