CHRISTIANSBURG — Town officials hope to soon reach an agreement on plans to turn 60 acres of former farm land into a multi-purpose park.
Christiansburg Town Council directed town management last month to begin negotiating an interim agreement on the development of the vacant land off Peppers Ferry Road, behind Walmart. The land is informally named after Truman Wilson, the name of the farmer to which it previously belonged.
The town paid $2.5 million for the land in 2013 with ambitions to turn the property into a recreation destination, but progress has been slow to come due to factors such as costs.
Town council, however, has so far not abandoned its plans to do something with the land.
Last fall, construction and design firm Branch and Associates submitted a proposal for the property under the state’s Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act (PPEA) of 2002. Council’s acceptance of the proposal for review required the town to open the door to other project bids.
The town received additional bids from Charlottesville-based Faulconer Construction Company and the Roanoke-based E.C. Pace Company Inc. The town also received a revised plan from Branch and Associates.
Christiansburg is negotiating an agreement with one of the firms, but is currently keeping some key details private “to protect the town’s negotiating abilities,” town spokeswoman Melissa Demmitt wrote in an email.
Details currently being withheld include the firm name and its bid amount.
As part of the agreement, the town will receive an engineering and design plan that council members said will help them with their decision on whether or not to hire the firm for construction.
The town has also not disclosed costs associated with the engineering and design work.
“The fee has not been disclosed at this time because it could still be negotiated,” Demmitt wrote.
The PPEA aims to speed up the pace and lower the cost of local government projects by allowing private firms to seek the financing.
The PPEA also slightly changes disclosure requirements on local government projects. Typically, local governments in Virginia advertise for bids over a certain period before eventually disclosing the bid amounts and choosing the winning proposal.
“We’re standing at the crossroads right now,” Councilman Brad Stipes said. “And now is the time for town council to decide which direction we’re going to head with the park.
“I’m most definitely in favor of constructing on the Truman Wilson property. I think it’s a long overdue amenity that our current citizens will appreciate and that I believe will attract future residents to our town.”
The town has considered various concepts for the park over the past few years.
An early version that was estimated to cost about $30 million depicted amenities such as soccer-style fields, softball diamond, an amphitheater, sand volleyball courts, dog parks, a playground and a splash pad.
In 2018, town council began leaning toward an estimated $16.1 million project that would keep the soccer-style fields, dog parks and playground but would leave out the sand volleyball courts, splash pad and amphitheater.
Council has been told by senior staff that the town over time can cover some of the project’s costs with outside funding such as grants and sponsorships and revenue from the sale of a few town-owned parcels.
Some debt, however, is almost inevitable, town staff has said.
“I feel it will come to some type of fruition at some point,” Mayor Mike Barber said. “I hope it’s this summer … It’s time to either move on or start the process.”