Three slightly larger-than-life-size bear sculptures, seats and trellis work all are part of a $300,000 "legacy project" at Northam Park planned to celebrate Upper Arlington's centennial.

The city, the Upper Arlington Community Foundation and local partners are undertaking the project.

Although Upper Arlington City Council has unanimously signed off on providing up-front funding for what will be called Centennial Plaza, the project ultimately is expected to be funded primarily through donations, which will be managed by the Upper Arlington Community Foundation.

"The Centennial Plaza will greatly enhance the Northam Park Phase 2 improvements, providing a welcoming gathering spot for residents," said Emma Speight, Upper Arlington's community-affairs director. "The incorporation of public art and historic/educational components into spaces such as this enrich the experiences of park users and provide a sense of identity, place and pride that is unique for each community."

A Centennial Task Force and Legacy Projects Subcommittee, made up of residents, city and business representatives and members of the Upper Arlington Historical Society, has been working to develop such legacy projects to mark the city's centennial in 2018.

Those groups worked with city officials to develop the Centennial Plaza project at Northam Park, which will be at the entrance to the park near the recently created park drop-off area, seats and trellis near Tremont Pool and the Upper Arlington Public Library's main branch.

Plans call for the construction of a semi-circular plaza that will include trellis work and the installation of three bear statues – a parent and two cubs – according to an Aug. 21 staff report to council from the city's parks and recreation department and the city attorney's office.

Additionally, there will be a series of 12 "History Walk" markers installed along the park-entrance walkway, which city officials said would feature narratives and signs outlining the history of Upper Arlington, as well as additional landscaping.

"The Centennial Task Force selected Northam Park for several reasons: its central location and high visibility with two schools, the main library, Tremont Pool and Tremont Center all in close proximity; and the fact that parks improvements were already in process and plans for a legacy project could be incorporated into the overall design," Speight said.

Upper Arlington High School graduate and Columbus artist Alan Hamwi has been commissioned to create the bear sculptures for the plaza at a cost of $75,000.

The Centennial Task Force also has committed to raising a minimum of $200,000 toward the overall cost of the project, estimated at $300,000.

According to the staff report to council, the Upper Arlington Rotary Club, Northwest Kiwanis Club and the Upper Arlington Community Foundation already have made financial commitments to the project.

The foundation will collect donations over the next three to five years and will reimburse the city for its upfront costs, which include a $27,500 project design contract with OHM Advisors.

Foundation executive director Tracy Harbold said her organization has pledged $45,000 to the Centennial Plaza project and looks forward to helping the fundraising campaign.

"The Upper Arlington Community Foundation is inspired by deep-rooted traditions as we invest in our community by enhancing the quality of life through philanthropic activities to create a stronger and enduring impact," Harbold said.

"The legacy project will highlight our history with a row of historical markers that tell the story of Upper Arlington, as well as providing a gathering space, sculpture and other wonderful enhancements to Northam Park.

"In celebrating the great history and spirit of Upper Arlington, the legacy project will provide a unique destination that commemorates the community's past, present and future and we are proud to be a part of it," Harbold said.

Donations to the Centennial Plaza project can be made at uacommunityfoundation.com/contribute.

Questions related to donations can be directed to Harbold at tharbold@uacommunityfoundation.com or by calling 614-451-0700.

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