A committee seeking to enhance Upper Arlington's public recognition of military veterans has tentative plans to build a memorial at Mallway Park and is hoping to get an official endorsement from the city this month so it can begin a private fundraising campaign.

As various groups spent the past two to three years planning Upper Arlington's 2018 centennial celebration, a subgroup thought one way to recognize the city's heritage was to salute its military servicemen and women.

Since thrn, a veterans memorial committee has been seeking to upgrade an existing memorial at Mallway Park, a roughly 1-acre space at 2096 Arlington Ave.

The group has retooled its conceptual plans for what would be called Veterans Plaza at Mallway Park. Based on public feedback, it has scaled down initial proposals to move the plaza to the front of the park, closer to Arlington Avenue.

Members also are considering a project that would remove some sidewalks that currently zigzag throughout Mallway Park and replace them with a perimeter walkway as part of a plan to preserve as much greenspace as possible via a grassy oval.

The estimated price tag, conceptually, is $794,000, which would include design work and the installation of new memorial features, furnishings such as benches and possibly tables, lighting, plantings and irrigation.

Already, project organizers have secured a $200,000 grant from the state of Ohio's capital-projects budget to offset some of the costs and they plan to launch a private fundraising campaign to pay for the balance if Upper Arlington City Council passes a resolution of support Feb. 11.

"This is the next step of council authority so that the fundraising campaign has credibility," Debbie McLaughlin, Upper Arlington Parks and Recreation director, said at a Jan. 22 council conference session. "When they're seeking private donations, the donors will know the city will allow the plan to happen."

Former council member Erik Yassenoff, a member of the veterans memorial committee, said Feb. 1 the committee would "put the final touches on the fundraising plan," including announcing how people can donate to the project, if council passes the resolution.

He said designs could be further tweaked, but currently, organizers are envisioning a memorial that would take up "about a quarter" of Mallway Park.

"We found a lot of support from the community for an enhanced Veterans Plaza, but we also found a lot of interest in expanding the greenspace there," Yassenoff said. "We're looking to add a central plaza right behind the (existing) pillars, along with two yet-to-be-determined displays that would go just to the left and just to the right of the pillars."

A veterans memorial gateway, featuring two stone pillars that remain at Mallway Park, was constructed in 1946.

Since then, there have been small additions to the memorial, including plaques remembering local men and women who served during the Korean and Vietnam wars. In summer 2017, the Upper Arlington Serendipity Garden Club raised more than $1,500 to have a Blue Star Memorial marker installed at the site.

In 1969, a financial gift from the American Legion led to the installation of a "Flame of Freedom" to honor local veterans, but it was extinguished in the 1970s due to a national gas crisis, and a 1990 fundraising campaign to relight the flame fell short.

During the Jan. 22 conference session, Yassenoff said organizers are interested in installing monuments or markers that would recognize local service members, and noted the stations could also provide opportunities for public art displays.

"We envision the veterans portion really being the front area and the rest being a park that is multiuse and has opportunities to for additional uses to be placed over time," he said.

Last week, Yassenoff reiterated statements he had made at the conference session that the revamped plaza would seek to honor those who served in peacetimes, as well as those who saw battle.

He said the space also could memorialize those who provided disaster relief over the years or made notable contributions to society outside their roles in the military.

"Conceptually, we want something that reflects the service of Upper Arlington residents in the military, but we don't want to glorify war," he said.

Depending on council's decision Feb. 11 and the subsequent fundraising campaign, the project could have as many as three phases, Yassenoff said. He said there would be additional opportunities for public input on the types of displays the plaza would contain, as well.

"If we can only cover phase 1 or phase 2 (financially), that's what will be done," he said. "But we'd obviously like to get all three phases of the project funded.

"In a perfect world, we would break ground in spring 2020, but that's all dependent on the ability to raise funds."

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