• 64°

Bell Tower Green Park now set for early 2021 opening

SALISBURY — Where there’s heavy-duty construction equipment, piles of bricks and plenty of mud, Dyke Messinger and Jason Walser are seeing green.

Messinger and Walser, president and vice president of Bell Tower Green Park, see a luscious, leafy park in the not-too-distant future as they walk through the construction site that the nonprofit organization has raised millions of dollars to complete. Construction on the $12 million park started in August 2019 and was projected to be completed by this fall. But complications related to COVID-19 and rain have pushed back progress.

“We were ahead of schedule for a while, then had a lot of rain starting around Thanksgiving,” Walser said. “We’ve had other issues caused by COVID from materials not getting here to manufacturing and shipping to labor. It was a perfect storm of things.”

The park is now projected to open early next year. Messinger is circling early April as an opening day, but expects things to be done sooner.

At first, construction was delayed by the deluge of rain that covered Salisbury throughout January and February. That weather limited the number of days that workers could be on site. Then, when the coronavirus pandemic gripped the country, everything ground to a halt. From a lack of materials to a lack of workers, progress was stalled at every turn.

“We’ve got a real challenge with workers from Mexico who are very skilled with landscaping and stonework and brickwork,” Messinger said. “They can’t get in because of COVID. They would’ve come in, worked for nine months, then gone home. Our contractors were counting on that labor, but because of COVID they just can’t get here.”

Like most of the park, the new stairs leading to a preserved gazebo have seen their fair share of mud. Ben Stansell/Salisbury Post

Even with a reduced number of workers, the park is slowly taking shape. Concrete pathways have been poured, granite steps have been put in place and the water wall has been covered in concrete. Walser knows that progress is hard to see from outside the green cloth-covered fencing, but he is proud of the improvements that have already taken place.

“Throughout all this time, we’ve been building and building and building, but if you’re just driving around the exterior, you don’t really see what’s been happening because there’s so much infrastructure underground,” Walser said. “We’ve had a ton of electricity, fiber optics, storm water runoff, sewer.”

From stumbling upon a historic artifact to hitting something underground that was buried long ago, that much digging can lead to problems. Fortunately for the park’s progress, construction workers haven’t run into many unforeseen problems lurking beneath the surface.

“We’ve found some horse shoes. We’ve found some electrical converters, but the worst thing we’ve found were some underground storage tanks we didn’t expect,” Walser said.

The storage tanks were most likely relics from a time when homes and apartment buildings covered the southern portion of the land where the park is being constructed. 

Messinger and Walser made sure that nothing above ground would impede progress either. A ghost-hunting crew even visited the park to canvas the Wrenn House. Built in the 1800s and used initially as a Female Academy, the Wrenn House was most recently a restaurant.

“We had someone looking for ghosts in this building,” Walser said. “They brought in infrared equipment and noise equipment and everything.”

But not even lingering spirits have prevented workers from giving the Wrenn House a much-needed facelift. Once extensive brickwork and other renovations are completed, the building is slated to once again operate as a private restaurant. Only this time, it’ll have an entire park as its backyard.

Messinger and Walser don’t expect funding shortages to hamper construction. Bell Tower Green Inc., which plans on donating the park to the city upon completion, originally set out to raise $12 million to finish the park. The group has raised over $11 million so far and is only about $200,000 away from hitting its goal. However, that number is a moving target due to decisions that cut costs or complications that raise them.

“We have been cutting costs because of COVID. We thought we were going to get some funding from the county and city that’s not going to come, which is completely understandable because of economic challenges,” Walser said. “We’ve had to make cuts to the roads, the streetscape. We’ve had to make changes to the roof of the stage. Small things. I can tell you to the penny what we need to raise today, but tomorrow that number could change.”

With the construction crew finishing up major pieces of the park’s infrastructure, more completed details will be visible in the near future.

“In the next month or two, you’re going to start seeing elements of the top of the ground’s infrastructure, which, when people see trees and grass, it will be more exciting,” Walser said.

Comments

Business

Weak jobs report spurs questions about big fed spending

News

Judge limits footage that family can see of deputy shooting in Elizabeth City

Sports

Woodland, two others share lead; Mickelson plays much worse but will still be around for weekend at Quail Hollow

Business

Former NHL player to open mobster themed bar in Raleigh

Nation/World

California population declines for first time

News

GOP leaders differ on bottom line for state spending

News

Police: Man killed in shootout with officers in Winston-Salem

Crime

Man charged after thieves rob would-be gun buyers of wallets, shoes

Crime

Blotter: Four added to sheriff’s most wanted list

High School

High school football: Some anxious moments, but Hornets win state title

Local

Photos: Salisbury High Hornets win big in 2AA championship game

Local

County manager outlines projections for the upcoming fiscal year budget, suggests uses for stimulus money

Business

Miami-based Browns Athletic Apparel opens second screen printing location in Salisbury

News

At funeral, fallen Watauga deputies remembered as ‘heroes’

Coronavirus

COVID-19 cluster identified at Granite Quarry Elementary

Coronavirus

More than half of North Carolinians have now taken at least one vaccine shot

Local

City hopes to cover expenses in 2021-22 budget with surplus revenue generated this year

Local

Fallen tree proves to be a blessing for local nonprofit Happy Roots

Local

Quotes of the week

Coronavirus

Health department drops quarantine time from 14 to 10 days

Crime

Blotter: More than $100,000 in property reported stolen from Old Beatty Ford Road site

Local

City fights invasive beetles by injecting trees with insecticide

Local

City names downtown recipients for federal Parks Service grant

China Grove

China Grove Town Council weighs 2021-22 budget priorities, supports buying body cameras