Public sees first

The town plans on more public outreach on its plans for the Water Tower Plaza as designs evolve. (Town of Gilbert)

The iconic Water Tower Plaza in the Gilbert Heritage District is getting a facelift and the Town of Gilbert has unveiled the first potential designs in an open house.

A shaded splash pad, restrooms, grassy lawn for events and food truck connections are resident priorities reflected in designs that aim to revitalize the plaza while completing important infrastructure upgrades.

The underground infrastructure has fallen into disrepair since the plaza opened in 2008, providing an opportunity to design a space that enhances Gilbert as the Heritage District continues to grow

A two-week survey gathered 3,000 responses on resident priorities.

“We can really reach out to the community and understand how they utilize the park,” said Gilbert Parks and Recreation Director Robert Carmona at an open house for the first renderings.

He estimated 50-100 residents attended and filled comment cards on what they liked of each concept.

Residents did not have to choose between the two concepts; the feedback will be taken to combine elements into future designs.

Aaron Allan, vice president and principal landscape architect of J2 Designs, the civil engineering and landscape architecture firm designing the project, said Concept A is a step up from the original intent of the water tower.

It creates smaller areas for gathering and relaxing and starts to incorporate bigger events.

Concept B focuses on large events like concerts with more event seating and lawn space.

Both designs incorporated flexible hardscape, a splash pad and shade structures, Allan explained.

New water features will use recycled water and be filtered in the pumphouse, Allan said.

Turf square footage is also reduced in both concepts; existing turf takes up 12,260 square feet, while Concept A will use 4,624 square feet and Concept B will use 6,420 square feet. Concept A also shows a rainwater harvesting option.

Lexi Gagner, a Gilbert resident for over six years with Austin Pierce, appreciated the shade of Concept A.

Pierce, who liked the open lawn of Concept B, said: “At the end of the day, it’s a community center. It brings people together.”

Gilbert resident Joel Flint, who attended with wife Liz Flint, liked the organic feel and water walls of Concept B. Liz Flint wants to keep the plaza family oriented and attract tourists and commerce.

“We’re very invested in the town,” she said. “I am from out of the country, but I’ve been in Gilbert for 20 years and I’ve seen it grow. I’ve seen it get to this point where it’s such a picturesque town.”

When conservation of the Water Tower Plaza was completed in 2007, the tower had first-generation LED lights and all other lights at the time were old halogen lights, Allan said.

The first-generation ground sprays also became outdated and inefficient. The pump station will have to upgrade to new technology that will last decades longer.

The planned rerouting of Ash Street and construction of The Paseo, a future car-free pedestrian and bicycle path that will run from Elliot Road to Juniper Avenue, introduce even more opportunities.

“There’s just a lot of opportunity to kind of imagine, you know, what could this space be? How can it start to play in an economic development model?” Allan said.

The town will do additional community outreach as the designs evolve, Carmona said.

The project is still in the design stage, and no contractors have been signed on yet. No budget has been assigned yet, according to the Town of Gilbert.

Construction is planned to start next summer and finish by summer 2024.

“What I’m really most excited about is the community having a chance to design this space in a way that meets the needs now and into the future,” Carmona said, “but really knowing that the main goal is to make sure the infrastructure can last a long time.”