Jennie Elizabeth Hughes Park

Jennie Elizabeth Hughes Park GroundbreakingDSC_0781
The City of West University Place held a ceremonial groundbreaking on June 13 to kick-off the construction of Jennie Elizabeth Hughes Park, 6446 Sewanee.  The occasion commemorated the start of construction activities which begin on Monday, June 18, and the park is projected to open in October of this year. 

The 15,000 square foot park includes a covered front porch entry at the corner of Sewanee and Pittsburg complete with a ceiling fan, recessed lighting, and rocking chairs looking out to a large open greenspace in the center of the park.  In addition, the park features a dry stream bed with a button activated water feature, benches, log seats, a picnic table, new trees, donor area, and beautiful landscaping enhancements.  The park will have unobtrusive moon lighting in the trees to allow nighttime passerby's a view into the park, and thoughtful consideration was given to the neighboring properties with the incorporation of an 8ft tall cedar fence and tall hedge along the park perimeter. 

This park would not have been possible without generous bequest from longtime West University Place resident Mr. James M. Hughes, who donated his property and $200,000 to be used for the design and development of a quiet park honoring his mother Jennie Elizabeth Hughes.  The Friends of West U Parks Fund, Inc. (www.westuparks.org) are funding all remaining construction expenses.  "On behalf of the CIty; we are both humbled and thankful for the generous and kind hearted donation of this property by Mr. Hughes in loving memory of his mother," said Mayor Susan Sample.  "We are so proud to be a part of the efforts of the staff, elected officials, citizens, and neighbors of West U combined with the further support of the Friends and Parks Boards in delivering this wonderful treasure of our community to its people.  It will be a lasting testament of all those involved."

Visit www.westutx.gov/jehpark for regular project updates or contact Parks and Recreation Director Susan White for more information. 
UPDATE - 5/15/18

City Council approved the items below at the meeting on Monday, May 14, 2018:
  • Hughes Park site plan with a front porch shade cover and 8ft double-sided cedar fence on the north and west park perimeter.  
  • Friends of West U Parks Fund, Inc. project funding of $325,560 (ordinance requirement).  These funds will be used for project expenses over the $200,000 Hughes donation.
  • Variance to the existing zoning regulations for items located in the front yard setback.  
Staff would like to extend our thanks to the Hughes family representatives, Mayor and Council, Hughes Park Task Force, Parks and Recreation Board, and Friends of West U Parks Board for all of your support and dedication throughout the initial process.  We are excited that construction is planned to begin in June with completion in October (weather permitting).  Once a set timeline has been confirmed, additional information will be provided.  Please check back for regular updates!

Project Background
Through the generous bequest of longtime West University Place resident Mr. James M. Hughes, the City received a 15,000 square foot residential property located at 6446 Sewanee and $200,000 to be used specifically for the design and development of a park. The conditions of the donation are as follows:

a. The Property shall be dedicated as a public park of the City and is to be used for no other purpose, in perpetuity.
b. The Property, once dedicated as a public park and developed, shall bear the name "JENNIE ELIZABETH HUGHES PARK," which name shall continue in perpetuity and shall be displayed on a suitable sign located on the front of the Property.
c. The Property shall be developed only as a "quiet park," which means that (i) it shall not be used for formal or structured athletics and (ii) nothing shall be constructed to interfere or impede quiet use and enjoyment of the Property by residents of the City, such as bright lights or noise producing elements.
d. The City shall use the Development Funds solely for the improvement and development of the Property.

The City Attorney, Mayor, and City Manager met with the Hughes Executor and Hughes Estate Attorney to clarify the understanding of both the Hughes Estate and the City, as it relates to the development of Jennie Elizabeth Hughes Park.  The City understands that the Estate desires that the park not include structured play equipment, but that the incorporation of more natural features such as a hill and/or water feature would be aesthetically pleasing and provide interactive play opportunities for children, are within the spirit of what Mr. Hughes intended.  Inclusion of a gazebo, benches and a picnic table are also within the spirit of what was intended.  The Hughes Executor will have the opportunity to review and approve the final park rendition.       

Design Process

White Oak Studio was selected for the design phases and construction management of the project.  White Oak Studio led the 2000 and 2015 Parks Master Planning process and was responsible for the design and construction management of Friends Park and the Colonial Park East end.  In addition, the 2015 Parks and Open Space Master Plan identified the area between Buffalo Speedway and Edloe/Poor Farm Ditch as the largest area that does not have a park within a 1/2 mile effective walking radius of residents.  Jennie Elizabeth Hughes Park is located within the identified area.  

City Council appointed a 19 member Jennie Elizabeth Hughes Park Citizens Task Force comprised of several park neighbors, Parks Board, Friends Board and Senior Board representatives, a Hughes family representative and a City Council liaison to form a development recommendation for Council.  Five Task Force meetings and one Town Hall meeting have been held to date, and a conceptual plan has been approved by the Task Force for recommendation to Council.  The Parks and Recreation Board and the Friends of West U Parks Board have also approved the recommended plan.

On October 9, the conceptual plan recommended by the Task Force was presented to City Council.  Council directed staff to have architect prepare two new concepts to address the setback by bringing the Pittsburg and Sewanee fence lines to the sidewalk - one concept having the "front porch" and one without.  The other elements remain the same. 

The two additional concepts were presented to City Council October 23.  After discussion, Council approved Revised Concept 1 for Jennie Elizabeth Hughes (JEH) Park.  It is a modified plan of the Front Porch/Backyard concept recommended by the JEH Park Citizens Task Force.  Please note that the plan will require a Council variance to locate the front fences, retaining walls, steps, and front porch in the locations shown.

3/27/18 Update

Staff and the architects have completed the design development and construction document phases for the park, and the bid phase is currently underway.  The legal bid notice will be published in the City's official paper on March 28 and April 4, and several prospective bidders will be notified regarding the project.  During the design development process, there were only a few minor modifications to the concept Council approved in October, such as:
  • East side seating area - This is the location for interpretive signage about the Hughes family, which faces inside the park.  The opposite side of the interpretive sign faces Sewanee and reflects the name, "Jennie Elizabeth Hughes Park."  The four single chairs have been replaced with a bench.  The decomposed granite surface in this area was replaced with pavers for the Friends of West U Parks donor program.
  • Addition of a bench on the west side park.
  • Little Free Library deferred until volunteer sponsorship available (Eagle Scout, Girl Scout Silver Award, etc.)
  • The log seat areas have been scaled back.  There are five log seats located near the water feature area - three on the north side and two on the west side.

The bid documents include two alternate "deducts."  One alternate is to remove the porch cover above the brick columns so the brick porch base and columns would remain, but with no cover.  The other alternate is to eliminate the perimeter brick wall and replace it with a double-sided cedar fence.  Both of these alternates will be submitted for Council's consideration when the bids are presented.  A May 2018 Council date is targeted; however, once the actual bids are received on April 19, a firmer timeline will be established.  Another update will be distributed to the Jennie Elizabeth Hughes Park Subscriber List once the Council meeting date has been set.  Sign up for updates at myparks@westutx.gov.


Project reports:

Jennie Elizabeth Hughes Demolition Project Report 

Prior meeting notes and Town Hall presentation are available below.

July 11, 2017 - Task Force Meeting # 5 (Meeting Notes)

May 10, 2017 - Task Force Meeting #4 (Meeting Notes)

Town Hall Meeting Notes - April 6, 2017


April 6, 2017 - Town Hall Meeting Presentation

March 7, 2017 - Task Force Meeting # 3 (Meeting Notes)

October 25, 2016 - Task Force Meeting # 2 (Meeting Notes)

September 29, 2016 - Task Force Meeting #1 (Meeting Notes)

If you have questions or would like to receive regular project updates, please provide the Parks and Recreation Department with your e-mail address at myparks@westutx.gov or call Parks & Recreation Director Susan White at 713.662.5894.