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Romare Bearden Park opening delayed until August

Bad weather has forced Mecklenburg leaders to push back the opening of Romare Bearden Park in Third Ward until late August, officials announced Thursday.

The county had originally planned to debut the park during a two-day celebration in mid-June, including performances by jazz singer Nnenna Freelon and saxophonist Branford Marsalis.

But after another recent bout of rainy weather made it difficult for crews to work on the site, officials this week opted for a delay, said Jim Garges, director of Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation.

Garges said the project has run into an unusual number of weather-related delays since construction started in late 2011.

He said that while the contractor shifted to a seven-day-a-week schedule to try to keep up, he estimated crews lost about two months of work time in all since the project began.

“At some point you just have to call the question,” Garges said, “so that’s what we did this week.”

County officials now hope to open the park around Labor Day, which would coincide with what would have been the 102nd birthday of the park’s namesake. Garges said officials are trying to see whether they can get the musical performances rescheduled. If not, it’s possible they’ll still occur in June but at another park site.

Bearden, who is most recognized for his collages and paintings, is considered one of the pre-eminent artists of the 20th century.

Bearden’s art, as well as his time in Mecklenburg County, has inspired various elements in the park.

The county park is being built on land bordered by Mint, Third and Church streets and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. It will be adjacent to the future BB&T Ballpark for the Charlotte Knights that is set to open next year.

The county broke ground in September 2011.

Garges said that in the past year, crews have been able to finish underground work at the park site and also completed several structures, such as bathrooms and kiosks.

But he said there is still a lot of work to do, including finishing infrastructure and walkways, and laying down stone, turf, plants and other finishings.

Garges said officials had originally hoped to have 80 percent of the work done by February or March, and to spend the next few months on the finishing touches.

Garges said the county opted to delay the project instead of pushing the contractor to finish it by June, which would have increased costs. “We’re not going to spend any more money than we need to,” Garges said.

In a news release announcing the delay, Garges said officials appreciate the public’s patience as they complete the park.

“We are very excited about the vast array of cultural arts programs that will be offered at the park,” he said.

Bethea: 704-358-6013; On Twitter: @AprilBethea
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