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Sunday, January 25, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 24.0° F  Light Snow
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Peace Park to close Monday for major renovation

Credit:Joe Tarr

Delegent Taylor doesn't know where he'll go when Lisa Link Peace Park is fenced off on Monday for renovations.

"There is no place," says Taylor, who has been homeless for about three years. He even slept in the park the night before. He expects some people who hang out there will go to Villas Park, others to Hospitality House, Porchlight's daytime shelter at 1490 Martin St., where they'll "sit there, drink coffee and lie. There's nothing for them to do during the day besides walk to another eating establishment."

Peace Park, the mini-park wedged into the corner of State and Gilman streets, will be closed starting Monday for a major renovation and rehab. The park is expected to reopen around Labor Day this year.

Renovations for the park have been in the works for years and have been controversial. Many have objected to the inclusion of police satellite station and an ATM.

Ald. Mike Verveer, whose district includes the park, has been pushing for renovations for years. "My main motivation in fighting for Peace Park renovation has been my disappointment that the park has been so vastly underutilized," he says. "The park has never reached its full potential. It's literally broken my heart to see so little use of that space."

Aside from the ATM and police satellite station, a small building on the park will include a visitor center, which will be operated year round, and bathrooms. The park itself will include a small stage for performances, a terraced lawn for people to sit on, chairs and tables. There will also be a waterspout for kids (or adults) to jump around in during warm weather.

In keeping with the original theme of the park, there will be a "peace pole" with "May peace prevail on earth" written in several different languages. There will also be quotes about peace written on stones in the park.

"We're trying to make the park more of a namesake to not just Elizabeth Link but the peace movement," Verveer says.

In the meantime, where will the people who hang out there now go?

Taylor says some will go to the "concrete park," farther down State Street near Urban Outfitters, others the "bonsai park," near Teddywedger's at State and Miflin streets.

When the weather warms up, others may go to James Madison Park, though Taylor says, "It's too cold right there on the lake right now."

Stephen Bottila, an activist with Operation Welcome Home, hangs out at the park regularly when it's warm. He says "I'll go to the library, which they'll probably rip down next. Otherwise, I'll go to Silver Mine Subs or any place else that doesn't discriminate against me."

Verveer says that "It's not a huge crowd of folks. It's not like there's dozens of people there on a daily basis," which is why he wanted it to be upgraded. "I've always been sad so few people use the park."

One groups serves meals at the park once a week. No word on where they'll serve food until the park reopens. But Grace Episcopal Church recently compiled a list of places (PDF) where people can get free meals in Madison.

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