A concept drawing of a proposed green park that would replace the sunken concrete park in Allegheny Center. The park’s centerpiece will be a ball of mist created by nozzels on poles. (Photo courtesy the Children’s Museum)

With the Children’s Museum, New Hazlett Theater, apartment buildings and plenty of office space, Allegheny Center sees its fair share of foot traffic.

Walking past the sunken concrete park in front of the Children’s Museum, though, a visitor might think the complex has been more or less forgotten.

But museum Director Jane Werner has certainly not forgotten about the broken fountain and poorly maintained concrete park, but added that the park is difficult to maintain. Ever since museum leadership decided to renovate and expand their buildings about a decade ago, renovating that park has been on the back burner.

Werner said the attitude of museum staff was, “Let’s get the building done and let’s look at creating a green park.”

As part of The Charm Bracelet Project, fund raising for a totally re-designed park complete with native plants, bioswales and a mist sculpture/fountain started about three years ago with a design competition for the park, Werner said.

A bioswale is a landscaping feature designed to filter pollutants out of run-off water using vegetation before the water returns to the ground.

The park will cost a total of $6 million, and so far the museum has raised $4 million. The economic crisis put a pinch on money gathering, but the museum, which needs another $2 million, is once again in full fund raising mode.

In a few months, Werner said the museum will launch the public part of the fund raising campaign. For $50, anyone can sponsor a square yard of the new park.

“We’re hoping — hoping — to break ground sometime early next year,” Werner said, though a groundbreaking is contingent on raising the rest of the money.

Andrea Cochran, who owns a landscape architecture company in California, won the design competition held three years ago. Her design calls for a park full of plants and places to sit.

The park centerpiece, to be created by Californian artist Ned Kahn, will be a mist sculpture. On calm days, nozzles attached to poles will spray mist into a sphere shape. Werner said visitors will be able to walk amongst the mist.

On windy days the mist will blow with the wind, and in the winter, the sculpture/fountain will draw on NRG Energy’s steam lines that run beneath the park to heat the mist. The heated mist will cause the sphere to rise, Werner said.

A mist sculpture might not seem any easier to maintain than the current design, but Werner said it would use less water than the existing fountain, and part of the $6 million to be raised will go toward a maintenance fund.

“[Artist Ned Kahn] really understands the need to have things work,” she added, so that the sculpture won’t become an unused relic.

Kahn also designed the wind sculpture on the main Children’s Museum building.

Werner is hoping the addition of native plants and soil will help with Allegheny Center’s storm water drainage issues as well. During periods of heavy rain, the drains around Allegheny Center back up and water pools on walking paths.

Having a public green space will help protect their investments, and she said, hopefully spur business development. Plus, she added, the concrete plaza is becoming more and more dangerous as it deteriorates.

“We’ve invested a lot in our three buildings,” Werner said, “and we’ve invested a lot in the Northside.”

In order to purchase your “square yard of yard” now, call the Children’s Museum at 412-322-5058 and ask for M.J. Meenan.