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Pocket park planned for Monroe 

Fred Rainaldi Jr. says putting a pocket park at the corner of Monroe Avenue and Amherst Street, next door to the former Show World adult video store, will help transform the appearance and "vibe" of the area.

The final design isn't ready yet, Rainaldi says, but park elements that are being talked about for the 3,000 square foot space include sculpture, lighting, landscaping, bike racks, path, ornamental garden, and an electric car charging station. There could also be approximately 10 parking spaces rimming the park.

At a recent meeting of the Upper Monroe Neighborhood Association, Rainaldi talked about the possibility of broadcasting movies inside the park, onto Show World's outside wall. It would pay homage, in a way, to the building's former life as Monroe Theatre.

Rainaldi says he's still looking for a show stopping feature for the park.

In addition to being an urban gathering space, Rainaldi says he hopes the park will be used as performance space for local bands, theater groups, and others.

"This is a passion project for our company," he says.

Monroe Goodman Associates, of which Rainaldi is developer and manager, will own the park and be responsible for security and maintenance, Rainaldi says.

Neighbors are enthusiastic about the project, says Carolyn Curry, chair of the Monroe Village Task Force.

"The neighborhood is all for it," she says. "I've never had such united support for something as the pocket park."

The park will bring much-needed greenery to a heavily commercial corridor, Curry says.

A woman at the Upper Monroe meeting said that the park will be a welcome boost to the culture of Monroe, which is currently dominated by bars. She works hard to keep up her property, she said, and it's discouraging to regularly find bottles, drug paraphernalia, and other trash in her garden.

Curry says that if people use the park regularly, that should keep the undesirable element out. The same principle applied to the artistic benches that the Task Force and the Monroe merchants group put up in the area, Curry says.

"We were a little nervous and everybody asked the same question, 'How are you going to keep people from sleeping on it?'" Curry says. "And the answer turned out to be, if regular people use it, it'll be theirs."

Rainaldi says he hoped the park would be finished this summer.

Plans for the Monroe Avenue-Amherst Street area have evolved from a townhouse project, to a commercial project, to the park. Rainaldi says the market would not support the townhouse project, and City Council member Elaine Spaull says there's already a glut in the retail market there.

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