Thousands of residents sign petition against Gastonia park being developed

Trading in the park, for patios. Those living in Gastonia got their first look Wednesday night at a new mixed-use apartment complex that could be built where a park currently sits.

Center City Park in downtown Gastonia is considered a pocket park. Old abandoned buildings used to stand where the park is about 10 years ago. Although the green space was only a temporary replacement, it quickly became a staple.

“From what we have heard from people is they have gotten married there, they have had graduation celebrations, they’ve taken their kids, they’ve taken their dogs on walks. It’s become a piece of history we want to keep,” said Heather Burks, who started an online petition with her husband to save the park.

Nearly 5,000 others have signed the petition online to save the park.

What’s proposed to take the place of the park is a 6 to 7 story building, with retail on the first floor, and about 100 apartments.

The park is currently owned by City of Gastonia, but Wednesday night residents learned at the community meeting that the land would be sold to the developer. Some of that money from the sale could be used to build another park. That plan left some residents with even more questions.

“Would they [the developer] be willing to fund part of this park as well? Not just the proceeds but also some of their funds to build another park if this one is torn down,” said Walter Burks.

Downtown Gastonia business owners say what’s also valuable to them is having people live downtown. The hope is more people living nearby, means more people dining and shopping at local businesses.

Some are willing to back the current plan, even at the cost of the park.

“It’s just going to bring more people to interact and make this city more vibrant,” said business owner Jim Morasso.

Wednesday night’s meeting was simply a presentation for a city council committee. The entire Gastonia City Council will see the plans at a meeting in August, that’s also where the public can weigh in.