With money saved over the past 10 years, Maple Grove plans to build its signature town green and bandshell this year.

Long envisioned as a key community gathering place, the architecturally distinct bandshell with hillside seating for 500 will stand on the shore of Arbor Lake.

Close by, the town green will extend along Main Street, with City Hall and the new Hennepin County Library at either end.

"This has always been considered an ideal site for a public gathering space,'' said Dick Edwards, community development director. "The project embodies the city's vision for a great public space. It's going to be a terrific focal point for the city of Maple Grove.''

If all goes as planned, entertainment would be booked into the bandshell starting in June 2010, and the library would open later in the year.

The bandshell and green are key features of an area of town that was once a gravel pit and is now planned for more dense residential development than the rest of the city, Edwards said.

There is future space for up to 5,000 housing units, all within easy walking distance of the library, the city's community center, City Hall and the bandshell, Edwards said. So far, a few hundred units have been built.

The design of the new bandshell and attending pavilions drew some criticism from Planning commissioners, who approved the concepts but expressed concern that the modern lines could become quickly outdated.

Chairman Larry Colson also remarked on the timing of the project, saying some residents might question why the city is spending $4 million to $5 million on a bandshell and town green during the current poor economic climate.

City Administrator Alan Madsen said times are tough, but city finances are stable. Because the money has been saved, the city will pay cash -- with no bonding -- to build the project.

"We may find that the bids will come in extremely favorable because there are a lot of hungry builders,'' Madsen said. "The library came in $4 million under budget. If we wait, the price of materials goes up.''

Mayor Mark Steffenson said, "This is a great time to build for a couple of reasons. There aren't a lot of projects being built, and the construction companies should put in their best bids because of that. And it will create jobs. It will help maintain the economy in our area.''

Dramatic design

Plans call for a dramatic bandshell flanked by two or three smaller pavilion buildings for concessions, restrooms and a multi-use room. Architect Eric Amel of HGA Architects said the bandshell was inspired by a grove of maple trees. The theme is reflected in the six poles that hold up a stylized white concrete canopy roof for the bandshell, he said.

The rooftops of the pavilion buildings reflect the curved shape of maple seed pods, and holes in the roof overhangs of these buildings were meant to create the effect of light filtering through trees, Amel said.

Several planning commissioners said the pavilion rooftops reminded them of 1970s coffee tables that could quickly look out of date. They also objected to the holes, saying they could shoot rain down on people below, causing residents to wonder what city officials were thinking when they approved the design.

The upshot was that the holes will either be eliminated or covered with plexiglass in the final design, Edwards said.

Council members brushed aside the other design concerns.

"I think that when this is completed, people will be very happy with it,'' Steffenson said.

Said architect Amel: "Hopefully, it will become iconic and bring pride and feelings of good community to the city of Maple Grove.''

Laurie Blake • 612-673-1711