Township Council Gives Conditional Support To ‘Performance Gazebo’ Idea

John Felix, Bill Grippo and Michael Steinbrück, left to right, at the July 11 Township Council meeting.

An idea to place a “performance gazebo” on township property next to the library’s main branch was given conditional support July 11 by the Township Council.

The gazebo would be donated to the township, but paid for by private donations and managed by the Franklin Township Cultural Arts Council.

Council members were told about the idea by two members of the arts council, Michael Steinbrück and John Felix, and Bill Grippo, whose idea it was to create the gazebo.

Grippo, principal of MacAfee Road School, is a former Township Councilman and Deputy Mayor and has earned a reputation over the years as a prolific fundraiser. He was behind the campaign to raise money for the Villagers Theatre rebuild in the early 1980s, and has been responsible for raising the money for the township’s Independence Day celebrations for the past several years, among other campaigns.

The idea, Steinbrück said, is to for the arts council to give “a performance gazebo as a gift to the township. We feel wholly confident that we’re going to be able to put this together in short order and bring a lot of value to the township.”

The arts council, he said, is creating a workgroup – with Grippo at the helm – to work on the project over the next year.

The trio was at the council meeting to get a preliminary nod from the governing body before going any further, he said.

“In a community like ours, the arts can bring communities together,” Felix told the council. “I think the gazebo will represent the council’s and the community’s commitment to promote” that.

The gazebo, Grippo said, would be about 30 feet in diameter and would act as a gateway to the township municipal complex on DeMott Lane.

“The town thirsts for and responds to gatherings,” he said. “Franklin, with its diversity, responds like no other community. The position would be, as you stand in front of the library, to the left of the library, kind of facing the memorial park we have for the veterans. They would also be able to see the fireworks and have lawn chairs there.”

Placing the gazebo next to the library is “the perfect location” he said. He said the gazebo would be built in a Dutch motif, nodding to the founders of the township.

“Just picture driving into the municipal complex and seeing this beautiful gazebo welcoming the town,” he said.

Grippo said the gazebo would be built around eight pillars, “because we have eight hamlets in the township.”

“Each hamlet will have a sponsor and be dedicated on the pillar,” he said. “Whoever sponsors a pillar will be called a ‘pillar of the community.’ When all eight are complete, the whole town is there, figuratively.”

Grippo said the gazebo could be lit in different colors for different holidays. For example, he said, on July 4th it could be lit in red, white and blue. On St. Patrick’s Day, it could be colored with green light.

“One of the most significant features of the gazebo is that every bride and groom will want to be married on it,” he said.

The gazebo would be the venue for small concerts featuring jazz bands, cultural musical and other performance groups, he said.

“I could see young people reading the Declaration of Independence there,” he said. “You could think of it a million ways.”

The gazebo would be wired for sound, he said.

Grippo said he did not know what the final cost would be, but he was confident that township-based businesses would pony up whatever the amount is. He said he hoped to have all the needed money raised within two years.

Pointing to his experience with the Villagers Theatre, Grippo said he believed there were business that would donate the materials that would be needed.

“It’s just gonna be great,” he said.

In response to a question from Councilwoman Shanel Robinson (D-At Large), Steinbrück said the gazebo would be the township’s property but the arts council – which is a sub-group of the Recreation Advisory Committee – would handle the scheduling.

“I don’t think there’s anybody against it,” Councilman James Vassanella (D-Ward 5) said. “I think it’s a fantastic idea.”

Vassanella suggested that the group return to the council in September or October with plans and cost estimates so the council could make a more informed vote.

“I think what they’re looking at is a commitment to provide the land, I would think that we would want some say in the design, although I expect nothing but the best from this group,” Mayor Phil Kramer said.

Vassanella then made a motion to approve the idea, conditioned upon the arts council returning to council with plans and cost estimates.

“It’s a wonderful concept,” Councilwoman Kimberly Francois (D-At Large) said.


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