This summer, visitors to downtown Johnstown will be able to enjoy a unique new green space, complete with larger-than-life instruments for little ones.
Work has already begun on a new 800-square-foot park along Locust Street. The Locust Street Park is built in memory of Leo and Stavroula “Stella” Cakouros, as a tribute to the spirit and work ethic of the many immigrants who found a welcome home in Johnstown, the “city with a soul.” It’s expected to be ready for play, rest, and reflection by mid-July.
The Cakouros family partnered with Community Foundation for the Alleghenies to implement the initiative, which features a rounded central patio with brick matched to complement nearby structures. A seating area will border one side of the patio, facing the central space, and decorative elements will reflect the area’s historic buildings. The highlight of the design is four custom-ordered outdoor musical instruments: a swirl, yantzee, imbarima, and tuned drums, which are all in the percussion family.
Construction is funded through a donation from the Cakouros family and Community Foundation for the Alleghenies’ Community Initiatives Fund, for a total of $44,000. The Foundation worked with the City of Johnstown to negotiate a long-term lease for the space, formerly a gravel parking lot and once the site of a collapsed parking garage.
Members of the Johnstown Youth Corps, a program for high school students that is funded by the Foundation in partnership with Goodwill Industries of The Conemaugh Valley, Inc., will maintain the park once it’s completed. Vision2025 Greenspace Capture Team helped vet the project and will help with planting. Milkies Lawn and Landscaping is constructing the park.
Vision2025 Coordinator Ryan Kieta says the park reflects the donor’s intent, adding a pleasant space for reflection to the downtown experience through a playful, multi-generational approach.
“This is going to be, in many ways, an extension to the Central Park square,” he says. “It transforms a blighted lot into an attractive investment.” It also builds on other improvements underway in the downtown area, Kieta says. “You can look at Central Park and recognize there’s real momentum generating outward from the square right now. This will be a gathering space for children and adults, an interactive part of the new Central Park square fabric.”