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Juan Solomon Park, Indianapolis, Ind. --
Where Playground Waste Water Treatment Comingle

Architecture and Landscape Architecture by Synthesis Incorporated, Indianapolis

The Juan Solomon Park playground in Indianapolis features interlocking vandal resistant safety surfacing tiles (SofSURFACES). The sloped green roof of the community room/lift station building has a mix of native perennials, including sedum, 'Green Mantle', 'Dragon's Blood', red oak, bottlebrush sedge, 'Great Blue Lobelia', purple coneflower and prairie dropseed.

As part of Indianapolis' goal to become one of the most sustainable cities in the Midwest, the Belmont North Interceptor project was planned to accommodate community growth without additional septic tank installation projects. The planning stages of the project determined a wastewater lift station was required, and Juan Solomon Park was designated the best location.


There is also plenty of green space for soccer fields and walking trails. The turf is a seeded mix ('EarthCarpet Tuff-Stuff), comprised of 90 percent tall fescue (three varieties) and 10 percent Kentucky bluegrass (two varieties).

The 41-acre park was acquired in 1971 and named for Juan Solomon, an influential Indianapolis African-American community leader. The EPA describes a "wastewater lift station" as a facility designed to move wastewater from lower to higher elevation through pipes. A lift station includes a wastewater receiving well (wet-well), a screen to remove coarse materials; pumps, piping and valves; motors; a power supply; and alarm, odor control and ventilation systems. To preserve the park's existing canvas, the design team was complemented by Synthesis Inc.'s staff of architects and landscape architects to lead a transformational design. The result is a neighborhood amenity that incorporates a natural stone veneer facade and green roof to blend the building into the site, while using other sustainable site design applications throughout the project for stormwater quality and management.


The lift station design incorporates a natural stone veneer facade, also replicated for the seat wall, which offers flexible seating choices for adults to watch the playground action. The serpentine sidewalk that encircles the playground is micro-etched, i.e., surfaced with a fine-grained cement product. The walkway doubles as a tricycle track. The steel benches with backrests are from DuMor, Inc.

As a priority, sustainability and rain/stormwater collection were considered throughout the park's design. Features such as enhanced insulation, permeable and pervious pavement, vegetated-swales, rain gardens and a green roof were incorporated for stormwater management. The lift station green roof has 11 plant varieties that absorb rain, manage runoff and help insulate the building. Native plants incorporated throughout the design include red oak, bottlebrush sedge, great blue lobelia, purple coneflower, and prairie dropseed. With the ability to collect and provide infiltration for stormwater, the project has a significant environmental impact as well as an economic one.


To help with the failing storm and wastewater systems in the area, and to eliminate future septic tank installations, Juan Solomon Park was designated the best location for construction of a wastewater lift station ("lift" indicates wastewater moves from a lower to higher elevation via pipes). Below the building, the lift station pumps 38 million gallons of wastewater a day (mgd), central to a recently completed seven mile long, 42-inch relief interceptor for the delivery of wastewater to the city's 300 mgd Belmont Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility. A 40-ft. excavation was necessary to frame and pour the large concrete pads and walls to house the pumps. The building at ground level houses the lift station controls, and the community room.

The parking lot is constructed of pervious concrete, i.e., the concrete is porous, allowing rainwater to penetrate into an underground drainage system and then slowly release into the rain gardens. The rain gardens and vegetated-swales on site collect runoff from the roof, parking lot and surrounding areas, diverting a significant amount of stormwater from the city's combined water treatment facility. Reducing the load on the city's combined sewer system is more energy efficient and answered the city's call to becoming more sustainable.


The parking lot is constructed of porous concrete, allowing rainwater to penetrate into an underground drainage system and be slowly release into the rain gardens and vegetated-swales, diverting a significant amount of stormwater from the city's combined water treatment facility. The 30 x 275 foot bioswale along the sidewalk contains 16 types of grass and perennial plugs.

For a nominal financial investment, although considered a significant one to the residents, the design of this utilitarian facility also affords the neighborhood and visitors a new community room that accommodates get-togethers for up to 50 people.

The community room features floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on the new brightly-colored playground, fully equipped with swings, slides, climbers and a colorful tile safety surfacing made from recycled rubber tires. In addition to the playground and indoor event space, trail connections and tennis courts were included in the design.


Curved scuppers inserted into the roof overhang allow excess stormwater to drain in a free fall to a bed of washed river stones.

Indianapolis Mayor Ballard praised the park's transformation and upgrades for area families to enjoy, and Indianapolis' commitment to quality parks. It's fair to say the necessity of adding a piece of community infrastructure, the lift station, and cobbling that with the addition of a community event room built to take full advantage of natural light, and constructing an attractive and interactive playground is fairly innovative thinking. Creating a facility building that thoroughly disguises its primary practical application is crafty sleight of hand.

Couple that with some sustainable solutions--a green roof, creating trail connectivity and designing for better managing stormwater runoff, and you definitely qualify as innovative and thinking outside the pump station box. In short, all these elements focus on building a better quality of life for the neighborhood and improving the Indianapolis community.


The blue and white colors for the playground equipment were selected to contrast with the surfacing tiles and complement the lift station finishes. Note the greenroof drains and the 'buff' colored 'Heritage Paverlock' series (Reading Rock) permeable pavers (left). A 10 x 100 foot rain garden of sedges and perennials are just beginning to sprout between the playground and the existing tennis courts.

"The impact of the project in the park has been tremendous," says Allen McClendon, a senior manager with Indianapolis Department of Parks & Recreation. "More kids are enjoying the ADA accessible playground, and the neighborhood is really taking ownership of the park, reporting vandals and picking up litter."

He notes that park users really appreciate the new community room and restrooms. Use of the community room to host functions has almost doubled from last year. In addition, the green roof and stormwater runoff management allow Parks and Rec to educate kids in the park camps and other groups on the impact of environmentally-sound design.

Project Team
Architecture and Landscape Architecture: Synthesis Inc., Indianapolis
Lead Consultant, Process, Civil, Structural, Mechanical, Electrical
and Plumbing Engineer: Hans Peterson
Construction Engineer: NTH Consultants, LTD
F. A. Wilhelm Construction Co., Inc.
Indy Parks
Citizens Energy Group

Benches, steel, black: DuMor, Inc.
Bollards, removable: Keystone Ridge Designs
Fencing: Ameristar Fencing, Montage II
Greenroof: GreenGrid Roofs
Pavers, pervious: PaverLock, Heritage 'Buff'
Playground equipment: Landscape Structures
Playground safety surfacing: SofTILE by KrosLOCK
Trash receptacles: Thomas Steel, Carnival

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December 6, 2019, 12:36 pm PDT

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