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Plug Pulled on Quark Park

Matthew Hersh

After raising just enough to pay for the IRS filing for tax exemption, organizers of "Quark Park," the proposed second installment of the successful 2004 Writers Block, have decided to call it quits this year.

Adversity was again punctuated with dollar signs as organizers came to the conclusion that even with pledges and some funds already raised, the prospect of building an outdoor garden installation along Paul Robeson Place would be nearly impossible.

The project was to create garden structures, or "follies," based on architectural interpretation of the works of noted scientists for a result that would generate the same positive response as last year's $150,000 project. Garden organizers had already tapped Rep. Rush Holt (D-12), a former assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, and Princeton University President Shirley Tilghman, a professor of molecular biology, to offer their writings to inspire garden follies that would have been designed by area architects Alan Kehrt and Bill Gittings.

Last year, organizers lost about $127,000 on the project, something they, literally, could not afford to have happen again.

As the targeted $60,000 fund-raising mark approached, organizers quickly saw that the garden would not become a reality ‹ at least not this year.

"Please don't lose faith," said Kevin Wilkes, Princeton Design Guild architect and an garden organizer, in a letter to donors and collaborators. "We just need more time to raise funds for the garden."

In a separate interview, Mr. Wilkes suggested that while the garden could feasibly live on in future years, the likelihood of it being able to return to Palmer Square are virtually nil, as construction is slated to begin sometime in 2006 for a luxury apartment complex on that as-yet-unused plot of land.

"We're going to continue to look for funding, but we're going to have to look for a different location," Mr. Wilkes said, adding that "we're going to keep the idea going and we're going to reconceive the strategy."

Mr. Wilkes was not, however, able to speculate about where a new garden might be located but he did express an interest in galvanizing more support for projects like the one that brought Paul Sigmund's folly designed by John James Rivera to Sigmund Park on the corner of Chestnut Street and Hamilton Avenue. Mr. Wilkes said that the recently-formed Borough Parks Task Force, spearheaded by Councilman Andrew Koontz, had expressed interest in installing the folly inspired by poet Paul Muldoon in Harrison Street Park. But that proposal, like Quark Park itself, remains conceptual.

In the meantime, Mr. Wilkes said all the scientists and architects who were on board for Quark Park were still interested in a future project. While fund-raising has long placed a heavy burden on organizers, a target date of 2006 should make that goal a bit easier.

In November 2004, Writers Block was awarded the "Honor Award for Built Project" by the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and organizers are hoping that will give merit to the project, possibility resulting in grants and increased donations.

"We just need the cash to grease the gears," Mr. Wilkes said.

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