LOWER MANHATTAN — A bare-bones playground in lower Manhattan is getting a makeover.
The city bulldozed the old Pearl Street Playground last month and plans to replace it with a larger, $2.1 million park featuring a spray shower, swings, separate play areas for toddlers and pre-teens, and new plants and benches.
The triangular park, scheduled to open in the spring of 2012, will be about 30 percent bigger than the old one because the city took over the narrow, one-block Little Pearl Street, just north of the playground, and is incorporating it into the new park.
"That'll be great," said Gina Keller, 33, a Financial District resident who has a 15-month-old son.
"We're looking forward to it. There wasn't much to do in the old one."
The design for the new park, at Pearl and Fulton streets, is inspired by the block's past — It was once a sandy embankment of Manhattan's original shoreline, littered with oyster shells.
The new park features an oyster-shaped play area that includes both a sandy surface and a water play space, surrounded by beach-like plantings and a landscaped bank of sand and rocks.
The park is designed to be more inviting than the previous one, which was built as a basketball court before being converted into a playground to serve Downtown's burgeoning population of young families.
That playground was surrounded by a tall black fence and consisted of play equipment anchored to a barren black surface that got hot in the sun. Unlike the new playground, the old one did not have equipment specifically designed for toddlers or pre-teens.
Pearl Street Playground is part of a series of new parks along Fulton Street, all funded by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. The refurbished DeLury Square and Titanic parks both opened last year, along with the new Imagination Playground one block south.
Ann DeFalco and Mariama James, both Southbridge Towers residents, have been advocating for years for the city to improve and expand the Pearl Street Playground. They both hoped it would serve their young children, who have since grown into teenagers.
"Now they're too old to enjoy it," James said last week, "but I'm still glad it's happening."