Taking advantage of a precious, rare patch of dry, sunny weather, City officials and a large crowd gathered Tuesday to dedicate the new City Hall Plaza.
“This is the first of new, innovative projects you’ll see in the downtown,” said Mayor Pete Lewis.
Anchoring the north end of the future Promenade along South Division Street, the project opens the old U-shaped plaza by taking off the end of the southeast-facing terrace, swinging it 45-degrees east, and removing the planter near the corner of Main and Division.
It adds a water feature and blue glass aggregate simulations of the White and Green rivers along the terraces. Among the prominent features are the bell-shaped monument lights. Six feet high atop two, 24-foot-high poles, with a finial on top of the lanterns, the fiber optic sculptures are meant to be an exaggerated form of the City light standard. Energy-efficient fiber optic strands circle stainless steel rings to create the curve. The finials and bases, both hand made, are meant to evoke the terra cotto designs of the long gone Northern Clay Company.
The speaker’s pulpit, which some City Hall folk derided as “the Mussolini rostrum,” has been demolished to widen the staircase leading to the main entrance to City Hall. Hand rails line the steps.
Three tables and benches will be added to the plaza.
Under the pavers are new stormwater vaults, eliminating the water seepage that undermined the old plaza.
Across Main Street, on the site of the former Marvel building, is Plaza Park, an urban park that provides a gathering place for old and young alike at events like the Santa Parade and Veterans Parade. Additional storm vaults underneath Plaza Park meet up to 30 percent of the downtown requirements.
“This is going to be a place where your children and grandchildren and their grandchildren can come to city events and can play and see the features available,” Lewis said.
In the not-too-distant future, the project will extend into West Main Street, with gray pavers framed by brick-colored concrete pavers.
The City’s next project is the Promenade, which calls for digging up and redeveloping South Division Street, replacing worn out utilities, widening the street and providing new opportunities for businesses. Division Street will be paved with permeable concrete, a new technology that increases stormwater detention.
The idea behind this activity is not only to rejuvenate downtown Auburn, but also to provide it with the central gathering place it has always lacked.
“I really feel like these two pieces add a sense of place to this plaza,” said Daryl Faber, director of Auburn Parks, Arts and Recreation, referring to the lights. “If you go to Safeco Field, there’s The Mitt, and you tell your kids, ‘Let’s meet at The Mitt.’ So many places have that, and I think that this lighting and some of the future projects coming at the Plaza Park across the street will really give Auburn such a place at City Hall.”