Public Square History 2000-present

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New Beginnings: The 2000’s[edit | edit source]


Photos, l-r: Public Square, Iron Block demolition, Paddock Arcade, Franklin Building. Click each photo to enlarge.

Public Square in the 21st century has, so far, been a mix of cynicism and optimism. In 2002, a drunken patron of a Public Square pub climbed onto the 133 year old fountain, breaking it into several pieces. [1] In 2004, declining occupancy in the historic Arcade saw owners of that building unable to handle the building’s maintenance and upkeep, city codes officials closing the building for several days due to unpaid utility bills [2] and a faulty sprinkler system. More demolition came in 2005, when, after much wrangling and public protest, three of the buildings in the 155 year old Iron Block were demolished having been neglected and becoming structurally unsafe. [3] The fourth building, having been used and maintained, remains standing, home to Cam’s Pizzeria.

Many saw the fountain incident, the Arcade and the Iron Block as signals that Public Square, long neglected, had suffered enough. Renewed civic pride from some of the city’s leaders and businessmen, as well as the public at large, saw some people make a concerted effort to reverse the square’s misfortunes. New ownership has breathed new life back into the Paddock Arcade and new development and façade restoration proposals have been put forward. Renovations will soon begin on the long vacant Franklin Building. However, the biggest hope for the future of Public Square lies in the multi-million dollar Streetscape Project. This much maligned, much delayed project finally got underway in 2006. The project includes structural, as well as cosmetic restoration of the entire square. It is hoped that a beautified square, with its more friendly traffic and pedestrian atmosphere, will help attract even further interest and development.

The optimism of the Streetscape Project was dealt a blow in October, 2007, when it was announced that the 86 year old Woolworth Building would close its doors. Long the home of many professional offices, declining occupancy, like the Arcade several years prior, had forced owners to close the building’s doors. [4]

Many are hopeful that the current development around Public Square will insure it a bright future. The completion of the Streetscape Project in 2008, which was topped off by the re-installation of the repaired fountain after a six year absence, will sure be a test of the square’s survival. Many argue that the mindset of the square as a shopping destination is outdated. New philosophy sees the square as a mix of shops, offices, restaurants and apartments, like many redeveloped downtowns across the United States. Time will tell whether that vision becomes a reality.

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