By Hilary Corrigan
Triplicate staff writer
Recent repairs that have sent water running through the fountain sculpture in Tsunami Landing after about seven dry years has sparked talk of plans for the downtown section surrounding the piece.
Debra Stover, owner of Del Norte Office Supply and president of the downtown Business Improvement District group that has pushed to fix up the spot, likes the fountain's new look.
"It's a huge step in the right direction," said Stover, who wants to host events there.
Those could include a celebration for the Del Norte County Public Library's upcoming 100th anniversary, a Fourth of July party, farmer's markets, summer concerts and a party to match the planned tall ships festival in May.
Local residents have promoted fixing up the spot, tucked between office buildings and the Del Norte County Public Library. Crescent City public works crews will add lights in the area, rebuild benches and repair a plaque on the fountain's side that lists the 1964 Tsunami victims' names.
Last fall, City Council members had discussed moving the sculpture from to a place where more people would see it.
"For the time being, it's staying where it is, and we'll see how things work out with the plaza," said city manager Eli Naffah. "We're responding to just trying to get the plaza in a way that B.I.D. and others can utilize it."
But city planner Will Caplinger warned residents not to get too attached to the section that he aims to overhaul.
"It's time to start from scratch," Caplinger said of the section, describing its architectural and functional aspects as a nightmare. "That whole area down there is not going to stay that way forever."
He wants developers to raze the buildings and replace the mostly offices and service organizations that fail to generate sales tax money with businesses and condominiums that will boost property values and funds for redevelopment projects.
"It's just not the highest and best use of that property," Caplinger said of the current scene. "The potential down there is far from being realized."
City zoning plans changed recently to allow higher density for multifamily housing downtown, an effort to prompt more residential development where residents can easily walk through the city.
Density limits could rise even higher than the allowed 60 units per acre, Caplinger said. Other downtown goals could eventually include creating a community square similar to Arcata's or Eureka's, growing the city's small business development center to add more businesses, expanding College of the Redwoods, building artist studios and forming a one-way Second Street with awnings on walkways.
The city needs to attract retirees and businesses besides tourism to replace the flailing logging and fishing industries, Caplinger said.
"There's a lot of interesting ideas," he said. "We have to be willing to look at different solutions."
In the meantime, locals and visitors have been stopping to check out Bruno Groth's metal sculpture of birds and fish now showered by small jets of water.
"I would really like to see this become a business area again. It's a lovely little square," said city resident and bus driver Louanne Thomas, as she strolled through Tsunami Landing on a sunny day this week. "The city should really fix this up."
Thomas pointed to the nearby Redwood National and State Parks building, library and visitor center.
"It's all right here. This should be the spot," she said.