An interesting first test of the Downtown Plaza's viability as an anchor of a revitalized retail district will come Saturday afternoon. A free concert of the U.S. Air Force Band of the Golden West's Travis Brass Quintet, sponsored by The Daily Triplicate, is planned by the fountain near Third and Front streets. At the urging of the Business Improvement District, the city recently spruced up the area and turned back on the fountain's water.
It's an spot that could could play a vital role in boosting downtown's prospects. Vibrant retail areas typically possess public gathering places with public events, and the plaza is the best suited spot downtown for that. It's tucked away from passing cars and trucks yet stands next to the Del Norte County Public Library. It contains a memorial plaque to the 1964 tsunami's victims. The fountain was sculpted by artist Bruno Groth, whose other works grace a number of museums and city walks from New York state to Fresno.
Last autumn, Crescent City Council members discussed moving the fountain sculpture to where more people could see it. Before going that route, however, the city should explore if it can come up with ways to bring more people to the fountain, which as part of the square is a significant asset for downtown. After all, if more retail shops and condos are to be built downtown, shoppers and residents will need a public square as a gathering place for cultural and artistic events. To the city's credit, it does plan to add more lights to the area, rebuild benches and repair the tsunami victims' plaque. That's a good start.
In addition, no one should be quick to jump on the "It won't work" bandwagon if this Saturday's concert fails to attract a great many people. After all, making any square an attractive draw will take a number of various events over several months. Rain, hours of the events, whether or not stores are open and more also will be factors. But if there's little interest in the plaza after an honest attempt has been made to fully realize its potential, then perhaps at that time moving the fountain and redeveloping the area for other purposes should be reconsidered.
Hopefully this weekend's concert can be one of the catalysts for invigorating the plaza and downtown. We hope you'll show your support for just that by joining us at 4 p.m. Saturday for the Travis Brass Quintet.