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 A few photos of the Downtown Chico City Plaza 1908 to Present

The New Plaza opened on Nov 16 2006

Special thanks to Jessica for her contribution of older plaza photos

More historic Chico photos

In 1872 John Bidwell deeded the land to the city while reserving the right for a county courthouse to be built there. In 1873 Bidwell planted the first elm trees, envisioning a civic space for public gatherings.

 Elms were planted around the four bounding streets, and a double row lined the diagonal walkways that led to the raised center fountain. Over time a wooden gazebo was added and the fountain was removed. Activities have increased dramatically from the picturesque parade-watching 1910s to more than 100 planned events per year that can draw up to 2,000 people a day.

City Plaza is reborn
By JENN KLEIN - Chico ER Staff Writer
11/17/2006



The City Plaza reopened to the public Thursday in downtown Chico. People came out in the evening...

After more than a year of construction, $4.1 million in construction costs and endless complaints by residents, City Plaza reopened quietly.  Workers took down the fence around City Plaza at 4 a.m. Thursday. The city chose the early morning hour to avoid interfering with traffic, said General Services Director Dennis Beardsley.

The park at the heart of downtown was already in use at 6:35 a.m. when Erin O'Neil and Al Petersen decided to play a game of chess on the plaza's new tables in the hopes of being the first people to do so.
Beardsley said construction crews still have to finish a few minor details on the park, like the installation of lighting fixtures.  "For all practical purposes of the public, it's finished," Beardsley said.

Twenty-four benches are also waiting to go in. Twelve have plaques purchased by locals in memory of a loved one or as a commemorative plate. The others will have blank plaques that are still available for purchase. The contributions pay for the benches, Beardsley said.

Many residents stopped to check it out after stumbling on the newly opened plaza as they walked by.
"I was surprised it was open," Chico resident Greg Scott said. "It's great. I think it's a great addition to the city."
"I love it," Michael Farrety said at the plaza with his 2-year-old daughter. "I think all the naysayers should be eating crow right now. & Chico needs to modernize."
But others, like Marcia Wilson, remain unpleased with the redesign of City Plaza. She said it would not provide enough shade and there was nowhere to sit.
"I don't like any of it. & I'm upset that progress has to rip up something that's been there all my life. I don't understand why they have to take up the park and ruin it," Wilson said.
"I just think this is rude. Too much concrete, not enough grass and no shade. Yeah, 30 years down the line when I'm dead there will be shade (when the trees grow) & but that's not going to do me any good," she added.
 

Others expressed concerns about just who will use the plaza.
"My comment is simple. The homeless needed showers," Guy Halloberten said, referring to the fountain in the park.
Katie Zukoski noticed a homeless man already in City Plaza, but said she thought the openness of the plaza might mean it would not be as overrun with homeless people as before.
"I'm hoping. I want to be able to bring my kids here and feel safe myself," said Zukoski, whose children ran in and out of the fountain. Zukoski said the family had been watching City Plaza develop and were eager to check out the finished product. While the site looked like it was full of concrete during construction, she was pleased to see the end result, calling the plaza "open and welcoming."  "I love it. & I miss the old elms, how could you not? But these trees will grow," Zukoski said.

City Plaza is closed from 2 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, but passers-by can walk through it.
Butch Hastaran was surprised to find he actually liked the park. He said he expected not to after hearing so many people speak badly about it.  "I really like it. It's better than I thought it would be," Hastaran said, noting that he loved the fountain and thought the area in front of the grandstand looked like it would have a lot room to dance.

Beardsley said the parks division is also talking with the Chico Area Recreation and Park District about holding events, including chess tournaments, in City Plaza. He would like to see about 150 to 200 events a year.  "That's what this facility was built for," Beardsley said.

Greg Melton of the plaza's principal designer, Land Image Landscape Architects, said residents were very patient with construction crews during the process.  "I think they're going to be happy with the wait," Melton said.

The plaza's fountain will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily. Melton said the base of the fountain is designed to look like a view of the globe from outer space. Four arrows, which Melton said are meant to represent the four waters of Chico, on each of City Plaza's four corners lead to the fountain. The four arrows then converge into one arrow that circles around and into the fountain where it points to where Chico is on the globe.

Sue Luallen brought her 3-year-old grandson, Jack Antoine, with her to the plaza and smiled at him as he ran in and out of the fountain in his rain boots.  "We were just driving by and saw it was open," Luallen said. "I think it's great. Change is difficult, but it's beautiful. It's not like the old one, but it's great."  "I like it because it has a fountain. It goes up and down," Antoine Giovanni said.

City Plaza used to hold about 200 trees planted during Chico founder John Bidwell's time. A branch from one of the elms fell and hit a person sitting on a bench. The 2003 incident prompted the removal of the trees, which had rotting roots.  Many Chico residents expressed dismay about their removal.  "It's sad. It's like using losing your favorite grandfather," local arborist Joseph O'Neil.   "I liked the feel of the old park," Greg Alan said. "It's a shame they had to take it down."   O'Neil said the new trees in the park will have a life span of 75 to 150 years. "I think there's a lot of cement but I do like it though," O'Neil said. "I think everyone has to be patient. There's some good tree selection made but it's going to take 20 years for them to grow in."

Beardsley said City Plaza's cost to date is $4.1 million, but the city has not yet closed the contract.
"I'm a visual artist by vocation and I give it two thumbs up. I am not so happy about the price tag," Christina Aranguren said.

A public ribbon cutting for City Plaza will be at at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 29. A grand opening will be held in the spring. The city will also hold a Christmas tree lighting at the plaza at 6 p.m. Dec. 1.

Staff writer Jenn Klein can be reached at 896-7767 or jklein@chicoer.com.

BACKGROUND: A fallen tree in 2003 prompted a redesign of City Plaza. Many residents expressed dismay over the removal of the trees and the redesign of the plaza.

WHAT'S NEW: City Plaza opened Thursday after construction crews removed the fence at 4 a.m.

WHAT'S NEXT: The city will hold a ribbon cutting at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 29, and a grand opening in the spring.

 

 

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