4th&Court wrote:I agree! I'll be curious to hear more about how that whole thing went down.
PLAZA: Council members will receive a letter from the Cowles Foundation and the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines for a plan to redesign the city taxpayer-owned Nollen Plaza.
Council agrees to support revitalization of Nollen Plaza
By MELISSA WALKER Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ REGISTER STAFF WRITER Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ March 25, 2008
The centerpiece of downtown Des Moines' rebirth in the late 1970s could be transformed into an urban park that leaders envision would create an iconic identity for the city.
Nollen Plaza was seen as an investment in the redevelopment of the downtown area when it opened in the late 1970s as a public plaza with a water fountain, a small park and later a giant sculpture called the Crusoe Umbrella.
For almost three decades, it has been the site of anti-war rallies, festivals and race starts and finishes, and a place for downtown workers to relax.
Now, leaders say the plaza needs to be updated to fit the growth and redevelopment that has occurred in the city in the past decade.
"Wouldn't it be terrific if people went to the plaza -- if it was a destination -- and not just drive by it?" said Charles Edwards Jr., president of the Cowles Foundation, a charitable trust that gives financial support to art and cultural institutions.
Organizers want Nollen Plaza to become a unique attraction that draws visitors and builds off its central location along Locust Street among downtown attractions that include the state Capitol and Western Gateway Park. Preliminary ideas include more green space, a redesigned water feature, a directory of downtown sights and more artwork.
The site would be modeled after Millennium Park in Chicago, a 24-acre park that includes prominent artwork, an outdoor concert venue, fountains and gardens and was constructed in a partnership between city leaders and philanthropists.
Council members on Monday agreed to support the redevelopment of the site and said it presents opportunities for the future. Councilman Robert Mahaffey said it will create synergy with the Principal Riverwalk and other development that has occurred in recent years.
The plaza was dedicated in July 1979 and was named for Gerald and Henry Nollen. It is owned by the city but, through a longtime agreement, is maintained by the Civic Center of Greater Des Moines. City employees remove snow and mow the grass at the site.
The 30-year-old plaza has not aged well in some areas. The park-like area collects trash and has dirt paths because grass does not grow well there. The Brenton Fountain and Reflecting Pool has deteriorated in recent years. It was turned off in 2003 so officials could fix a 10,000-gallon-a-day leak that cost $30,000 to repair. Officials intend to have the pool open this year.
The Civic Center and the Cowles Foundation will each spend $25,000 to create a conceptual plan for the plaza. Edwards said there is not a preliminary cost estimate for the redesign, nor have organizers proposed what entity would pay for the construction.
Cities across the country have revived central plaza areas:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Ore., has been transformed to include a small theater, sculptures, chess boards, a waterfall fountain, an echo chamber and historic elements that display the city's past.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Copley Square in Boston, Mass., is a park surrounded by historic buildings that has various sculptures and is the site of a seasonal farmers market.
The redesign of Nollen Plaza fits with the vision of the city's new downtown plan that encourages more green space and enhanced cultural opportunities.
"We made some really wise investments in setting aside these public plaza areas," said Erin Olson-Douglas, an architect who helped write the downtown plan and is a consultant for the Nollen Plaza redesign. "Now, 30 years later, we're looking at how to make them relevant today."
Organizers will hold a public session April 23-25 to create a conceptual design for the plaza.
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