For the last few months, visitors to Old Town may have noticed a gaping hole in the ground right outside the Little Bird Bakeshop and seen the lack of walking space in the square while construction was underway.
The obstructions to downtown visitors were finally lifted Friday to celebrate the completion of the Old Town Square renovation project, bringing aesthetic and building updates to the heart of the city.
The celebrations began at 5 p.m. with introductions and speeches from prominent members of the Fort Collins community, including Mayor Wade Troxell and Historian Jim Reidhead. Once the red ribbon was cut, the CSU Foreign Language and Literature club performed a ceremonial dragon dance to celebrate the renovations to the beat of a traditional Chinese drum. At around 5:40 p.m., the Liz Barnez Band took the mic and christened the new multi-use stage with nearly an hour of music.
City Manager Darin Atteberry said Old Town Square had not been renovated in about 30 years.
“It was tired, there was worn furniture and it was not adequate for the size of Fort Collins,” Atteberry said. “It’s important for Fort Collins. People who visit here always come down to Old Town. It’s a huge investment for the city.”
The new stage was meant to be used for performances in the local music festival NewWestFest earlier this year, but as construction had been slowed, the city had to relocate performances to other downtown venues.
The renovation brought a vernal pool, an updated children’s play area, a renovated fountain, a public fireplace and a new performance stage to the square.
Troxell said when the Downtown Development Authority, the organization that owns Old Town Square, was first created, downtown was evolving at a slower rate than the rest of the city.
“It took action of visionaries and community leaders to establish an organization that could shape the downtown area,” Troxell said. “The fact that we are here today celebrating completed, renovated Old Town Square shows what a community can accomplish.”
Reidhead, currently a historian with the DDA and a former member of the original DDA board that helped to establish the square, said that throughout the world, healthy downtown areas are heavily used because people enjoy them.
“Ours is used hard, and people enjoy being here,” Reidhead said. “We must honor the gifts that others before have given us and plan for those that will come after us.”
Atteberry said that plans for the future of Old Town include an extension to Jefferson Street which will help to increase the important of the downtown area. The extended area will become a hybrid road used by both vehicles and pedestrians. The plans are not finalized, Atteberry said, but it will hopefully help to decongest the current square of foot traffic.
“It won’t be a pedestrian mall, but will hopefully reduce the compactness of Old Town,” Atteberry said.
Collegian City Beat Reporter Erik Petrovich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @EAPetrovich.