Gainesville’s City Hall Plaza will get a remodel over the next year after a Thursday vote to remove the fountain and pools on the grounds and create a new space.
The motion passed unanimously and asks staff to return with the exact redesign plans.
Betsy Waite, director of Wild Spaces Public Places, brought the item before the City Commission and said the redesign would allow better use of the area. Plus, the plumbing involved with the fountains has caused ongoing expenses—with a $20,000 repair quote this year.
She said the space also has unattractive short-term fixes and less accessibility than desired. The pools and fountain were added in the late 1960s when City Hall was built.
The new plan, Waite said, would involve eliminating both pools and turning the one closest to University Avenue into a landscaped area with crepe myrtles and other Florida vegetation. She said new lighting and other aspects would also be looked into.
The project would be paid for through Wild Spaces Public Places funds and around $3,000 from the Tree Mitigation Fund and the timeline has construction starting this winter with the new plaza opening sometime in the spring.
Commissioner Casey Willits said the current space doesn’t fill the role it should
“It is not a great space for a protest because of the way the pools are configured. I don’t think it was ever envisioned like that, but I think real cities need real public squares, and to some degree, we have bifurcated public squares,” Willits said referring to Bo Diddley Plaza separated by University Avenue.
Mayor Harvey Ward and Commissioner Desmon Duncan Walker both shared memories of walking through the plaza to access the Old Library Building when it still housed the library.
“I welcome this change and I think that you can do it in a very sensitive way that pays homage to the space and its original purpose but also gets us to a point where we can really reenvision and repurpose it for the citizens or neighbors of this city,” Duncan-Walker said.
Ward said it will be better stewardship to eliminate the ongoing cost of the pumps, and Commissioner Reina Saco highlighted the liability potential from the current raised pools.
Ward also said the city needs to consider that City Hall, built in 1967, will soon need extensive work, along with the Old Library Building.