On a rare dry day last month, the only spray in sight at Universal Plaza’s grand opening bash came from the downtown park’s prized splash pad.
And a little nip to the early Spring air didn’t keep laughing kids from playing fully clothed in the water.
After decades of dreaming and planning, city officials and planners joined the community in a packed celebration and ribbon cutting with music, stories, clowning, fabulous eats from both resident Launch Pod food carts, and a few Farmers Market booths giving a glimpse of Sundays to come.
“It’s amazing to see all of you here this morning. For years several of us have been working to design the perfect plaza, but we know that what makes a perfect plaza is people,” Kenny Asher, community development director, told the crowd. “This moment really is the birth of this place, and it is a joyful beginning.”
It was a morning for celebrating not only the achievement of opening but the people this plaza is built to host and the philosophy informing every intentional element of its design right down to the lettering on its signs.
The are no capital letters. Universal Plaza reads “universal plaza” as a nod to equality and inclusion.
While many were recognized for bringing the plaza to fruition, former Mayor Jason Snider was permanently honored for his vision and contribution when the tables lining one side of the plaza were dedicated to him.
“We are here to celebrate the opening of Universal Plaza, but we are also here to celebrate the dedication of these amazing tables and to celebrate our community member,” Mayor Hedi Lueb said. “His history and his legacy are bringing people together in the name of community. He sought out different people with different backgrounds and brought them to the table on issues that mattered to them and were going to impact their lives.”
Snider, who served from 2013-2022 as a City Councilor and Mayor, was a persistent driving voice for the plaza from the beginning.
“I’m very honored that the staff and council put so much thought into what would be meaningful to me, and that is a place for dialogue that everyone in the community, where people can have a safe space, do some reflection, and really spend time in the community.”
Plans are in the works for a second phase of plaza development that will bring year-round gathering space with a canopy cover and community meeting rooms.