Think Plaza, Not Park

Nick Meyer

After many months of public input and planning, last week the Eau Claire City Council approved the final plan for the new Haymarket Plaza, the riverfront public space between the Pablo Center at the Confluence and the Haymarket Landing building along Barstow Street. With completion expected yet this fall, plans include a pedestrian bridge to Phoenix Park, water and fire features, art, seating, programmable space, a new trail segment and more. Read more about it on pages 8 and 9. Frankly, it’s a whole new look for an Eau Claire public space, and it could become an integral part of the community’s future as it serves as more of an “urban” public space in the heart of the city, right next to many of the cultural functions taking place in the adjacent arts center. Traditionally Eau Claire has featured truly outstanding and award-winning parks and trails throughout our community – all variations on important green spaces. What’s different about Haymarket Plaza, though it certainly has plenty of green, is that the majority of the surface is “hardscape” – largely made up of pavers, concrete, and other hard surfaces. That may sound harsh to some, but its part of what gives a plaza its personality and tone. It can play host to gatherings of a different sort from those at a standard grass-covered park, feels different and more active at random points throughout the day when there are not events, and it sets up an important “town square” feel that a breezy green park doesn’t achieve. Add in plaza signatures – including things like large-scale artwork, seating, and fountains – and it will be a very welcome amenity and cultural stamp for Eau Claire’s growing downtown, and one that we’ve needed for a long time.

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