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FOCUS: ORANGE COUNTY COMMUNITY NEWS | ORANGE

$500,000 Earmarked to Help Renovate Downtown Plaza

April 30, 1998|LESLEY WRIGHT

In its most ambitious renovation plan in 30 years, the city will spend more than $500,000 to restore the downtown plaza to historical accuracy.

City Council members unanimously voted Tuesday to remove the more recent plaza additions, including brick sidewalks and Canary Island pine trees. Even the plaza's original fountain, which was funded by a ladies club in the 1870s and replaced in 1937, may be moved back to the park from its current location in front of City Hall.

A group of architects and designers have volunteered to work on the renovation plans since 1992, focusing on the era when Old Towne was founded, from the 1880s to the 1930s. The downtown plaza, known best for the traffic circle around the park, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

But "abominable" changes were made in the 1970s that need to be revised, said Bill Cathcart, a member of the design collaborative that developed the plan.

Some residents protested the removal of the pine trees, which will be replaced with more historically accurate palms, but council members said that history should predominate. As part of the plan, the council also tentatively approved an ordinance that will allow outdoor dining and cafes. A parking plan and a street-light scheme were also approved.

Councilman Michael Alvarez abstained on all but the conceptual renovation plan because he owns property in the area.

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