A dramatic, artistic shade structure over the new Mesa City Plaza won rave reviews despite adding $481,000 to the facility’s $6.7 million cost.
Mayor John Giles and Councilwoman Jen Duff said the artistic shade structure, which will cover a concrete area used for an ice-skating rink in the winter, is worth the money and will become a symbol for the new downtown Mesa.
“It’s a brilliant addition to this proposal,’’ Giles said. “This will become the postcard photograph of downtown Mesa.’’
Giles described how he was captivated when he watched a contractor demonstrate how a massive, 30x70 high-resolution video screen on the front of the ASU building will work.
“This park is going to be a loved asset by our community,’’ he said. “We have a cool downtown. This is going to really elevate that.’’
Duff said that shade will allow the concrete pad used for the annual Merry Main Street skating rink each winter to be converted into year-round recreational uses even during the summer
“I do love the design of the shade structure. I think really that it makes a wow statement,’’ Duff said. “The shade structure, creating an artistic element especially at night, is an attraction.’’
The “signature shade element’’ is a canopy draped over the skating rink with suspended wires, made out of tensile material – similar to what was used to cover a splash pad at Pioneer Park.
The material is relatively lightweight, can be stretched to cover a large area and requires few supports.
“The fabric is likely to be white so we can have fun using colored lighting in the evening. It is intended to be a signature design element that not only provides shade, but also draws people into the Plaza,’’ said Jeff McVay, manager of downtown transformation.
Duff, a Mesa native, said downtown was the place to hang out when she was growing up and that the plaza will draw people back for the first time in decades.
“This park is truly a gathering space where we can all be together,’’ she said, without entering a building. “I think it will be well received.’’
The new, $6.7 million plaza has been envisioned as a community gathering space for years. It will be located along Main Street, immediately to the east of Mesa City Hall and in front of the new asu@mesacitycenter building now under construction.
A construction contract, including the additional cost, was approved by Council on Monday on a 6-1 vote, with outgoing Councilman Jeremy Whittaker voting against it.
Whittaker is an ardent opponent of the ASU project, voting against the subsidized rental agreement approved by the council more than two years ago and all subsequent expenditures.
McVay said the plaza will begin construction in January, as soon as this year’s Merry Main Street holiday event concludes.
McVay anticipates that construction on the plaza will be completed by next November, in time for the new skating rink to be used for next year’s Merry Main Street.
The plaza also includes an interactive water feature and a grassy area where visitors can view movies filmed at the new ASU building.
McVay said the water feature was mainly designed to add visual appeal, but people will also be able to jump in if they would like.
“I describe this as a hybrid between a fountain and a splash pad,’’ he said.
Vice Mayor Mark Freeman pointedly asked McVay if he anticipates any additional cost over-runs. McVay responded that the construction contract approved by the council will not be amended in the future.
Freeman did not criticize the plaza, however, describing the ASU building as “phenomenal.’’
Councilman Dave Luna said, “I wish I was 40 years younger and going to ASU. This is really exciting. I can hardly wait to have this going.’’
East Mesa Councilman Kevin Thompson said he likes the concept but is concerned that the new plaza will be “a new hangout for homeless folks.’’
At a recent meeting, Thompson complained about voters spending millions of dollars on bond issues to build parks, only to see them over-run by the homeless.
But Giles said that the new plaza will be a public park and the homeless, whether they are considered desirable or not, are part of the public.
“I think there will be homeless people in the park, but I don’t think that it’s going to be overrun by the homeless,’’ he said. “I think activating the parks is the answer.’’
Mesa officials are developing a series of new rules to address the homeless problem in parks and cameras have been installed to monitor the issue.
City Manager Chris Brady said a police officer is assigned to the Mesa City Plaza area and that security will be beefed up when the new plaza and ASU building open.