Lytton Plaza is back and it's cleaner, busier and splashier than ever.
The prominent plaza, located on University Avenue and Emerson Street, reopened in style Friday afternoon with a special ceremony featuring food, music and proclamations by city officials and local business leaders. The new plaza features spruced up landscaping, new street furniture, a refreshed "Digital DNA" statue and a triangular fountain.
Dozens of residents and local dignitaries attended Friday's celebration, including members of the Friends of Lytton Plaza -- a group that partnered with the city on renovating the once-gritty plaza. The group includes Leland Levy, Roger Smith, Barbara Gross, Sherry Bijan, Sunny Dykwel, Chop Keenan and Roxy Rapp.
On Friday, City Manager James Keene and Mayor Peter Drekmeier both thanked the Friends group for making the renovations of Lytton Plaza possible.
"When the Friends of Lytton Plaza came to the city to request a public-private partnership, we were elated," Drekmeier said. "Obviously, the project turned out even better than we hoped for."
Keene said the new plaza is "the epitome of Palo Alto" because it represents the two things that the city does best: "partnerships" and "process." He said the city would support future activities at the plaza, including musical performances, arts displays and protests against City Hall.
The $750,000 renovation of the plaza began in September, after several years of discussions and planning. City officials approved the project in early August, but had to wait a month before breaking ground because of a city ordinance that gives residents a 30-day period to challenge the project.
Despite the delay, the Friends group and its contractors managed to complete the project before the end of the holiday season. On Friday, group members celebrated this accomplishment.
Chop Keenan cited Thomas Edison's quote, "vision without execution is hallucination" and credited Barbara Gross with spearheading the project to completion. Leland Levy sang his rendition of "Wouldn't it be Loverly," based on a song from "My Fair Lady."
Visitors to Friday's ceremony said they were pleased with the plaza's new look, though local resident Mark King said he wished the new plaza had a drinking fountain. King, 24, said the plaza now has a more family-friendly atmosphere. He said he hopes to see more business owners and residents mingle and socialize at the site.
"Instead of everyone just minding their own business, maybe they can be a little more loose and talk to each other a little more," King said.