Arcade Plaza opens today
by C.A. Gilman
The city of Ojai has created an art object, a community gathering
place, a rest area, and a center for outdoor dining and concerts.
After five years in planning and $2.5 million, a few finishing
touches are all that remain to be done when the fences come down
on the Arcade Plaza today. According to project manager Neva
Williams, all of the central plaza from Rains Department Store
and the service alley to Rupp Studio will be available to the
public late this afternoon.
Relieved merchants, whose stores abut the plaza and whose businesses
have been affected by the construction, eagerly await the project's
Handicap ramps, enclosed trash bins, skateboard-proof benches,
attractive rest rooms with baby-changing tables in both men and
women's areas - these are a few of the plaza's new features.
Others include ceramic tile-enhanced arches, gateways, brick
steps, trash receptacles, bike stands and columns.
Natural stones and boulders support benches and surround sculptures.
Bronze pavers of sycamore leaves have been laid into the ground
next to live sycamores, and bronze oak leaves next to live oaks.
The patina on the copper Matilija poppy fountain changes daily
with the sunlight. The individually crafted bronze leaves on
the low seat walls will deter skateboarders.
Williams pointed out that the designs of the sandblasted brick
pavers shift with the time of day and the way the sun hits the
Sycamore and Chinese pistachio trees have been planted in the
central parking lot at Matilija and in the west parking lot at
Matilija and Signal streets. There are 16 custom-made bike stands
as well as some specified bicycle-only parking areas such as
the one in front of Ojai Video.
While there have been numerous complaints and concerns from those
merchants most affected by the construction, there has also been
mutual support among many businesses.
Some of the merchants say that they have lost 50 percent of their
foot traffic since the construction began seven months ago. Others
have had a hard time keeping their business going. Lisa Clark
at Busy Babe's beauty supply store credits Sal Lucido at Blue
Sky Music with his help during the past four months. He also
provided another access area to her store while the fences have
Nancy Perry at Arcade Hair Company, whose area has fronted a
fence during the construction period said, "We've not had
any problem with business; customers have always had access."
She also acknowledged neighbors Rich Vogel and Marty Weedon of
Ojai Sports for their support. They and Panaderia allowed Arcade
Hair Company's handicapped and older clients to go through their
stores to reach their salon.
Vogel said, "The Plaza is definitely a huge improvement
over the past where the trash problem was an eyesore. This is
an inviting place for people to come."
Trash bins are now hidden behind stable-like enclosures lining
the service entrance off Matilija Street.
Weedon said, "Kathy McCann has bent over backward to accommodate
us. Everything she's told us she was going to do is done. If
we had a problem she took care of it."
McCann hand delivered weekly bulletins to the merchants to keep
Although a number of merchants complained of the economic impacts
of the construction, they also said that business has been strained
since 9/11 and the drop in the stock market.
Alan Rains of Rains Department Store said, "The architecture
is very beautiful. But what you don't see is the underground
improvements to the infrastructure that needed to be done, and
done right this time." Rains was referring to the sewer,
water and electrical lines that have been replaced. His store
is also undergoing major renovations, which won't be complete
until after the beginning of the new year.
According to Williams, all that remains to be done is the East
Walkway, formerly referred to as the "Wee Paseo," which
is planned to be finished by early December. Additional finishing
touches include redwood benches, plantings, signage, and the
alleyway that leads to East Ojai Avenue. Williams added that
a number of the building owners have also been upgrading their
property along with the plaza renovations.
As for the project she has worked on since beginning her job
on the city staff, McCann said, "I'm very excited how it
will add to this beautiful community. It's a gift to be able
to do that kind of project here in Ojai."
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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