Fifty years after being bisected by Santa Rosa and Mendocino Avenues, Santa Rosa’s Courthouse Square has been reunified to create an outdoor plaza serving as a destination for public events. It is a place that invites residents and visitors to shop, dine and enjoy the amenities of the city.
Since opening last April, the 1.5-acre plaza has proven to be an attractive gathering space, hosting a number of community events and gatherings, including two major Ironman Triathlons and the weekly Wednesday Night Markets during the summer.
The site’s original side streets were reinstalled and include wide sidewalks suitable for outside dining. The existing park areas of the square were joined together to create an attractive and spacious plaza.
The pedestrian-oriented open, flexible design features a sustainable landscape with over 80 shade trees and a lawn in the shape of a cross designed to recall the footprint of the city’s first courthouse that was toppled by the 1906 earthquake.
This family-friendly environment has well-lit space, accessible parking, benches and drinking fountains. The design includes the preservation of existing historical elements as well as a public WiFi access system and bicycle parking. Four custom-designed 14-foot tall Luther Burbank themed multi-colored light towers add a special accent to nighttime illumination.
Other attractions waiting to be funded and installed, include a redesigned Ruth Asawa Fountain with its marine life bas-relief, and a proposed art project at the north end of the square.
This project was designed and constructed on a fast track schedule starting with community meetings in December 2015 followed by the preparation and adoption of a master plan by the end of January 2016. Construction documents were completed in March, and construction started in May 2016. The reunified square was reopened on April 29, 2017 with a dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Curt Nichols, project manager and partner at design firm Carlile-Macy, selected to design the new square, said, “I’m not sure that a really active downtown square is ever completed. It evolves with time and how the community feels it’s best to use it.”
Courthouse Square reunification
Owner/developer: City of Santa Rosa
Contractor: Thompson Builders Corporation
Designer: Carlile Macy
Cost: $10.5 million (approved project budget)
Funding: Public funds