New Sundance Square Plaza is a great public place for a great city

Posted Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Three decades ago, downtown Fort Worth was hauntingly bland after many retail stores and restaurants abandoned it for the new shopping areas scattered around the city.

After sundown, when office workers retreated in droves back to their urban and suburban neighborhoods, the central business district was like a ghost town: empty, drab, lifeless.

The dreamers who wanted to see a more vibrant central city knew then that in order for downtown to thrive it had to have not only places for people to work, but places where they could live, shop, eat and be entertained — day and night.

The beginning of Sundance Square, and its continued development, was the spark needed to ignite what would become a downtown renaissance, home to theaters, shops, restaurants, housing, festivals, new businesses and hotels, all of which combined to be a welcoming spot for residents and tourists alike.

From the beginning, Sundance principal partner Ed Bass knew there also should be public outdoor space, a park or plaza, that would be a prime gathering place.

That dream, a crowning jewel of this 32-year project, has been realized and will be celebrated Friday when Sundance Square Plaza is formally dedicated.

On what were two parking lots that often served as entertainment venues, the versatile 1-acre plaza — draped by two new office buildings on the east and west sides — has a permanent stage for regular entertainment, an impressive adjustable fountain, a 65-foot wave pool on one side and four 32-foot umbrellas to provide shade.

Its creation called for the closing of Main Street to automobile traffic for one block, but that portion of the street was closed much of the year anyway for special events, including as the site of city’s giant Christmas tree during the holidays.

The flexibility of the space, which will accommodate everything from movies to music to pep rallies to network sports broadcasts, already is being praised by urban designers as a place not only suitable for large gatherings but a respite for downtown workers and visitors.

As a Philadelphia official said, “When you think of great cities … they have great public spaces in them.”

The great city of Fort Worth has just added another great public place, one that will help define it for generations to come.

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