Year in Review: Hardberger Plaza

Even Phil Hardberger’s many admirers find it hard to defend Main Plaza. They see it as a well-intentioned attempt to create some welcoming, open space
downtown and soften the city’s urban landscape. They jokingly call it Hardberger Plaza and chalk it up as one obvious mistake in a mayoral run that doesn’t lack for success.

By the time Main Plaza was unveiled to the public in April, a collective fatigue with the entire project had set in. Originally given a $10-million price tag, it ballooned to $18.2-million over the last two years. Along the way, its construction annoyed downtown drivers by closing off traffic and it ultimately failed to comply with accessibility standards established by the Americans with Disabilities Act (which will require the City to pour additional money into the venture).

Over the last eight months, Main Plaza has hosted some stellar free concerts: lunchtime shows spotlighting local bands such as Buttercup and Snowbyrd, and weekend showcases featuring the likes of Patricia Vonne and Max Baca & the Texmaniacs. Unfortunately, however, turnout has been sparse, either because people are not yet accustomed to hanging out next to City Council’s meeting site or because they find the plaza vaguely unattractive.

The biggest crowd we’ve seen at Main Plaza gathered there in November for a pro-gay-marriage rally to protest California’s passage of Proposition 8. Could this be the start of something big?

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