By John Truitt
Removal of the entrance walls and the first sections of the Downtown Mall roof are already changing the way our central blocks look.
You can stand in the south plaza, ostensibly the corner of Market and Yuba, and look toward community landmarks. Looking west you can see the Lorenz Hotel and past the train tracks over to the cluster of buildings in the courthouse area. When you look east down Yuba you can see beyond the river valley and over to the bluffs.
It reminds me how thunderstruck I was one day, not long after the north end of the mall roof had been removed. I was standing next to the lawn up by the Shasta College Health Sciences Center. I looked over to the west and there was the Shasta Union High School District building on the horizon. (Of course I will always think of it as Nova.)
Opening up the space gives you a sense of place, geography, history. Outward, not inward. Downtown as a center rather than a hole.
Some staff members at the County Clerk’s Registrar and Elections office on the 1600 block of Market Street took a few of the plants that were growing in the middle of the Mall walkways, potted the plants, and will have them in their office. The more gigantic specimens, like the 18-foot-tall ficus trees, have already been cut and tossed.
I am not sad to see these plants go. They were big, and maybe even could have been pretty in a correct location, but the Museum of the World’s Largest Houseplants had seen its day and was not drawing any tourists.
As the interior layers are removed and revealed you realize how temporary and unfinished it looked, almost as if it were designed to be up for a short time. It appeared impermanent because the remaining mall features were so artless. Except for the glass towers, the majority of columns were straight, unadorned sticks of concrete. The planter areas were concrete slabs with a hole in the middle. Suburban sidewalk as interior decor. There are still incongruous outdoor wooden decks in the air. Those decks used to have small metal sculpture features, but that arty touch has been gone for years. The machinery is exposed, with metal pipes carrying wires to uncovered fluorescent tube fixtures drilled into the ceiling. Some iron beams holding up certain roof sections gave the feeling of an unending repair phase. Huge concrete electrical boxes jut out of the floor centers, holding big metal doors with hanging locks.
We are already talking about having our Christmas Light Spectacular there again this year. Community desire seems strong, and I know last year’s display was immensely popular. We do have some real costs to put it up. Viva will need to get some sponsor commitments. I am curious to see if our community can rally for this. Times are tough. But just as the changes with the Downtown Mall itself, the Christmas Spectacular projects itself into the future — an idea of creating new downtown Redding memories.
John Truitt is the executive director of Viva Downtown Redding.