Arts-oriented City Plaza adds ‘sparkle’ to Everett

EVERETT — A curvy wall that will shimmer with mosaics. Scaffolding where the bowl of a terrazzo fountain will be. Informal seating for an outdoor stage.

Passersby on Wetmore Avenue, just south of the Everett Performing Arts Center, are used to seeing a construction site. What’s taking shape is a new City Plaza park.

Tucked between two theater buildings, the arts-oriented public space will be like nothing else on the cityscape.

“Everything here will sparkle,” said Carol Thomas, the city’s cultural arts manager.

Construction barriers block access, but during a recent sneak peek Thomas pointed out elements that will make the plaza unique — right down to what’s below a visitor’s feet.

The plaza floor is black concrete with silica “for a glitter effect,” said John Petersen, Everett’s assistant parks director. “It’s really a beautiful space,” he said.

A curvilinear wall, with portholes and a circular entryway Thomas called a “moon gate,” is the plaza’s standout element. Three smaller curving walls are for seating. And a kidney-shaped stage will stand near the fountain.

As a performance venue, the plaza will accommodate at least 200 people, Thomas said.

The three-quarter acre plaza — on Wetmore between Everett Avenue and California Street — sits between the Everett Performing Arts Center and Village Theatre’s new Everett Youth Education Center in the former Key Bank building. Both buildings are owned by the city, which leases the education center to Village Theatre for its Kidstage programs. The youth center opened a year ago in the 1962 building.

Space for the plaza, which is expected to be open by December, came from the city’s 2005 purchase, for $1.1 million, of the former Red Men’s Lodge plus land the Key Bank building occupied and part of a parking lot. The city bought the bank building separately for $180,000.

Both projects, the Kidstage building and the plaza, have had their critics, largely due to tough economic times. Everett is spending about $2.4 million on the plaza, according to Kate Reardon, the city’s spokeswoman. The city spent $1.3 million to renovate the onetime bank building so Village Theatre could lease it.

Everett City Councilman Ron Gipson voted against the projects, which were strongly supported by council members Brenda Stonecipher and the late Drew Nielsen.

Reardon said the $2.4 million comes from the city’s capital improvement budget and the cultural arts department. The cost covers design, construction, utility work including removal of a power pole, streetscape work on Wetmore and California, and an artist’s contract to create the fountain and mosaics.

The plaza was designed by Nakano Associates, a Seattle-based landscape and urban design firm. The firm worked with Bellingham to design that city’s Arts District plaza.

In Everett’s City Plaza, Linda Beaumont is the project artist designing the fountain and crafting mosaics that will cover the large wall. From the alley skirting the plaza, the beginnings of Beaumont’s mosaics are visible — shiny pieces of mirrored glass, honey onyx and carrera marble.

Among Beaumont’s other projects are Safeco Field’s “The Tempest,” an installation of translucent baseball bats; “Current,” a shimmering floor at Bellevue City Hall that suggests the flow of water; and a work called “Spinning Our Wheels,” made of steel discs, at Sea-Tac Airport.

Mosaic work on the wall will continue next year. It can’t be finished during winter weather, Thomas said. People in the community will get a chance to work on the mosaics, she added.

Reardon said the park, with its mosaic-covered wall and lighted terrazzo fountain with sculptures, borrows elements from a plaza in Barcelona, Spain, where architect Antoni Gaudi created a whimsical world.

If weather cooperates, Reardon said the plaza should be largely finished by Dec. 1.

“We see it as a gathering place in downtown for all kinds of arts — performances of theater and performance of music,” Thomas said. It’s definitely not is a skate park. Like other public places, it has built-in “skateboard stops,” Thomas said.

Petersen, the assistant parks director, said the plaza is a city park and will be maintained by the parks department. It will have a variety of trees and other landscaping. “No grass,” Petersen said.

It’s a construction site now, but Petersen said workers have heard “an awful lot of positive comments.”

“We want to make it a very active space — a gathering space for the arts,” Thomas said.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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