The Centralia City Council on Tuesday night gave the Centralia Downtown Association (CDA) the OK to extend its Pine Street Plaza pilot project an additional six months, paving the way to possibly keep the one-block pedestrian byway permanently.
In a presentation to the council, Centralia Downtown Association Executive Director Teri Zambon said the ongoing project has been a big success and generated rave reviews from the public.
The plaza originally opened with wooden tables and draped lights June 13 and was expected to close Oct. 31.
“We felt like it was really a success and a great partnership with the city,” Zambon said, adding that it prompted a community survey.
More than 160 people participated in the nine-question survey, Zambon said, with 96% agreeing they felt the plaza makes downtown more inviting and 82% responding that they’ve used the new amenity.
Most notably, roughly 83% of survey respondents said they’d like to see the city and CDA make the plaza a permanent fixture.
Before determining whether or not that would be beneficial, Zambon said, the association would like to see how its use evolves over the winter months. The CDA is considering installing some type of overhead coverage to keep people dry, and they already have a suite of ideas brainstormed for winter usage — including, perhaps, speed dating on Valentine's Day.
Though all councilors were in support of the extension, City Manager Rob Hill said he would come back to the council to see if there was any action that needed to take place.
Councilor Cameron McGee said he constantly sees people meeting at Pine Street Plaza, noting it’s a “good focal point and I think it really brings a good central location to the city outside, especially in times like this where outdoor seating seems to be safer and more appealing to most people.”
Councilor Kelly Smith Johnston called the extension of the “cheery and bright” plaza a good idea, while Councilor Mark Westley said he’s heard nothing but positive reviews from constituents.
“To step back and revert, I think, would be a lost opportunity,” said Councilor Rebecca Staebler.
Councilor Elizabeth Cameron also gave the city’s newest amenity positive reviews, characterizing the plaza as a “piece of serenity.”
Pine Street Plaza also holds a touch of sentimental value to Cameron, too, since it was the last place she saw Gary Stamper, the former county commissioner who died late last month of COVID-19.
She gave him a hug.
“It’s a great meeting place and I’m grateful for that opportunity. If he had not been at Pine Street Plaza visiting that day, I might never have had the opportunity to have met him,” Cameron said. “It’s a great place for meet and greets, and I hope that can continue. I think it’s just the beginning of a successful endeavor for the City of Centralia.”