Making the Square Shiny and New

i Feb 23rd 2020

By Editorial Board, Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice

Once the sparkling centerpiece of a spanking-new Public Square, the fountain at the center of Wilkes-Barre’s downtown hasn’t spouted water for nearly a decade.

Installed in the downtown renewal that followed the 1972 Agnes flood, the fountain eventually became an aging eyesore too expensive to repair. Now it’s going the way of the worn steel-and-glass canopies that formerly lined the square’s perimeter.

Anticipating the national spotlight that will likely return to Wilkes-Barre during this year’s presidential election, the administration of new Mayor George Brown has ordered the removal of the fountain’s metal structure and the filling of its reservoir as part of a larger effort to make the city more presentable.

There has been unmistakable downtown renewal in recent years and the efforts of Diamond City Partnership have made the city’s hub cleaner and brighter. But there is still a lot of work to be done. It’s hard to forget the impression of a re-branding consultant who visited Wilkes-Barre last year and commented he’d never “been in a place where I saw so much trash in the downtown.”

So the mayor’s efforts are much needed and much appreciated.

But the decommissioning of the fountain is just a temporary measure and Public Square could use another reimagining of the type that transformed it nearly a half-century ago after the flood waters had receded.

More than two years ago, a $200,000 grant was secured for the same design firm that refurbished the square back then to take another look at the space and develop ideas for improvements.

With the burgeoning downtown residential market bringing new city dwellers to former office and bank buildings, now would be the perfect time to map out the future of the public park at the city’s core.

We’d be interested in hearing how Brown and the partnership envision the future of Public Square and how the city might once again make it a shiny and new centerpiece.