New Lachenauer Plaza taking shape in downtown Watertown

Jun. 2—WATERTOWN — City officials are looking forward to when Lachenauer Plaza will be a nicer — and safer — place to gather after the downtown urban park reopens this summer.

The plaza is undergoing a major facelift as part of the city's $3.85 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative streetscape project.

Lachenauer Plaza — a little-used public meeting space at the conjunction of Arsenal, Court and Arcade streets with Public Square — had just one entry way and was dominated by overgrown shrubs.

People may have felt unsafe because the shrubs prevented them from seeing into and out of the urban park.

But the plaza is becoming more open by removing the overgrown bushes and replacing them with small trees. It'll have a more inviting appearance, city planner Geoffrey T. Urda said.

"It's going to be much more visible," he said, "with a 360-degree view in the park and out."

The new Lachenauer Plaza incorporates a semicircular wall with benches, a grassy area, improved lighting and expanded pedestrian space along Arcade Street.

Some uninviting black pavement along Arcade Street will be replaced with pavers with the same kind of look as the crosswalks in Public Square. That section of Arcade Street will be shared by vehicles and pedestrians, Mr. Urda said.

"With all these changes being done, we hope people use it," he said.

The redo of Lachenauer plaza is costing $600,000. CCI Companies Inc., Canastota, is the general contractor on the plaza and downtown streetscape project.

Marcus Moser, CCI's project manager for the entire streetscape project, said about 75% of the plaza work has been completed and should be completed within a month or two.

But it could be depend on what species of trees are planted there.

Trees that the city wanted planted are not available, Mr. Moser said, citing supply chain issues in acquiring them.

While the plaza could be completed sooner if the another species is chosen, Mr. Urda said the city prefers to wait until it can get the type that it wants.

Also at the plaza, a fountain, renovated in 2018 after a pickup truck plowed into it three years before, also is getting replaced by a smaller water feature with a single vertical spray.

The old fountain was demolished to make way for a new design.

The stone being used on the fountain work "will fit in better aesthetically" in downtown than the old one which featured three panels consisting of circles, or bubbles, and series of different shades of blues, greens and pinks, Mr. Urda said.

In the 1970s, the city dedicated the plaza to William and George Lachenauer, who had served as mayor and the city's fire chief, respectively.

While the work on the plaza continues, construction is occurring just down Court Street as part the major streetscape improvements.

The downtown project also consists of the 200 blocks of Coffeen and Franklin streets, and the area on Washington Street that surrounds the Gov. Roswell P. Flower Monument.

The project involves widening sidewalks, enhancing crosswalks, improving lighting and planting new trees. The work along Court Street includes reverse-angled parking.

The streetscape project is slated to be finished some time this summer.

The project is part of the city's $10 million DRI program that was awarded in 2017.

The city is using $1.6 million in DRI funding, $1.75 million of its $22 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds and a $250,000 grant from National Grid.

The actual cost of the streetscape project has increased about $200,000, caused by the removal of two old underground vaults along Court Street, Mr. Urda said.