Final Steel Beam for Downtown Commons in Place
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — In a ceremonial "topping-out", the final steel beam was officially set in place Thursday afternoon for a downtown Clarksville public gathering space that now has a name.
No longer is it to be called "civic plaza," "civic square," or the "downtown park."
The acre between Second, Third, Legion and Main streets is officially, "Downtown Commons," Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett formally announced to a crowd of about 100 community supporters at the construction site, moments before a tall crane carried the beam — autographed by attendees — to the structure's rooftop.
Jeff Truitt, the county's chief of staff, told The Leaf-Chronicle this week that, Downtown Commons is currently under budget and ahead of schedule. The county's total project cost is $4.2 million. The Clarksville City Council allocated $1 million of that total.
"The original schedule was to open at the end of the year, but we hope to be using (the ice skating rink) by mid- to- late November, although the park may not be 100 percent operational at that point," Truitt said.
Thursday's topping-out, at times, revealed emotions in Durrett, who has made downtown revitalization a priority of his first term.
"This facility is a tool ... to continue the revitalization of the downtown community, so that downtown can contribute tax dollars to the community for years to come," Durrett said.
He said the name, Downtown Commons references its purpose as a public space.
Officials, including Durrett and Truitt; Norman Quirion, executive director of the downtown and riverfront revitalization group, Two Rivers Company; and TRC board member Jeff Bibb all said Downtown Commons has helped create some $8 million in downtown property transfers in the past 16 months.
"If you can't feel the excitement and energy downtown, you've been asleep," Durrett said.
"We've talked about revitalizing downtown for many years ... but I want to tell you, we are now walking the walk," he said.
Among other leaders on hand was the former owner of the property, Dr. Alan Werner, who said it's gratifying to see Downtown Commons take shape.
"I think it's incredible, it's exciting, and I just see this as the catalyst that downtown needed," Werner said. "Everything used to be so dormant down here. Now you can feel the excitement."
Longtime business leaders Jack B. Turner and Charles Hand both said the development of Downtown Commons is a tribute to Durrett and his administration, the Montgomery County Commission and City Council.
"It's a tribute to their courage and vision, and none of that should go unnoticed," Turner said. "This is just phase one, step one. We've got to continue the momentum."
Hand called Downtown Commons "a dream come true, after a long, long, long sleep, in downtown.
"Clarksville is finally turning the corner," Hand said.
For Quirion, Downtown Commons shows that "the hope and vision are here, and the time has come for this.
"In just a short time, we have gone from soliciting for investors in downtown, to investors soliciting us, asking what they can buy, and what they can do to contribute to the movement," Quirion said.
During the ceremony, Durrett also introduced the new "face of the facility," newly-hired Events Manager Paula Atkins. She is now booking year-round events for Downtown Commons.
The goal, officials said this week, is to host 80 events within the first year after opening.
Downtown Commons will have these key features:
►Large pavilion to host performances, with enclosed space as well, plus a full-time retail or food and beverage tenant
►A great lawn as the central gathering space
►Water feature evoking the Cumberland and Red rivers
►Large rain garden with perennial flowers and native plants
►A gateway pavilion with docent station for renting items, and public restrooms
►Terrace seating around the water features
►All-new shade trees and streetscape features
►A seasonal ice skating rink
Reach Business Editor Jimmy Settle at 931-245-0247 and on Twitter @settle_leaf.