Revamped Greene Square is sweeter

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So last week I was on the Bob Bruce Radio Experience, and Bob relayed a question for me from an unnamed Cedar Rapids “civic leader” he said we both know.

The leader wanted to know why I’ve become so sour.

I don’t feel particularly sour. But these are sour times. Maybe I’ve become sour along with them and didn’t notice. Or maybe this civic leader just doesn’t like what I write.

In any event, I’ve resolved to be a little sweeter. And I started my journey from cynicism to optimism by checking out the sweet new public space formerly known as Greene Square Park, now simply Greene Square.

It was formally re-dedicated Friday, capping $1.9 million in renovations and improvements to the city’s oldest public space. The list of individuals, businesses, organizations and government entities that contributed to the project likely could stretch from the Museum of Art to the public library, which sit at each end of Greene Square. The office where I work looks out over the park, so my colleagues and I have been watching the changes gradually take shape.

Sure, I’ve heard and read some of the grumblings. Some mature trees were removed, which didn’t sit well with a few folks. There have been complaints about the cost, and how the money could have been better spent on something else. A few folks simply liked the park the way it was. The “Slinky” sculpture has drawn a few barbs.

My new, sweet side is having none of it.

I had no problem with old Greene Square Park, but refurbished Greene Square is a fresh, inviting public space that should be a point of community pride. As Parks and Recreation Director Sven Leff said at Friday’s ceremony, the vision driving the project was to create a park “where there’s a lot going on.” With its splash pad/fountain, new seating areas, plaza and expanded walkways, there clearly is a lot more going on at Greene Square. And yes, there still is plenty of shady green space.

“It’s really cool,” said Leff, who got a little misty. Hey, he loves parks.

“Forgive me. I … worked hard on this thing,” he said.

I also like the sculpture, “Rollic,” by Oakland, Calif.-based artist Bruce Beasley. It was paid for by Linn County with proceeds from its sale of the historic Mott Building downtown. When the county put out a call for designs, it received 192 entries. But only five were from Iowa and none came from Linn County.

It’s already drawing people in. Leff said he’s seen prom photos on Facebook taken in front of it. Before Friday’s event, kids were playing around and under it.

“Cedar Rapids is an intellectually vibrant, welcoming and energetic community,” Beasley said Friday during remarks without a sour note.

“I feel that ‘Rollic’ embodies many of the qualities that define Cedar Rapids. Bold form, welcoming presence, energetic composition, timelessness, enduring materials and easy confidence,” he said, adding the work has “sophisticated form that encourages joyous observation and spontaneous conversation.”

I would only add that it’s shiny.

So be sure to visit Greene Square when you get a chance. Enjoy a big glass of lemonade, with lots of sugar.

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