by Joe Courter
In the interest of long-range improvements to the Bo Diddley Plaza, there will be a major change to the cultural life of Gainesville that will affect many people. As it stands now, the Plaza will be completely closed as of March 1. This is occurring to allow construction of a new backstage area to accommodate storage of sound equipment and dressing rooms for performers, but also to run plumbing and electric to the NE corner, which will then have some sort of business constructed on it.
This will mean the thriving Wednesday Farmers Market will have to shift to the parking lot across from the former Market Street Pub (now Loosey’s) at SE 1st Ave. and 2nd St. The likewise successful Free Fridays Concert Series, and all the other events that annually use the Plaza, are in a bit of limbo. According to David Ballard, it is his hope the City will invest in a portable stage that can be used there, and as well other locations. That would put the concert series and other events at that location, too. The city needs to move on this soon, as the booking for the series needs to happen now.
It would be hoped construction can move in a rapid way and the Bo Diddley Plaza can come back into use as soon as possible. One can’t help but remember the transformation of Lynch Park into a dog park a few years ago. The fence went up in short order, but construction did not start for months. This seemed to be a rather heavy handed way of closing the area to people who were seen as undesirable, and created a lot of resentment which persists to this day.
As with any city, a downtown park is a congregating place, and sometimes a sleeping place, for people down on their luck or who have no where else to go. March 1 will disrupt a lot of lives, and for those habituated to the Plaza, this will be especially true. Time will tell how the powers that be manage this situation.