In response to Chris Craiker’s comments and ideas for Murray Plaza (“Murray Plaza Version 5.5 or Vision 0?" April 4), I decided to again visit the spot and imagine an inviting environment that might have the feel of a relaxing living room for conversation and quiet activities -- much different from a family room space filled with busyness and, undoubtedly, noise. This would be a place you’d purposely arrange a visit to and plan to stay for a while to relax and converse with others.
In the ‘70s the planners of the existing plaza at least attempted something a bit more unique than ho-hum flat ground positioning with a few trees, tables and chairs. The focus on “how can we draw more tourists” was not quite so prevalent, but how to create a place where residents were apt to hang out, too.
Today, as I sit on a comfortable bench glancing around, most of the central area at the hottest part of the day is in direct sun. Any chairs at tables are empty. Though part of what still exists is beautiful with rocks, greenery and brick (which I like), the more recent ugliness comes from the lack of vitality. It’s become an incidental, utilitarian place to bypass and ignore. It’s not comfortable to stay very long on hot days or rainy days, which we know are both typical to Napa, because it lacks any central overhead covering.
If you didn’t view the contemporary shade innovations online at craiker.com/Murrayplaza, you missed an impressive array of shade options. I found it stimulating, and became more enthused about potential possibilities for our plaza project.
I’d like to rally and take the time with others for input and feedback (as the city has already invited us to do), in hopes that townspeople as well as tourists will look forward to visiting and taking time to enjoy a new, pleasant, refreshing haven in the middle of downtown.
Perhaps local residents and visitors might then share a quiet moment together to reflect on a little more than the consumption of food and beverages or our proud purchases. Our merchants are delightful people who provide what we want or need to buy, but couldn’t this renovated space offer more than an easy, quick passageway to sameness in every direction?
I agree with Mr. Craiker about a new vision. Hopefully, we’ll all extend more interest and speak up (or forever hold our peace). Most of our public spaces in town provide for plays, concerts, wine tasting, and being entertained in some way.
How can we really provide something different? Maybe it’s in thinking differently now, this location could be a future shared space created where simply being would be as important as doing and buying. Maybe this isn’t a new idea at all, but a revisiting of human clan bonding.
We can be working toward a “Uniquely Napa” friendly, fun gathering place. Let’s explore more ideas on certain elements to consider, including:
1. A large covered light roofed space where year-round protection from weather changes can accommodate comfort.
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2. Some kind of water source that can provide for the emotions and the senses; from a fun playful experience for children, to the calming, restorative sense offered for all ages.
3. Direct and indirect lighting, some areas under glass.
4. Movable landscape; trees, greenery, grapevines, and flowers in planters or ground-planting only along perimeter.
5. Safe, wheelchair accessible artistic pathways that intersect.
6. Architectural style and seating that ties in to the design and materials of our agriculture, present structures, and buildings under construction on all sides especially on First Street.
7. Artwork representing our cultural and ethnic heritages, i.e., Latino, Indian, Asian, Caucasian, etc., to leisurely enjoy and to learn about historically.
Napa is an innovative community. Let’s work together to create something that’s never been done before.