Last night I took a walk through the new 12th Ave. plaza. I’d sat out there Friday afternoon with a tea. It had just opened that day, so there wasn’t much action, but the response of most of the people who did pass through seemed positive. 

Last night was the first time I’d been back. First thing I noticed as I headed west on 12th Ave from the Scarth Street Mall is that they’d spruced up the old Novia and another vacant storefront on the other side of the Canadiana Hair Salon (daytime photo above). During the now 14-month long construction process that stretch of 12th took quite a beating. The prairie dog distribution box that’s there, for example, now looks as ghetto as ghetto gets, short of actual bloodstains, although some may be there, they’re just covered by spray paint. So with the Regina Folk Festival coming up, and traffic on the plaza destined to increase, a little lipstick is welcome. Although if the plaza is to fulfill its potential as a people-friendly festival place something needs to be done soon to revitalize that area.

Once I reached the plaza I observed some chalk drawings in front of the old Bank of Canada building. I experienced a brief flicker of annoyance that the cobblestone pattern had been marred, but then I saw that the drawings were quirky outlines of human figures and quickly changed my opinion of them.

Some enterprising individuals had even written messages on the plaza. The first one read “Jesus is coming to save you.” Nearby was a second one that read “It’s all peanuts.” A third message, “Mum’s the Word”, was written on one of the rust-coloured shade screens.

Being done in chalk, the drawings and messages would have a limited lifespan and, in my mind, were not an egregious abuse of what, after all, is supposed to be a public space. The same, unfortunately, can’t be said for the eight or so tags that had been spray-painted on the plaza in the four days it had been open.

Near the library I also noticed that the concrete border with the park had been scuffed up. A week or so earlier I’d seen skateboarders using the Cenotaph (the actual spire, not the surrounding mini-plaza) to do tricks on, with camera equipment set up to record their efforts. I suspect the marks on the plaza were also done by skaters doing tricks. The concrete itself wasn’t damaged, at least not yet, just discoloured. Is this a problematic use for the plaza, or not? I guess as a city we’ll have to decide.

None of the lighting has been installed at this point, so at night the plaza is still a bit of an open territory without much in the way of social control. How the plaza will evolve in the weeks and months to come remains to be seen.