Mall ceremony draws huge crowd
WINCHESTER — “On the count of three, everyone say Old Town Winchester....”
The crowd cheered as city officials cut a red ribbon that stretched across the archway entrance at the north end of the Loudoun Street Mall as part of the walkway’s rededication ceremony on Friday. The festivities will continue at noon today.
“It’s so wonderful to see so many people here this afternoon,” Mayor Elizabeth Minor said of a crowd that numbered in the hundreds.
She recounted the many people who told her it was impossible for the mall renovation to be completed and ready for the rededication ceremony in May.
“Well guess what?” she asked. “Here we are, and isn’t it beautiful?”
State College, Pa.-based HRI Inc. was paid $7.1 million to replace underground infrastructure along the walkway, install a new surface and add some ground-level amenities. The project’s cost included $700,000 for public restrooms, gateway entrances and a splash pad water feature.
The construction was completed by April 30 and HRI has until May 31 to finish the landscaping.
It’s the pedestrian mall’s first major renovation since it was built in 1974, covering about 1,600 feet between Piccadilly and Cork streets.
The rededication ceremony is the city government’s celebration of the completion of the project.
Minor said she always thought the mall was beautiful, but could now say “without hesitation” that Winchester probably has “the most beautiful walking mall in all of Virginia.”
City Manager Dale Iman said it was difficult to believe that the project finished on time and on budget — a testament to the saying “plan to work and work to plan.”
“I couldn’t be more proud,” he added.
Iman commended HRI for its hard work, human touch and courtesy while working on the project.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that HRI is the star of this show,” he said.
After the ribbon-cutting, Old Town Development Board Chairwoman Lauri Bridgeforth presented commemorative bricks to those involved in the project.
“All of us did this project together; we all did it,” she said.
The crowd then stopped at a kiosk in front of the Old Civil War Court House Museum for the unveiling of a plaque bearing the names of the City Council and Old Town Development Board members along with Iman, city staff members and the contractor.
The final stop was at the splash pad, where several children were playing in the water in their swimsuits.
Members of the crowd dispersed and some were shown the new public restrooms.
Others asked a few questions and marveled at the bustle of children laughing and playing.
“It looks like it’s going to be a great place for kids in the summertime,” said Pamela Miller, 41, of Stephens City.
She said the mall looked “really nice” and like “someplace you’d want to come.”
Expounding on those sentiments, city resident Joe Wingfield, 55, said he never thought the city leaders would get the project done.
“I’m just speechless right now. I’m just thrilled, happy,” he said. “I think [the new mall] is going to draw a lot of people down here.”
— Contact Melissa Boughton at firstname.lastname@example.org