I waited until after the ribbon had been cut and the mayor made her proclamation, waited until after the boosters had told everyone how to feel about LeBauer Park, the newest addition to downtown Greensboro and the first in a domino chain that will transform the north end of the district.
I wanted to see it for myself.
It had been hours since the applause died down by the time I eased my beat-up wagon down the final stretch of Davie Street, still closed to traffic but now wearing a fresh layer of solid-black asphalt leading up to the new grounds.
And still, in the midafternoon, the park was full of kids — kids wrangling the outdoor foosball and ping-pong tables, kids bouncing along the spongy surface of the Children’s Garden and scrambling on the equipment, digging in the sandbox, climbing on the concrete letters that spell out the park’s name.
The space serves a better function than it did when it was a collection of disparate lots joined by proximity and little else. Now the playground gives way to a maze of trails that links the park with the library and children’s museum, an element of connectivity that, though it always existed, was never really activated.
The stage and lawn took on a serious upgrade in appearance and function, pointed now towards the westward caverns and slopes of downtown instead of directly into the back door of Café Europa.
Jakub Pucilowski, who bought Café Europa from the esteemed John Rudy shortly before the street closed down and the fences went up outside his patio 19 months ago, took it in with a Camel Light from a wrought-iron table by the fountain.
He knows that more people will come through the park, certainly in the next few days, and muses that if the programming for the grandstand is on the level of Bailey Park in Winston-Salem, he will certainly see a surge in business. And he knows that the performing-arts center, on its way up right across Davie Street, could supercharge a renaissance in this northern stretch of downtown Greensboro.
But he doesn’t trust it. Not yet. Not enough to bank on it, anyway.
Still, he’s getting new awnings, tuning up the patio, maybe running a little Drano through the pipes of the fountain and putting in some new lights.
“You should see the sculpture at night, when it’s lit up,” he said, pulling up pictures on his phone that show the Janet Echelman piece like a glowing sunset suspended in the air.
Things are looking up around here, at long last.