By Zyra De Los Reyes, Staff Writer & Kat Riddler, Editor-In-Chief
University Square celebrated the completion of the Natural Bridge Great Streets Project, phase I, by hosting their first annual Fountain Festival on September 24. Most of the activities centered around the Natural Bridge Road Fountain Plaza. From 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., some parts of Florissant Road and Natural Bridge Road as well as some of the adjoining streets were closed for the festival. The celebration consisted of music, food, and fountain displays throughout the day.
The event started at 9 a.m. with an ecology tour, and then a Fun Run/Great Streets Walk was held at 10 a.m. to show the improvements that were made along Natural Bridge Road.
“We have been working on this project for ten years, and I think it turned out more beautifully that I ever anticipated. I think the fountain, which is a relocation of a famous historic St. Louis fountain, turned out beautifully and I couldn’t be happier,” said Betty Van Uum, Assistant of the Chancellor for Public Affairs and the Chair of University Square Community Development Corporation.
The University of Missouri-St. Louis Brass Ensemble directed by Gary Brandes, Teaching Professor of Music, Director of Bands at UMSL, and Chair of the Department of Music opened the dedication ceremony. The UMSL Brass Ensemble was followed by Van Uum’s introductory speech. The Mayor of Normandy, Patrick Green, who also spoke, thanked everyone who attended the ceremony and said that the Great Streets Project is dedicated to the community.
“On behalf of the University Square Committee, I would like to thank the city of Normandy, Missouri Department of Transportation, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Great Rivers Green Way, St. Louis County, East-West Gateway Council of Governments, and North County Inc. for their efforts and their continuous support to improve our city for our community,” said Van Uum as she invited all parties involved to come forward.
The project began when Van Uum saw that East-West Gateway had a Great Streets competition in 2006. Out of the 36 applications for street projects, University Square was in the top four. The group held many town hall meetings and updates to keep the community aware of the project and to figure out the cost. University Square was the biggest and most expensive of the projects in the top four. The project took about 10 years to complete.
In 2012, Van Uum was able to convince four of the six commissioners of the project that the street beautification project was a good idea. East-West Gateway was just the first of many partners that needed to be brought on board for the project. These would grow to include the Missouri Department of Transportation, the City of Normandy, Great Rivers Greenway, St. Louis County, and North County Inc.
Van Uum described what she was looking forward to about the newly finished project. Along the road, there are trees that will bloom in the spring. The trees are planted in such a way that the shades are ordered from white to red as one moves closer to the fountain. While the trees were just planted in summer, Van Uum estimates in about two years, those trees will be big and full of color for passersby to admire.
Soon after Van Uum’s speech, the second Vice Chair of East-West Gateway Council of Governments and St. Louis County executive, Steve Stenger, who is also an UMSL alumnus, was introduced by UMSL Chancellor Tom George.
“I graduated from UMSL in 1993…That was a long time ago and I’ve seen the city’s progress throughout the years… The goal of the St. Louis Great Streets Initiative is not only to move more vehicles faster, but this is also to center our communities around attractive and lively historic streets that serve all means of transportation,” said Stenger.
In lieu of ribbon cutting, Stenger invited everyone to gather around the fountain with super soakers and gush water onto the fountain. The event went on with music at the Fountain Plaza. At 8 p.m., the fountain light show began. Then, for the finale, a torch was lit and carried from Glen Echo Country Club, the site of the 1904 Olympic golf championship, all the way to the plaza, where it was then used to light the fountain. The torch light went off twice in an attempt to light the fountain. After their third try, the fountain was successfully lit, to the amusement of attendees.
“I have been living in Normandy for 10 years and I am delighted to see that everyone gathered to celebrate our community. The improvements that they made definitely will give people who live outside our county a different, but a positive outlook,” said Kevin Woods, a Normandy resident.
University Square invites everyone to visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/University-Square-CDC-176146736144744/.