A downtown like no other, Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz is renowned for its distinctive, lively vibe as well as its diversity. Opening in June 2017, Abbott Square community plaza will enrich the downtown scene by a vibrant space for live entertainment, public art, food, drinks and a ‘Secret Garden’ designed specifically with children in mind.
Spearheaded by the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (MAH) and their visionary Executive Director, Nina Simon, Abbott Square will effectively be the MAH’s ‘back porch,’ occupying a space off Cooper Street that has served as a quiet pedestrian alleyway between the museum and the various retail shops along Pacific Avenue.
The community plaza concept came into being in 2012 when the MAH was discussing ways in which they could revitalize and evolve into a ‘cultural center for the community.’ Soon after, Nina Simon became the museum’s Director, immediately seeing the potential of Abbott Square as the MAH’s link to downtown.
By 2015, the project had $5 million in its coffers – $4 million secured through public contributions and $1 million in grant money. Named after Chuck and Ester Abbott, whose vision shaped the preceding Pacific Garden Mall, Abbott Square will function as ‘the creative soul’ of downtown Santa Cruz with the dual purpose to enliven and heal the community through art, cultural experiences, history, performances, exhibits, food and drink. A place to gather and connect, the square will be open to the public from 6am to 10pm Monday through Friday, closing at midnight on weekends.
Abbott Square is logical extension of the museum’s mission to support and ignite creative, social and intellectual endeavors in the community. Director Nina Simon says they plan to have “live music multiple nights a week, events and performances on a regular basis, yoga classes, reading programs for families with little kids—certainly all of the participatory art, history, and cultural experiences that people have come to expect from the MAH.”
Although the public has gotten sneak peeks into the transformation of the plaza, including the creation of the Square’s mural designed by local artist, Thomas Campbell, they will get to experience Abbott Square first hand in June. The Square will include multiple locally based eateries and bars, all which revolve around a distinct Santa Cruz flavor and vibe.
To date, Abbott Square food vendor market includes:
- Mark & Wood serving small batch popsicles
- All Aboard Paninis, clam chowder, lobster rolls and fresh/baked oysters
- Pizzeria la Bufala Neapolitan style pizza
- Poke It Hawaiian and Asian-inspired poke bowls
- Front and Cooper Craft cocktails, local ales and regional wines
- Veg on the Edge An innovative, healthy, West African-inspired menu
Other eateries and bars will be added to the mix over time. In fact, for all those who are coffee aficionados, we’ve heard it rumored that new kid on the block, Cat and Cloud, will be opening their next coffeehouse location in Abbott Square.
And while we’re talking about coffee, the Octagon, which previously housed Lulu Carpenter’s Coffee Roasters, will also be part of the reimagined Abbott Square space. The 134-year-old building, once Santa Clara County’s Hall of Records way back when, could be utilized as a platform for pop-up shops or artistic experiences. “It could be creative retail, it could be workshop space, it could be a gallery, we don’t know. We’re leaving it open to the community right now,” states Simon.
Although Abbott Square is now fully funded, the MAH is still asking for donations to support events and performances, which will be free and open to the public. These will include movie and trivia nights, sunrise yoga classes, karaoke, performances by local artists, live music as well as exhibits and collaborative experiences put on by the MAH.
Once its transformation is complete, Abbott Square will be a vibrant, welcome addition to downtown Santa Cruz offering the public a lively place to gather, connect, learn and be entertained. Visit the following to learn more about Abbott Square and to watch it’s amazing transformation as well as to keep abreast of its grand opening:
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