Hundreds of residents braved cloudy skies Sunday to stroll across the new downtown plaza, ascend the steps in front of the city’s 1910 courthouse, look up at the building’s stained-glass dome and say, "Wow."
City officials unveiled the $9 million restoration, which included reconstructing the facade and columns on the front of the courthouse and building an all-new plaza between the courthouse and Broadway. Work started last May, when crews demolished the Art Moderne-style fiscal building, which has concealed thefront of the older courthouse since it was constructed in 1939.
For many, Sunday’s all-day celebration was the first time they had seen the courthouse’s true face.
"It’s so nice to see what they’ve done," said resident Paul Owen, sitting on the steps with his dog, Nikki. "Redwood City is on the comeback."
Singles, teens, couples and families with pets and young children strolled across the tiles of the new plaza, peered into the ponds where new fountains will soon be installed, and explored the San Mateo County History Museum’s exhibits, housed in the historic courthouse.
Resident Maureen Kelly came with her young daughter, Annie, who reported she was having fun.
"What’s your favorite part?" Maureen asked.
"Everything," Annie replied.
Refurbishing the landmark courthouse is just one aspect of a larger plan to revitalize downtown Redwood City, where a $60 million, 20-screen movie theater and shopping center opened in July.
Restaurants and shops continue to open in the building, including newcomers such as Marble Slab Creamery and Escape from New York Pizza.
"We are leaving behind the label ‘Deadwood City,’" said Mayor Barbara Pierce. "Anyone who looks around can see that this is a vibrant and welcoming community."
Making the downtown projects a reality took six years, according to Pierce. Both the courthouse restoration and retail-cinema site were beset with delays caused by everything from limited supplies of steel to an unexpectedly wet winter.
But weather didn’t dampen many officials’ optimism, even when Sunday’s skies appeared to threaten rain.
"Don’t forget, we are standing in a place where, 365 days a year, we have ‘climate best by government test,’" said Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto.