Orange PD applauds Old Towne Orange Plaza as one of the ‘Great Places in America’

By Greg Hardesty

It’s the Plaza, not the Circle, read the bumper sticker.

Whatever people call it, the park in the center of downtown Orange’s traffic circle – an iconic slice of Orange County – now has bragging rights beyond its claim to fame as being the backdrop of several Hollywood flicks and a big draw for its nostalgic charm.

People gather at Plaza Square Park at the center of Old Towne Plaza during a ceremony honoring the plaza with the designation of “Great Places in America.”
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Old Towne Orange Plaza, at Chapman Avenue and Glassell Street, has been designated one of five Great Public Spaces on the American Planning Association’s Great Places in America list for 2018.

The same designation has gone to such places as Central Park in New York, Olvera Street in Los Angeles and the Magnificent Mile in Chicago.

City of Orange Mayor Teresa “Tita” Smith talks about Orange’s Old Towne Plaza and the designation of “Great Places in America.”
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Several members of the Orange PD were on hand Thursday, Oct. 4 for a late-afternoon ceremony to herald the designation of the nearly 150-year old historic district.

So was the city’s mascot, Sunny the Orange.

Plaza Square Park at the center of Orange’s Old Towne Plaza after a ceremony designating the plaza as a “Great Places in America” by the American Planning Association.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Orange Mayor Teresa “Tita” Smith delivered a history of the plaza, home each year to such events as the Orange International Street Fair, a holiday tree lighting and menorah lighting ceremony, and car and food shows.

Smith called Old Towne Orange Plaza “Orange’s favorite family room.”

City of Orange Mayor Teresa “Tita” Smith, right, welcomes everyone at Plaza Square Park as the City of Orange’s Old Towne Plaza receives the designation of “Great Places in America.”
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Kurt Christiansen, president-elect of the APA, also spoke to the crowd assembled for an unveiling of a mock-up of a plaque that soon will be placed on the east side of Park Plaza’s fountain.

The designation – which fittingly comes during National Community Planning Month — is awarded to districts that maintain cultural identity, offer exemplary amenities, and institute innovative practices within their infrastructure, Christiansen said.

Miss City of Orange 2018 Eileen Kim with a replica of the “Great Places in America” plaque awarded to the City of Orange’s Old Towne Plaza by the American Planning Association.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Old Towne Orange Plaza was the only place in California to receive the designation this year, Christiansen said. A total of 290 places have been designated “A Great Place in America” since the APA started handed out the distinction 11 years ago.

“The police department is very proud of the city and its addition to the list of Great Places in America,” Orange PD Capt. Jeff Burton said. “We understand the significance of Old Towne Orange and the plaza area and the character it brings to the city. It is truly the heart of our community.

Stella Johnson, 2, of Orange rests on the shoulders of her father, Ryan, as they watch the setting sun through the fountain at the center of Old Towne Plaza.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

“While we provide excellent service throughout the city, we are sensitive to the need to preserve the safe and inviting environment of Old Towne so that residents and visitors alike have the opportunity to enjoy its unique character,” Burton added.

“Again, we congratulate the city officials and departments that have unwaveringly worked to preserve this wonderful piece of Americana.”

Old Towne Historic District students help lead the Pledge of Allegiance during the start of the “Great Places in America” ceremony at Plaza Square Park at the City of Orange’s Old Towne Plaza. Behind them are Orange Mayor Pro-Tem Mark Murphy and Councilmembers Mike Alvarez, Fred Whitaker and Kim Nichols, right.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

American Planning Association President-Elect Kurt Christiansen, left, and Orange Mayor Pro-Tem Mark Murphy unveil the “Great Places in America” plaque. Behind them are Councilmember Mike Alvarez, Councilmember Fred Whitaker, Councilmember Kim Nichols and Mayor Teresa “Tita” Smith.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Orange City Manager Rick Otto with Mayor Teresa “Tita” Smith at Plaza Square Park.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

The sun shines through Plaza Square Park’s central fountain as the sun sets over Orange’s Old Towne Plaza.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

Congressman Lou Correa talks about the City of Orange’s Old Towne Plaza during a ceremony recognizing it as one of the “Great Places in America” by the American Planning Association.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

American Planning Association President-Elect Kurt Christiansen, left, presents a replica of the “Great Places in America” plaque to Mayor Teresa “Tita” Smith, Mayor Pro-Tem Mark Murphy, and Councilmembers Mike Alvarez, Fred Whitaker and Kim Nichols, right.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge

The sun sets over Plaza Square Park at the center of Orange’s Old Towne Plaza after a ceremony designating the plaza as a “Great Places in America” by the American Planning Association.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge