Lawrence's new Riverfront Plaza officially opened its doors this morning during ribbon-cutting ceremonies on the factory outlet center's promenade.
The ceremony also included an announcement that the promenade was being dedicated in the memory of former City Manager Buford M. Watson Jr., who supported the project. Watson died in October.
City officials and representatives of The Chelsea Group, the company that developed Riverfront Plaza, were on hand to participate in the ceremony, as were an estimated 200 members of the Lawrence business community.
David Longhurst, mall manager, said it was symbolic that the mall was built at the same location that was home to Jayhawk Paper Box Co. more than a century ago.
"When the dam was put here on the Kansas River more than 100 years ago, it marked the birth of the economic center in Lawrence," Longhurst said. "Today, we return to that birthplace."
Longhurst also predicted that, like the Jayhawk Paper Box Co., the plaza would spark another economic rebirth for the city.
"We're pleased that this is part of downtown Lawrence, because downtown is a big part of the community," he said. "And we will do everything we can to remain a part of downtown."
George Paley, president of Downtown Lawrence, an organization of downtown businesses, agreed that downtown merchants stand to benefit from the Riverfront Plaza.
"We have today expanded retail that will bring people from outside the community into the community," Paley said. "It will bring people from Kansas City and Topeka, where they do not have this kind of retail. It will also bring people into downtown Lawrence."