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An open-air plaza that the Santa Ana City Council a year ago envisioned as a Latino cultural space is one step closer to being realized after council members approved a contract last week to renovate the site.

Greenland Construction will build the 8,800 square-foot Plaza Santa Ana on heavily Latino Fourth Street. Improvements will include more lighting, landscaping and “repair and replacement of the existing concrete and bricks,” according to a city staff report.

The decision last year to develop the site came as many property and business owners in the area had complained loudly about what they see as an effort to gentrify the downtown area and displace Latino businesses.

Council members approved the plan last year just a week after it was revealed that a major property owner in the area had been pressuring merchants to change their merchandise to appeal to a younger, more hip generation.

“I think that’s an ideal location for one [cultural plaza] because that downtown has always been an historic downtown, it’s always been an authentic and genuine and original downtown, but it’s been a Latino downtown,” Councilman Vincent Sarmiento had said.

The street’s Latino flavor has gradually been receding. The carousel that summoned memories of childhood for many Santa Ana residents is gone. A shopping district, once known as Fiesta Marketplace, was renamed East End last year. A restaurant called The Playground has replaced a Latino seafood restaurant.

— ADAM ELMAHREK

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