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Construction continues on Ellis Square, and it is starting to come into focus.
The steel framework for the soon-to-be-completed hospitality center in Ellis Square. - photo by Patrick Rodgers

Correction: When this story was originally published, the fountain designer was incorrectly listed as Hobbs Architectural Fountains. It has been changed to the correct company, the Georgia Fountain Company. We apologize for our mistake and any confusion this may have caused.

With the last two live oak trees in place, Ellis Square is starting to come into focus, and according Dan Smirl, Senior Project Manager with Boykin International, the construction on the square is on schedule to be complete December 1.

Currently underway in the square is the construction of a hospitality center at the northwest corner, and the square's centerpiece, an interactive fountain designed by Georgia Fountain Company, the same company who created the Fountain of Rings in Atlanta's Centennial Park.

The hospitality center, which will contain brochures and tourism info for downtown visitors, is currently just a large steel frame, but it should be nearing completion by mid-October, when its large glass panel walls will be installed.

"It's a design element of the park, but it's meant to be transparent," Smirl explains. "It will mainly try to blend in, not compete."

Because of concerns about high winds and the potential for storms, the floor to ceiling panels will contain what Smirl describes as "spider linkages," aluminum fittings that will help support the glass, which would otherwise be to brittle to be exposed to the elements.

The delay in the installation of the final two live oak trees was in part because of the hospitality center construction - a certain amount of the steel structure needed to be in place before the trees could be brought in and planted without being disturbed.

The trees, which had been growing alongside a canal near the Truman Parkway, were originally planted in Savannah as part of the '96 Olympic festivities, and were re-located to the canal shore, and now into Ellis Square.

The interactive fountain at the center of the park will include 34 adjustable heads with LED lights that will allow the flow of water to be controlled in different patterns and to change colors at night.

Similar to the design in Centennial Park, the Ellis Square fountain will be open, so that on hot days you'll be able to frolic in the jets of water.

Since people will be able to enter the streams of water, according to health department standards, the water must be treated with the same precautions as a public pool, and must be filtered, treated and cycled through every 30 minutes.

This technicality created some challenges because treatment tanks usually average about 10 feet in height, but the Ellis Square design only allows for three to four feet of depth because it rests atop the parking garage. It was solved with some "innovative design work," according to Smirl, that will allow for water collection and filtration in such a shallow space.

Adjacent to the fountain will be a large patio area that will contain tables and seating that will maintain the continuity established by the eastern portion of City Market.

The next phase of the project will also include laying thousands of pre-cast paver bricks that will be the walking surfaces of the square.

Additionally, the statue of Johnny Mercer will be installed later this fall adjacent to the hospitality center. The dedication of the statue will take place on November 18, corresponding with Mercer's 100th Birthday.

Although no date has been set for the ribbon cutting and official opening of the square, Smirl expects contruction to be completed by December 1, and that it should be ready for public use at about the same time.