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Event Planned to Officially Open City Hall Pocket Park

The city of Oxford will celebrate the official opening of the City Hall Pocket Park next week with a special dedication event.

The event will be held at 4 p.m. on Oct. 19 at the new pocket park next to City Hall and the public is invited to attend.

The city of Oxford will celebrate the official opening of the City Hall Pocket Park next with a special dedication event.

Music by Bradley Gordon will follow as part of Visit Oxford’s Third Thursday Music in the Park program.

The City Hall Pocket Park was formerly the location of the RSVP Building.

The RSVP Building, constructed in the mid-1970s, was built to house the Retired Senior Volunteer Program and to display the Skipwith Cottage, Oxford’s oldest surviving home. Eventually, RSVP relocated and the building remained unoccupied for several years, falling into disrepair.

After several failed attempts to repair the aging roof system of the RSVP building, the Mayor and Board of Aldermen voted to relocate Skipwith Cottage to a permanent location near the First Regional Library, and a new use for the lot next to City Hall was proposed.

In 2020, Mayor Robyn Tannehill championed the idea to transform the space into a public greenspace. The site was an ideal corridor between the city parking lot and the Lafayette County Courthouse. The need for a safe and accessible public space in which to take a break, enjoy a cup of coffee, read a book, study, or allow children to play did not exist outside the courthouse lawn.

The vision for the proposed park was to transform the cold, concrete space into an inviting multi-use greenspace that would be programmed to engage a variety of users; both citizens and visitors alike.

Mark Levy, Director of Special Projects, conceptualized the park as the creation of a meandering path with comfortable, adjacent seating areas to create passive spaces within an active corridor.

One of the critical design components was to improve accessibility for mobility-impaired persons. Addressing a significant grade change, the park has gentle slopes throughout, and all “off-path” seating areas are accessible by wheelchair. Another unseen design component is the stormwater detention, which captures stormwater and slowly releases the water during major rainfall events.

In addition to the engineered elements, City Hall Pocket Park boasts eight native and exotic tree species, over 30 shrubs, perennials, and groundcover species with rotating bloom seasons, brick wall bench seating, public art, night lighting, bistro tables and chairs, security cameras, and a water feature.

On the east end of the park, there is a bronze sculpture titled Aurora VII by artist Tom Corbin. Corbin has ties to Oxford as both a featured artist at University Museums and as father to University of Mississippi graduate, Ali Corbin Bates.

“Our daughter, Ali Corbin Bates, graduated from Ole Miss, so it is particularly meaningful to have a permanent installation of Aurora in the city of Oxford. My wife, Susie, and I always enjoyed visiting Oxford where we created a lot of great memories and made lasting friendships during Ali’s undergraduate years. I especially appreciate the hospitality and experience of having a one-person show at the University of Mississippi Museum in 2014: The Figure: Portrait and Bronze Works by Tom Corbin.”

Aurora VII, a bronze figurative sculpture, is described by the artist as, “In a timeless pose, the figure releasing a dove speaks both aesthetically and symbolically of hope, grace and peace. The woman embodies youthful optimism, while her pose, releasing a dove, is literally uplifting. In a world that often embellishes the negative, this sculpture will hopefully provide some solace in contemplating the positive side of the human experience.”

On the Courthouse Square side of the park, a water feature has been generously provided by the Oxford Rotary Club in memory of Gerry Gafford. This spherical fountain provides a gentle noise of continually flowing water and a geometric element to the otherwise free-flowing design.

Since its opening, City Hall Pocket Park has been used by a wide variety of people including artists, musicians, students, children, shoppers, visitors, and daily pedestrians.

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