The out-of-towner didn’t know what to call it since he was unaware of the name. But he knew how to describe it succinctly.
“Awesome,” said Carl Combs of Hamilton, Ohio.
He affixed that summary of praise to the Commons, the city’s $18 million steel-and-glass living room, as people refer to it. The facility made its official debut Thursday at the season-opening JCB Neighborfest street concert.
The free gathering that filled most of Washington Street between Third and Fourth streets served as the kickoff for the four-day Commons celebration.
Events featuring everything from puppets to choirs and more concerts continue today through Sunday.
Combs, visiting grandson Matthew Combs of Columbus, stopped along Washington Street when he heard music. As a blues fan, he grew excited when he heard that headlining singer Jennie DeVoe is known for her bluesy streak.
He left saying he wished his town north of Cincinnati had something like the Commons.
The structure earned big approval from many others in the crowd, from grandparents to tots.
Terri McFarland brought Brelin, their 2-year-old granddaughter, to the event to enjoy The Commons’ playground. McFarland also playfully danced with the tyke while swaying to the Neighborfest music of DeVoe and former Columbus singer Jim Ryser.
For her, the building was as big a hit as the artists’ tunes.
“Loved it,” McFarland said of the building.
Nearby, children played with balloon animals while burgers sizzled on a smoky grill. Old friends relaxed in lawn chairs and got reacquainted.
Lifelong resident Eileen Frazier perched on a bench in front of the Commons and surveyed the scene. She and friends had just had supper at Zaharakos restaurant across the street.
“I think this will definitely help the city a little bit,” said Frazier of the building. “People already seem to enjoy it, and it’s really pretty inside.”
Then she paused and looked toward the second-floor glass, lined with people gazing toward the street.
“Plus,” said Frazier with a smile, “there’s a really good view from up there.”