Construction continues at the Walawala Plaza gathering space but because of winter weather, a portion of downtown Walla Walla will remain a construction site for longer than planned.The timeline for the finished plaza could be pushed back from its original April end date. 'We're optimistic for the plaza to be open in April, but realistically, we are a few weeks behind,' Deputy Public Works Director Mike Laughery said. 'It's all mud and gravel right now. 'Currently, 1st Street between East Main and East Alder remains a work in progress. Nelson Construction, the company contracted to complete the plaza, is working on underground utility installations. After this, pouring concrete will be next.Laughery said some of the most surprising things about the project are the number of old and abandoned utilities that were left under the street. 'We're doing so much construction downtown all the time,' Laughery said. 'There is a lot left behind from other generations that isn't used, but it's never been removed. 'After the earlier steps are completed, the focus will shift to the intersection of Main Street and 1st Avenue. These elements, including the use of the balsam root sunflower, also pay tribute to the historical significance of the area as a gathering place for the Cayuse and Walla Walla people.The goal of the plaza is to 'continue to enhance the original downtown core feeling,' Laughery said. 'I guess this is one of the highlights of the pandemic. 'The Walawala Plaza was established at the start of the pandemic as a space for people to gather outdoors while being able to allow social distancing. Like in the past, it will continue to do so permanently.Kathryn Witherington, executive director of Downtown Walla Walla Foundation, said the plaza is a popular spot for both residents and visitors of the Valley. 'I think the community will really decide how to use it. 'Sweet Basil Pizzaria is one of the businesses that has been affected by the ongoing construction.Cameron Wilkenson, a restaurant employee, said the winter months were the ideal time to construct the plaza. 'The construction hasn't been too much of a detriment due to it being done at the right time of year,' Wilkenson said. 'We've still been able to make it through with the seating we have inside. 'The completed plaza will serve as a permanent gathering place for both locals and visitors to enjoy in the downtown area, according to gowallawalla.us. 'Hopefully, it will be done on time, so we have the option of more seating outside," Wilkenson said. 'That would be a positive impact on the business.' Hannah McIntyre writes business stories for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.