The Plaza: Orange, California

Planning Excellence

The Plaza epitomizes why the City of Orange, one of the oldest and most intact historic districts in Southern California, is often described as a mid-sized city that feels like a small town. First laid out in 1880, The Plaza is the social and cultural heart of the City of Orange. The proximity of the surrounding neighborhoods contributes to the role that it plays as the community’s living room.

Sunrise over a historic fountain in Plaza Park. Photo courtesy City of Orange.

The commercial district surrounding The Plaza is home to primarily small-scale retail and office uses, including restaurants, boutiques, antique shops, and creative office spaces, which are often family-owned. The historic core is multi-modal, boasting an intact sidewalk network connecting neighborhoods, the Chapman University campus, and commercial area.

A traffic circle and large numbers of people biking and walking produce a traffic calming effect, making The Plaza safer and more enjoyable. Within the hustle and bustle, The Plaza park and centerpiece fountain offer an oasis in the historic downtown core providing a comfortable and friendly environment for a morning stroll, lunch time breaks, or enjoying patch of grass on a sunny day.

Characterized by the historic turn-of-the-century commercial buildings surrounding an elliptical park and traffic circle, both The Plaza and the surrounding neighborhoods are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Plaza park contains a fountain dating from 1937, walkways, and many mature trees, some of which were planted in the late 1800s.

Great efforts have been made to preserve and reuse historic buildings. Adaptive reuse of historic buildings contributes to the local character and charm of the neighborhood, in addition to the economic and social vitality of The Plaza, with restaurants, boutiques, services, and offices. Each corner of The Plaza square is dedicated to space for outdoor dining, which further adds to the area’s activity. This daily vibrancy is magnified throughout the year by special community events.

Tree Lighting and Candlelight Choir event in Old Towne Orange Plaza. Photo courtesy City of Orange.

The Plaza provides a pedestrian-oriented and safe environment that is welcoming to all. Preserved historic commercial buildings have maintained the human-scale development of the area, creating inviting places for people to shop, stroll, and sit. The Plaza is the city's historic commercial and social center, serving the community for more than 100 years.

Defining Characteristics and Features

  • Preserved residential and commercial buildings contribute to local character and charm.
  • The Plaza and surrounding historic core is located at the heart of a highly intact sidewalk network that connects it to surrounding neighborhoods and the Chapman University campus.
  • The Orange Transportation Center is a three-block walk from The Plaza, providing regional connections via Metrolink and bus service provided by the Orange County Transportation Authority.
  • Community holiday celebrations include Treats in the Streets and the Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony, menorah lighting, service organization car shows and food festivals, and the annual Labor Day weekend International Street Fair that attracts approximately 500,000 visitors to The Plaza.

Designated Area

The Old Towne Orange Plaza is located at the intersection of Chapman Avenue and Glassell Street, with the surrounding Old Towne Historic District’s residential quadrants bounded by Walnut Avenue to the north, La Veta Avenue to the south, Cambridge Street to the east, and Batavia Street to the west.

Treats in the Streets event in Old Towne Orange Plaza. Photo courtesy City of Orange.

Learn More

Great Places in California

Best of Orange County

City of Orange — Road Trip with Huell Howser

How the City of Orange Circled Its Towne Square

Old Towne, Orange Historic District