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Dayton to build plaza for ambassador

Dedication will mark start of peace accords celebration

As the community readies to mark the 20th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords, the city of Dayton will build and dedicate a plaza to the memory of the man who helped make the accords a reality.

Dayton has approved the building of a plaza at the southwest corner Salem and West Riverview avenues in the memory of Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke.

Design work is finished and construction will begin in days, city staffers said. The plaza will be along the Salem bridge, which in 2011 was renamed the Richard C. Holbrooke Memorial bridge. For motorists approaching the bridge from downtown, the plaza will be on the left, said Keith Steeber, Dayton civil engineer.

“It’s going to be a small, relatively simple memorial plaza, remembering Ambassador Holbrooke’s contributions, his wonderful career and also the fact that he negotiated the peace accord here in Dayton,” Dayton City Commissioner Matt Joseph said.

Holbrooke — an assistant secretary of state and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, among other diplomatic roles — died after aortic surgery in December 2010. He is credited as the architect of the Dayton Peace Accords and wrote what many regard as the definitive account of that process, titled To End a War, published in paperback by Modern Library.

Holbrooke’s widow, Kati Marton, is expected to be at the plaza dedication, Joseph said.

The commissioner expects historically informative plaques on the plaza, with the flags of the United States and Bosnia-Herzegovina flying above.

“It’s going to be simple,” Joseph said. “It’s not going to be overwhelming. A nice place to walk and maybe sit and contemplate.”

Steeber said contractor Double Jay Construction will start work in about two weeks.

The roughly circular plaza will have a 60-foot diameter, with enough room for about 15 to 20 people, Steeber said.

The plaza will be dedicated likely Nov. 18, Joseph said.

Working through the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission and the federal government, Dayton received about $240,00o in Ohio Department of Transportation “transportation alternative” funding, said Joseph and the Dayton Division of Civil Engineering. The money — for which the city applied a few years ago — can be used to beautify streetscapes or build memorials and monuments, Joseph said.

Joseph said event committees are meeting and nailing down locations and logistics for the community-wide 20th anniversary celebration of the accords in November. He is co-chair of a group of volunteers readying the commemoration.

There will be panel discussions and speakers. Transportation and accommodations for out-of-towners have to be organized, as well as a schedule of events from Nov. 18 to Nov. 21.

He expects the Mayor of Sarajevo, Ivo Komsic, to be on hand. The mayor is expected to take part in a Nov. 17 dinner hosted by the Dayton Council on World Affairs and the Sister Cities organization, Joseph said.

Dr. Richard Campbell, Miami University journalism professor, sits on the commemoration board. Miami journalism students will be writing about the remembrance for the university and the Dayton Daily News, as part of their senior year “capstone project,” he said.

The students are already interviewing by telephone witnesses and veterans of the conflict in Europe, he said. They will produce a web site as well as written pieces and radio and visual work.

“It’s going to involve doing real journalism work,” Campbell said.

Miami will have separate conferences remembering the war and the accords Nov. 18, he said. There will be a trio of panels consisting of journalists, academics and conflict witnesses.

Sometimes called the “Dayton Agreement,” the pact hammered out at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s Hope Hotel in the fall of 1995 brought an end to the worst war in Europe since World War II.

The accord, signed in November 1995, stopped a war between Bosnian, Croat and Serb forces in the Balkans of Southeastern Europe.

By the time of the peace talks, that war between remnants of Yugoslavia had burned for almost four years. It had taken some 250,000 lives and created two million refugees, many of whom have yet to be fully repatriated. Though widespread fighting has stopped, ethnic tensions that have endured for centuries continue to this day.