Quincy Jones gives blessing on namesake city project

The 27-time Grammy winner said he’d be “honored and humbled” to have the Bremerton plaza named after him.

Last Thursday, the legendary music producer Quincy Jones stuffed a letter into a FedEx envelope addressed to the city of Bremerton. Its return address was the Los Angeles production studio of the 27-time Grammy Award winner, renowned jazz trumpeter and producer behind the best selling album of all time – Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

“It is my understanding that you have embarked on a project to renovate Bremerton’s downtown district with the intention of renaming the area Quincy Square,” he wrote.

“Bremerton has always held a special place in my heart as it was where I first discovered what would be life’s passion, music. As such, I would be honored and humbled to have my name grace the city’s new downtown district.”

The letter was adorned with musical notes and a handwritten postscript: “Thank y’awl from deep down!!”

The note came as a relief to Mayor Greg Wheeler and city officials, who had begun a redesign project of a downtown streetscape, tentatively named “Quincy Square on 4th,” as an homage to the musician who called Bremerton home during the 1940s.

In 2016, a publicist for Jones told former Mayor Patty Lent that the musician approved of the project, the Kitsap Sun reported, but Wheeler wanted proof in writing from the man himself.

“We believed it was important to receive official permission before moving forward with using his name,” Wheeler said. “We are incredibly proud that Mr. Jones gave his blessing and we are thrilled to rename the plaza in his honor.”

Originally from Chicago, Jones, 85, moved to Bremerton in his youth after his father, a carpenter, got a job at the Naval shipyard during World War II. Jones attended the former Coontz Junior High School and sang in a gospel choir.

Jones said Bremerton was where he first touched a piano – a fateful encounter.

“Every cell in my body said ‘this is what you’re going to do for the rest of your life,” he told Stephen Colbert during a 2016 appearance on “The Late Show.”

Quincy Square is envisioned as a pedestrian-friendly urban plaza between Pacific and Washington Avenues in downtown Bremerton. It will feature outdoor seating, and could be closed to traffic during special events, officials said. It will also feature a performance area for live music.

Mayor Wheeler said he hopes Quincy Square will become a cultural touchstone for the city similar to Austin’s 6th Street, though smaller in scale.

“You could open up storefronts, and all of sudden you have indoor, you have outdoor, you have live music,” he said. “It has great potential.”

A $495,000 design effort funded by state and federal grant money is currently underway by Rice Fergus Miller, a Bremerton architecture firm. A second in a series of public meetings is scheduled for early April to gather citizens’ input. The design phase is scheduled to be complete by August.

In his letter, Jones expressed gratitude for the city’s “gracious recognition,” and thanked Bremerton officials and residents.

“I look forward to visiting your newly restored downtown district, Quincy Square, when it is completed,” he wrote.

Gabe Stutman is a reporter with the Kitsap News Group. Follow him on Twitter @kitsapgabe.