I blogged a while back about some of our sad looking public spaces - small, worn out parks with neglected or crumbling infrastructure, (see: "Hurrah for public space upgrades"). Earlier this year announcements were made about the refurbishment of some of these spaces as well as a general plan to "pretty up" some ugly stretches of road and now some of those projects are underway.
Henderson and Disraeli c 2008
First off is one of my favourite places in the city Central Park. In June it was announced that the park was in for a $5.6 m upgrade. The funding split: $2.6m from the tripartite Winnipeg Partnership Agreement; $1m from CentreVenture; $1m The Winnipeg Foundation; and $1m from the Gray Family of Winnipeg. Major components of the upgrades are improved lighting, replacement of furniture and the refurbishment of the fountain.
Central Park was one of the first parks purchased by City Council under the Public Parks Act back in 1893. The most notable feature of the park, of course, is the Waddell Fountain, a Provincial Heritage Site.
There is a great story about the Waddell Fountain that, I think, most Winnipeggers know at least a bit about. Unveiled in 1914, it is a tribute to Emily Margaret Waddell who died in 1908. Her will stipulated that should her husband, Thomas, remarry he would have to first raise $10k to build a fountain in the park. Thomas DID decide to remarry so he dutifully raised the money and Winnipeg architect John Manual was tasked with creating it.
Some see it as a romantic story of commitment, others see it as the ability of a wife to be able to scare the bejeezus out of her husband long after her death. Either way, Winnipeg benefited !
The Fountain is now removed for renovations leaving an eerie gap not seen in almost a century !
In recent years, the park has been busier than it has in decades through the efforts of the African community that have settled there, (see Making Central Park a Better Place).
I hope that these improvements will help along the revitalization of not only the physical, bu the soul of Central Park that area residents have begun. I also look forward to dipping a toe in the Waddell's water next year !
The other site where work is underway is Old Market Square.
Old Market Square was born in the late 60's on space created by the 1965 demolition of the last major civic building in the district, Fire hall No.1.
Set up to act like a town square, it housed open air entertainment and a farmers market until the mid 80's. In the 90's the entertainment aspect was formalized by the building of a permanent stage.
In recent years, the popularity of the Square as an outdoor entertainment venue, and the popularity of the Exchange as a whole, has reinvigorated the space - they even have a farmer's market back !
The site, though, is overused at peak times like the Fringe Festival, Jazz Festival etc. and if it is going to continue to house such events needs to be upgraded both in terms of facilities like the stage area as well as the mostly worn down to the soil grassed seating area. This spring, a series of improvements in the region of $3.3m was announced. The funding split: $1.2m from the city; $0.5m The Winnipeg Foundation; $1.6m from the BIZ and partners. The improvements range from a new stage to a winter skating area (for the Exchange District BIZ's master plan in PDF click here.)
For an interesting read on the history and future of Old Market Square check out greenmap.
So, a tip of my hat to the Mayor, City Council and Admin, the Gray Family, The Winnipeg Foundation, the Exchange District BIZ and everyone else that's working on these projects. These are great public spaces and deserve to be looking their best. For many decades we've treated them with minimal maintenance or outright neglect. It's great to see people willing to step up and !