The money went to everything from exterior fix-up grants for landlords to the widening of sidewalks and the replacement of street furniture such as benches, light standards and planters. The most ambitious project, though, was Selkirk Square.
Selkirk Square required closing off Powers Street at Selkirk Avenue (Google map) and created a pedestrian plaza area. The south side of Selkirk became an amphitheatre and seating area while the north side featured a bell tower to act as a landmark and meeting place.
It's one thing to build a bell tower but another to find a large bell lying around to use in it. Planners went on a hunt that ended in the basement of the Museum of Man and Nature (no Manitoba Museum) where one of the most important bells in the city's history was in storage.
When I looked back to find a story about the bell's installation there were none. This is odd considering that any small town or church getting a new bell made the newspapers. City Hall was built in 1886 so installing a 1,600 lb bell into the tower three years later would have required some very conspicuous work to be done. I dug back further into the news archives and found that this is actually the city bell from 1877.
A city bell acted first and foremost as a fire alarm. Winnipeg did not get a full-time fire brigade until 1882 so it relied on volunteers, property owners and the public to be alert and to help save lives, livestock and property. The city did have a fire bell of some sort previous to this but in May 1877 council passed a resolution for the clerk to order from St. Paul, Minneapolis a 1,200 lb fire bell that cost no more than $220.
There was even an official bell ringer ! The first was Harry Kirk, a jack-of-all-trades at city hall (caretaker, repairman, gardener, security guard) and a cleaner at the Market Building. He had to live on-site 24/7 so was given the responsibility of making sure that the the bell rang on time.
In 1889 the bell was removed when the Market Building was being rebuilt but re-installed afterwards, which is likely why 1889 is said to be the year it first arrived, but it was the same, old bell.
In 1903 the bell's main function as a fire alarm was made redundant by a full-time fire brigade and the increasing numbers of telephones in use. That same year the city was doing some major construction in the city hall tower: they were finally installing a clock. While the tower was open the bell was inserted. The much anticipated and expensive clock installation overshadowed coverage of the bell's new home. (To find out what happened to the clock and its chimes !)
When city hall was demolished in 1961 - 62 the rickety dome was the first thing to go. The bell was saved and ended up at in storage at the museum. The clock mechanism was saved and after decades in storage was installed in Edmonton Court at Portage Place.
The Selkirk Avenue Business Association (SABA) sponsored Friday farmers markets and weekend events such as walking tours and concerts at Selkirk Square until 1991.
In 2010 the city put out a tender to have the farmers market / amphitheatre structures demolished in order to eliminate blind corners and to prepare the area for a new bike / pedestrian path.