July 17th, 2024

City lights up Festival Square

By Lethbridge Herald on June 22, 2022.

Herald photo by Al Beeber A group of dignitaries cut the ribbon Wednesday morning after ceremonies for the official opening of the new Festival Square Market Plaza downtown. From left are Urban Revitalization Manager Andrew Malcolm, Chamber of Commerce CEO Cindi Bester, Heart of Our City chair Lorien Johansen, mayor Blaine Hyggen, MLA for Lethbridge West Shannon Phillips and Blackfoot elder Tom Little Bear.

Al Beeber – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – abeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

It’s time to party in Festival Square Market Plaza! Years of planning and construction culminated Wednesday in the opening of the downtown space that civic officials expect to be a drawing card.

A three-day grand opening event called ‘Lighting Up Festival Square” kicked off with opening ceremonies Wednesday morning in front of a large crowd on 6 St. S. across from Galt Gardens and the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

Square construction was one of two projects including the 3 Avenue Reconstruction which encompassed a stretch from 4 St. to 8 St.

The festival square project, which cost $1.71 million, was funded completely through the provincial Municipal Stimulus Program.

The 3 Avenue reconstruction was a project costing $10.083 million which was funded with $7,453,000 from the Canada Community Building Fund  – formerly known as the Federal Gas Tax Fund – and $2.63 million from the City.

Festival Square is envisioned as a “versatile, active and engaging public space for people and local businesses in the area,” says the City. The main draw will be a permanent market space with infrastructure to support producers, artisans and craftspeople to sell products year-round.

It includes an interactive stage, decorative column and programmable lighting and furniture.

“It’s kind of the final piece of over 10 years of planning, of seeking out funding, detailed planning, engineering and construction through a pandemic which was definitely not easy both in terms of the project team but obviously as well all the businesses that had to deal with construction” as well as with changing COVID-19 restrictions. It means a lot to be able to open this up,” said City Urban Revitalization Manager Andrew Malcolm after the ceremony.

“It offers entertainment, it offers markets, it offers those things that keep people down here” things which make the downtown more vibrant, added Malcolm.

“While its a people-first approach, it really trickles down and supports everyone in our community,” said Malcolm, adding both projects are currently under budget.

“This is amazing,” said mayor Blaine Hyggen.

“It’s great to see everybody out enjoying themselves. I want to give just the biggest shout-out to the businesses. What they’ve had to endure over this past year of construction…especially during COVID, they’re able to keep operating.”

During his opening remarks to the crowd, Malcolm said the project is a culmination of planning that began in 2007 with the Heart of Our City Master Plan and in 2012 with the Public Realm and transportation study and various renditions of preliminary and detailed design followed by 2.5 years of construction.

“While there are still a few minor touches left, we are ready to show off” the new Festival Square Market Plaza and the rebuilt stretch of 3 Avenue, he said.

“As one of the oldest streets in Lethbridge, 3rd Avenue South has always been a vital part of our community, once serving as the main east-west highway through the city, the vision for 3rd Avenue was to shift from a highway thoroughfare to a place that still moved people but in a way that facilitated a more balanced approach and made a vibrant downtown by offering a safe, lively and attractive place to work, live, shop, learn and play,” said Malcolm.

Achieving that environment was done through streetscaping which includes features such as benches, planters, trees, garbage cans and decorative street lighting.

MLA for Lethbridge West Shannon Phillips told the audience while door-knocking in Sunridge Tuesday night, she was asked by newly-arrived residents what there is to do in Lethbridge during the summer.

“Every single thing I told them, it occurred to me afterwards as I was walking here today, had to do with the downtown. It was the events happening here this week, it was the return of the Word on the Street Festival, it was the return of the Pride in the Park this weekend, it was the usual Arts Days and ArtWalk down here,” said Phillips.

“Every single thing I told them centred around this incredibly important part of our city” which is what that master plan, headed up by George Kuhl, was about, Phillips said in her address.

Numerous events are scheduled today and tomorrow at Festival Square. A farmer’s market runs today from 11 a.m until 3 pm. Starting at 11 a.m, there will be various performers hitting the stage with the last act starting at 8 p.m.

On Friday, pop-up yoga runs at noon while Family Fair on Festival Square runs from 1 until 5 p.m. Musical performances will run throughout the day with the last act again starting at 8 p.m.

Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter

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