September 15, 2019

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Diversity Gardens complexity through the roof

Assiniboine Park project won’t open until 2021 due to construction delays

A massive greenhouse lush with tropical plants and slated to house the country’s largest indoor waterfall will fill the dirt and concrete skeleton in the south east corner of Assiniboine Park — but it’s going to take a little longer than expected.

The estimated opening of Canada’s Diversity Gardens has been postponed until 2021 due to roof installation delays, the Assiniboine Park Conservancy announced Tuesday.

“With a unique project of this nature, we do not want to rush it. It needs to be perfect and it will be a masterpiece,” APC president and CEO Margaret Redmond told reporters during a media tour of the facilities under construction.

The 35-acre stretch of gardens, which includes a central greenhouse known as The Leaf, was originally scheduled to open in late 2020. However, Redmond said Tuesday the complex installation of the greenhouse’s translucent plastic roof — which will allow for the energy-efficient heating of tropical plants — has proven more time-consuming than initially thought.

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A massive greenhouse lush with tropical plants and slated to house the country’s largest indoor waterfall will fill the dirt and concrete skeleton in the south east corner of Assiniboine Park — but it’s going to take a little longer than expected.

The estimated opening of Canada’s Diversity Gardens has been postponed until 2021 due to roof installation delays, the Assiniboine Park Conservancy announced Tuesday.

"With a unique project of this nature, we do not want to rush it. It needs to be perfect and it will be a masterpiece," APC president and CEO Margaret Redmond told reporters during a media tour of the facilities under construction.

The 35-acre stretch of gardens, which includes a central greenhouse known as The Leaf, was originally scheduled to open in late 2020. However, Redmond said Tuesday the complex installation of the greenhouse’s translucent plastic roof — which will allow for the energy-efficient heating of tropical plants — has proven more time-consuming than initially thought.

Margaret Redmond (left), President and CEO of Assiniboine Park Conservancy and Hartley Richardson (second left), President and CEO James Richardson & Sons Limited takes in the view from the canopy walkway during construction of Canada's Diversity Gardens at Assiniboine Park Tuesday morning.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Margaret Redmond (left), President and CEO of Assiniboine Park Conservancy and Hartley Richardson (second left), President and CEO James Richardson & Sons Limited takes in the view from the canopy walkway during construction of Canada's Diversity Gardens at Assiniboine Park Tuesday morning.

It is unclear when exactly the grounds are expected to open during 2021; Redmond said the construction team will have a better idea of the timeframe next spring. "Winter in Winnipeg creates a very specific timeline for us to get that roof in," she added.

Diversity gardens digits

Architectural renderings of Canada's Diversity Gardnens.

Architectural renderings of Canada's Diversity Gardnens.

Flora facts

300 species in the outdoor gardens

29,000 outdoor plants

600 outdoor trees

Flora facts

300 species in the outdoor gardens

29,000 outdoor plants

600 outdoor trees

350 species of tropical and Mediterranean plants indoors

16,500 plants inside 

There will be 200 butterfly chrysalis received bi-weekly from Central America

The Leaf greenhouse facts

6,000 square metre building footprint enclosed by glass walls and a translucent plastic roof

A high tower that will transport visitors up to a canopy walkway

A six-storey waterfall 

The translucent exterior, geo-thermal energy system and earth tubes will heat the building so it maintains a temperature for tropical plants

The building is expected to have a 30- to 50-year life expectancy while requiring minimal maintenance

— Assiniboine Park Conservancy

Construction crews will have to wait until winter is over to install it, pushing back deadlines for other big projects including installing systems that will work with the roof to maintain a tropical temperature in the building and the planting of flora itself.

When asked about whether the latest delay will increase the estimated $97.8 million price tag, the APC president said whoever is responsible for the delays will carry the cost.

The gardens mark the final phase of the decade-long Assiniboine Park and Zoo redevelopment. So far, the APC has confirmed just under $80 million in funding for the project. All levels of government have chipped in, totalling about $63 million. Private donors are footing the rest of the bill, Redmond said, adding the APC has no plans to ask the government for more money.

A huge joint that holds one of the dozens of cables that create the webbing to support the specialized roof of the gardens.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A huge joint that holds one of the dozens of cables that create the webbing to support the specialized roof of the gardens.

Once complete, Canada’s Diversity Gardens will boast five outdoor gardens — the Indigenous Peoples’ Garden, Kitchen Garden, Performance-Sensory Garden, Seasonal Garden and The Grove.

Admission to the outdoor gardens will be free while the APC is still researching market prices before deciding on a price tag for a ticket into the greenhouse.

"With a unique project of this nature, we do not want to rush it. It needs to be perfect and it will be a masterpiece" – APC president and CEO Margaret Redmond

The Leaf building will house tropical and mediterranean biomes filled with plants and a pond, in addition to a canopy walkway, butterfly garden and six-storey-high waterfall. There will also be a restaurant, banquet hall and classrooms for educational programming inside the 6,000-square-metre building.

Its horticulture space will be about five times that of the old conservatory and twice as tall as its highest point — making it "a world-class tourist destination," Redmond said.

A construction worker applies protective paint to the support structure of Canada's Diversity Gardens at Assiniboine Park Tuesday morning.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

A construction worker applies protective paint to the support structure of Canada's Diversity Gardens at Assiniboine Park Tuesday morning.

"Our provincial, city and national tourism entities are over the moon about this as an asset, not just for Winnipeg, but for Canada," she said. "It’s hard to convey the type of boost this can give to a city’s reputation as a tourism destination. More importantly, it’ll be an incredible asset for our community."

APC expects a total of 200,000 visitors during the first year after the gardens open.

Rolled out in May, the federal government's new tourism strategy emphasizes a need for expanding winter tourism and Indigenous tourism.

Dayna Spiring, president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg, said she expects the gardens to attract nature lovers and architecture enthusiasts alike.

"When you think about what this building is going to do and you pair that with the Museum of Human Rights, the Inuit Art Centre, BellMTS Place … We are building great, iconic assets that are going to benefit our city for years to come," Spiring said.

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Members of the media tour the construction site of Canada's Diversity Gardens at Assiniboine Park Tuesday morning.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Members of the media tour the construction site of Canada's Diversity Gardens at Assiniboine Park Tuesday morning.

History

Updated on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 at 9:12 PM CDT: Updates headline to match print version

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