Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/7/2012 (3211 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
An optimist might look at the Millennium Library Park and say it was completed 988 years ahead of schedule.
Others may note the downtown plaza took seven years to reconstruct and wasn't finished until 12 years after the millennium that gave Winnipeg's central library its new name.
On Friday, politicians from all three levels of government gathered on the south side of the Millennium Library to celebrate the $4.3-million reconstruction of a public space once deemed a dangerous and dingy corner of downtown, owing to the absence of sidewalks and high fences that cut it off from Donald and Smith streets.
Along with new concrete, the rebuilt plaza has an artificial wetland aerated by a pair of windmills, a wooden walkway built out of sustainably farmed wood, birch trees planted in deep pots, two new pieces of public art and perhaps most importantly, low fences and a raised floor intended to make the entire space feel open and safe.
"You have to remember what was. If you remember what was and see what is now, there's no comparison," said Mayor Sam Katz, dismissing concerns about the job's long completion time.
In 2005, when the Millennium Library reopened after a $21-million makeover of its own, there was no money left in the budget to rebuild the park, said Doug Peever, the city's senior urban designer. The work was completed a year late and $4 million over budget.
So the city put together a plan to fund the plaza improvements with the help of the other two levels of government. By the time all parties agreed, the delay was an embarrassment to city hall.
First, work on the park could not commence until a membrane was built over the parkade below it, a job that required $1.5 million.
Rebuilding the plaza itself required another $2.1 million, funded equally by all three levels of government. The Winnipeg Arts Council then arranged financing for the two pieces of public art: a $90,000 wall-like structure called Sentinel Of Truth, by Winnipeg's Darren Stebeleski; and emptyful, the $575,000 illuminated fountain created by Edmonton-born, Vancouver-based sculptor Bill Pechet.
The erlenmeyer flask-shaped fountain, the most expensive piece of public art in Winnipeg history, is illuminated by four bands of LED lights at night and uses both water and fog to make a statement about the abundance of space on the Prairies.
During the summer, when the fog and water elements will be operational, the fountain is illuminated in blue, green and purples hues. During the winter, when the water elements won't be operational, the artwork will be lit up with reds, oranges and yellows.
Katz urged all Winnipeggers to tell their friends, family and visitors to come see emptyful, which he described as a destination in its own right. He also used the name of the fountain to suggest complaints about the delay in the park's completion are the product of looking at a glass half-empty.
The only aspect of the old library plaza incorporated into the new design is a tower near the southeast corner, left standing as a piece of continuity, designer Peever said.
In the books
A tally of the work involved in the makeover of Millennium Library Park:
$2.1 million to rebuild the plaza
$1.5 million to replace a membrane over the roof of the Millennium Library Parkade
$575,000 to commission and install emptyful, the illuminated fountain alongside Donald Street
$90,000 for Sentinel Of Truth, a wall-like piece of public art at the south side of the plaza.