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This article was published 27/9/2018 (651 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Grey skies, cool temperatures and a steady drizzle weren't enough to dampen the mood Thursday at the official opening of the True North Square public plaza, even though the celebration had to be moved inside.
After some last-minute scrambling due to the rain, the podium for the ceremony was dragged into the lobby of one of the True North Square towers, where both Premier Brian Pallister and Mayor Brian Bowman heralded the development as a milestone for the city and province.
"This is a great day for Manitoba. This is a great day for Winnipeg. This is where Canada's heart beats, Manitoba. Winnipeg is where Manitoba's heart beats, and downtown Winnipeg is where Winnipeg's heart beats," Pallister told the crowd of about 200.
"Today we celebrate an investment in the future of this heart. Today our hearts beat more loudly and with more pride, perhaps, than they did yesterday."
Through the glass windows of the lobby, planted prairie grass, seating areas and a 56-jet water installation could been seen in the centre of the plaza, which is tucked between the first two towers of the highly-anticipated $550-million, four-building complex.
The ceremony began with an acknowledgement that the development is located on traditional treaty territory. Shortly after the event got underway, the sound of a beating drum and singing filled the air as an Indigenous honour song was performed.
Alongside Pallister and Bowman, True North Real Estate Development president Jim Ludlow and James Richardson & Sons Limited president and CEO Hartley Richardson were present, among other dignitaries.
Ludlow pointed out that just 32 months earlier, the space where the plaza and towers now stand was nothing more than a paved parking lot.
"I think (this development) suggests that this is a very productive, progressive and dynamic-thinking city. You like to try to float all boats. I think developments like this are reflective of some level of dynamism, and the opposite is true if this remains a surface parking lot," he said.
"It would be nice to have a nice fall day today, but I think in the end (we had) a nice event inside the building and we can all still get a look at True North Square."
Plans for the plaza were first made public in 2016. When asked if he thought True North Square, once completed, would attract further investment into downtown Winnipeg, Bowman said he was certain that it would and already has.
"People who are deciding where they want to invest, which community they want to invest in to grow their career and build a family, this sends a very powerful message that Winnipeg is growing and Winnipeg is becoming a much more modern city," he said.
"It's already being discussed in cities across Canada. Conversations that I'm having with business leaders and elected officials, they're watching what's happening in Winnipeg right now, and with this investment in particular."
In total, taxpayer support on the total project has risen to roughly $45 million, much higher than what was initially anticipated and announced.
The ballooning of public funding is largely due to last-minute deals that saw the province and the city agree to support the development with tax-increment financing.
Both Bowman and Pallister have defended the use of TIF on the project, which comes at the same time the the province has written off the majority of the loan for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Investors Group Field — a major project that also received municipal and provincial funding through TIF agreements.
The city also agreed to waive a requirement for the True North Square developers to set aside a portion of the project's residential units as affordable housing in order to receive TIF funding. Instead, the developers agreed to redirect about $200,000 in municipal property tax refunds to support affordable housing elsewhere.
The project is a partnership between the True North Real Estate Development and Vancouver-based Northland Properties.
True North is building the towers and the square on the east side of Carlton Street, while Northland is constructing a hotel and another residential tower on the west side.
Construction on the final two towers is scheduled to be completed in 2021.
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.
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