Millennium Library Park officially reopens
By: Bartley Kives
Winnipeg Free Press July 21 2012
“The work has been done for weeks, but politicians have finally had a chance to declare the makeover of Millennium Library Park complete.
Mayor Sam Katz, Manitoba Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux and senior Manitoba MP Vic Toews officially reopened the plaza at the south end of the Millennium Library on Friday morning — after a seven-year reconstruction.
The $2.1-million, long-delayed makeover includes a new wooden boardwalk, as well as pools that simulate freshwater marshes. Each level of government contributed $700,000 to the project.
Another $575,000 paid for the most expensive piece of public art in Winnipeg’s history: emptyful, a 22,000-kilogram, stainless-steel fountain that looms over Donald Street.
The artwork, a creation of Vancouver architect Bill Pechet, will be 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 Canadian Prairies.
“The bottle is meant to be a symbolic container of emptiness. There’s a hole in the bottom of it,” the Edmonton-born, Vancouver-based Pechet said in June.
His Vancouver studio won a competition to create the public artwork as part of Winnipeg’s role as Canada’s cultural capital in 2010. Ottawa contributed $200,000 and the Winnipeg Arts Council covered the rest of the tab.
The design competition called for a large artwork along the Donald Street side of the Millennium Library property, Pechet explained.
“They wanted to create a strong edge to the plaza on the west side, because there are two (parkade) car ramps on Donald Street. They wanted to have a strong physical and environmental presence,” he said.
Pechet created 12 different colour schemes to illuminate emptyful, whose stainless-steel frame has been blasted by glass beads to soften the edges and catch more light.
During the summer, when the fog and water elements will be operational, the fountain will be 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.”
From the Government of Manitoba website;
Winnipeg, MB –
“A beautiful and inviting urban green space has come to life behind the Millennium Library in downtown Winnipeg. The Honourable Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety, on behalf of the Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister for Western Economic Diversification, the Honourable Ron Lemieux, Minister of Local Government, Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz and other dignitaries, gathered today to officially open the park.
This active and viable green space includes a Learning Commons, Urban Wetland, Millennium Plaza and Prairie Garden. The City and Downtown BIZ will work together to offer educational and cultural programming, as well as recreational and entertainment events.
Under the Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund (MRIF), the joint federal-provincial-municipal funding to the Millennium Library Park totals $2.1 million ($700,000 from each level of government).
“The new Millennium Library Park is an example of the Government of Canada’s commitment to creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity here in Winnipeg,” said Minister Toews. “By investing in community spaces and local infrastructure, we are securing the continued success of our cities while providing a solid platform for future growth.”
“Library resources are a gift to the mind, and this new park is a gift to our spirit of wellbeing by providing a relaxing atmosphere where people and families can enjoy and appreciate nature in the midst of Winnipeg’s downtown,” said Minister Lemieux. “A successful partnership toward a common goal has made the merging of these two gifts possible.”
“I hope Winnipeggers will visit this new outdoor space now that it has been entirely revitalized,” said Mayor Katz. “This new urban green space is a wonderful complement to the Millennium Library and will be a welcome oasis for downtown workers and visitors alike.”
The Millennium Library Park redevelopment was spearheaded by the Winnipeg Library Foundation, which has worked to raise funds to enhance Winnipeg Public Library programs and services for over 15 years. This initiative is the Foundation’s largest project since the redevelopment of the Millennium Library in 2005. Fundraising is continuing for additional enhancements to the park, and opportunities are still available for corporate or individual sponsorship of some significant park features.
“We know that projects like Millennium Library Park don’t happen without the support and cooperation of elected officials, civic leaders and concerned citizens,” said Karen Keppler, past chair of the Winnipeg Library Foundation. “Once again, it’s gratifying to see years of hard work pay off and we are so grateful for all the people who helped make it happen.”
Two public artworks, emptyful and Sentinel of Truth, are also integral to the revitalization of the park. These works, created through the Winnipeg Arts Council, were conceived of and planned as part of the project from the very beginning of the renovation process.
“Including art in the planning of public spaces is a sure sign that Winnipeg continues to be an enlightened and progressive city,” said Laird Rankin, a representative of the Winnipeg Arts Council. “One of the Council’s goals is to provide the citizens of Winnipeg with access to the arts. Emptyful does this in a big way, both literally and figuratively.”
The Downtown BIZ co-ordinates many events and programs in the downtown each year. With the opening of the Millennium Library Park, the BIZ sees ongoing opportunities to co-ordinate
programming efforts with groups such as the Millennium Library – with initiatives and events like our Out to Lunch concert series and Yoga and Zumba in the Park – helping support a collective vision in making the downtown a vibrant and engaging place to work, shop, live and play.
“Green spaces like the Millennium Library Park help foster connections between communities and the natural environment, allowing for a more breathable and liveable city,” said Stefano Grande, executive director of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ. “The Millennium Library Park will positively shape and re-energize our downtown, playing an important role in providing families, youth, students and kids a place to learn, play, hang out and share experiences.” ”