An­kle-deep city hall foun­tain tested

First por­tion of $17.5-mil­lion plaza to re­open, ice rink will be in place through win­ter

Edmonton Sun - - NEWS - Dustin Cook dus­[email protected] @dustin_­cook3

Af­ter two sum­mers of drought, the foun­tain in front of city hall is flow­ing again and the first por­tion of the $17.5-mil­lion re­vamped plaza is set to open by the end of the month.

Ea­ger chil­dren will need to wait un­til next year to step foot in the shal­lower wad­ing pool with win­ter­i­za­tion set to be­gin af­ter test­ing is com­plete. But an ice rink will take its place through­out the win­ter as soon as the colder weather sets in.

It was a long road for the city to get to Mon­day as me­dia had a tour of the site where foun­tain test­ing is un­der­way in the an­kle-deep pool sur­rounded by wooden benches and ta­bles.

A waterproof mem­brane fail­ure im­pacted by sig­nif­i­cant rain forced the foun­tain to miss an­other sum­mer.

“We ran into a num­ber of un­fore­seens on this site,” said civic precinct pro­gram man­ager Eu­gene Gy­orfi. “The win­ter was ex­tremely cold, the spring was ex­tremely wet.”

But even with the de­lays and com­pli­ca­tions, Gy­orfi said the city is cur­rently in line with the $13.4-mil­lion con­struc­tion bud­get. Costs to re­place the faulty mem­brane fell specif­i­cally on the con­trac­tor and the city wasn’t re­spon­si­ble for any of the ad­di­tional bud­get­ing.

Work on the plaza, for­mally known as the civic precinct, be­gan in the sum­mer of 2018 to re­place the worn 25-yearold foun­tain and wad­ing pool and bring it in line with Al­berta Health Ser­vices stan­dards.

This in­cludes mak­ing the space fully ac­ces­si­ble with­out any stairs, eas­ier ac­cess to Churchill Square as well as the abil­ity to drain the gran­ite-lined pool in one hour to not leave it sit­ting un­mon­i­tored and full of wa­ter overnight.

Per­haps the most no­tice­able change is the depth of the pool, which was also the most de­bated in the lead-up to con­struc­tion. Many res­i­dents ex­pressed con­cerns in de­creas­ing the depth of the pool from 40 cen­time­tres, about knee height, to 15 cen­time­tres and around the an­kles.

But an 8-4 vote by coun­cil last Fe­bru­ary ap­proved the de­sign, with the ma­jor­ity ar­gu­ing it’s the best choice to ad­here to the nec­es­sary health reg­u­la­tions. Al­though much shal­lower, city staff said they be­lieve the changes will help in­crease use of the space with the ad­di­tional safety and ac­ces­si­bil­ity fea­tures.

The sec­ond phase of the project, in­clud­ing a deck for fes­ti­val use, will be built in tan­dem with the nearby LRT con­struc­tion and ex­pected to be com­pleted by early 2021.

Gy­orfi said the goal is to wel­come fes­ti­vals back to the open space next sum­mer.

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