Construction on Truro’s new civic square project is expected to begin soon.
Nearly $1.5 million will be spent developing a civic square on close to one hectare of land which includes the site of the former Truro library. On April 27, the project was boosted by $738,718 when the federal government announced it would be supporting it through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
Cumberland-Colchester MP Bill Casey made the announcement in Truro’s council chamber. With all the historic buildings surrounding the future civic square, he says it looks as though the plan has been in the works for 100 years.
“I’m so excited about this project. When I look at the drawing, whoever came up with it did a great job. It’s going to look beautiful,” said Casey. “You have the Truro Farmers’ Market and Colchester Historeum on one side, the newly renovated library behind it and the cenotaph on the other side. Across the street you have the three churches and town hall.
It’s wonderful that this history has been captured and featured so prominently. It feels like this is how everything was supposed to go.”
The town developed an urban design strategy more than a decade ago that would identify opportunities to strengthen the downtown core. One of the top recommendations was the development of a civic square.
With the library moving to the renovated Normal College and the old one set to be torn down, Debbie Elliott, executive director of the Downtown Truro Partnership, figured the timing was right to bring the project to the forefront, especially when federal funding could be available.
Elliott along with DTP President Karen Baillie worked to develop a preliminary proposal that was presented to the town. As a result, Mayor Bill Mayors says the process was kicked into high gear.
“She had this wonderful idea and knew that funding was available,” said Mills. “She passed it over to me, I passed it on to our CAO and council, they passed it to the planning department, they passed it over to the citizens to determine what this would look like, it was passed back to the planning department and the next thing we know, we’ve reached this point. This exemplifies what happens when a team works together. We’re stronger when we work together and a lot of people are starting to believe in what we’re doing. This is going to be something truly special for our area.”
Mills added, “From the very start this project has engaged the community to ensure it was a reflection of what our residents felt the square should be and how it would be used.”
The Town of Truro is also contributing more than $500,000 to the project. The town’s portion will also include a signage project which will direct visitors to schools, the business district and more. Two new signs will also be erected along the highways.
The DTP has also kicked in $30,000. They’ve also committed $35,000 in-kind to the project which is based on Elliott serving as the project manager.
Baillie says the project is a major one for the DTP to be involved with.
“As a business owner, I’m excited to see the downtown Truro beautification and civic square project realized,” she said. “This is a significant development and investment to the public space component of our downtown. The image of the Urban Regional Core of our downtown is one of the most important economic tools. The DTP believes this project will inspire community pride and boost tourism. It will encourage increased pedestrian and customer traffic with an opportunity for community gatherings.”
A variety of things will take place as part of the project including landscaping, outdoor furnishings, fencing, lighting and pathways. A seasonal ice surface will convert the central area of the site into an outdoor arena for winter activities. Similar to the Emera Oval in Halifax, an ice plant will be installed to keep the ice in good condition even when the temperature rises.
According to Mills, the old library building will hopefully be torn down by the first of June which will allow work to start immediately after. The goal is to have everything completed in time for the Remembrance Day ceremony this November.
“It’s a tight deadline but I’m confident we can do it,” said Mills. “A sound system is part of what we’re doing. Events like the Remembrance Day ceremony will now be heard from one street corner to another and everywhere in between. It’s a big deal. All of the pavement around the farmers’ market and the new library all the way to the police station will also be fixed. This project will bring everything to a finished state.”