Officers’ Square Revised Plan, November 2018

Revised plan for Officers’ Square provides options to save large, mature trees

Having heard public feedback over the summer, City staff have presented Council with revised conceptual plans to revitalize Officers’ Square that will conserve up to eight large, mature trees in the National Historic Site.

Council saw two options for the revised plan, one which recommends eliminating the proposed corner entrance at Queen Street and St. Anne’s Point Boulevard and conserving four additional large trees, including the majestic elm on the corner. The second option conserves three large, mature trees and retains the southeast corner entrance.

Council has received the presentation and will decide on the plans at their regular Council meeting on Tuesday, November 13.  To find out more about the revised plan for Officers’ Square, visit www.fredericton.ca/OfficersSquare.

To solve the challenge of saving the trees, City engineers and engineering consultants developed unique solutions specific to the trees along Queen Street, which will allow for the rebuilding of the wall on the perimeter of the Square. That wall also acts as the retaining wall for Queen Street. The revised conceptual plan also includes re-instituting the ornamental cast iron fence, and slightly increasing the amount of green space.

The revised Officers’ Square conceptual plan retains other key elements like the Great Lawn, which features natural grass, the walkway that doubles as a skating surface in winter, the rain-protected performance stage, the smaller busker/theatre stage, a children’s playground and small water feature, as well as a multi-use plaza event space that doubles as a parking lot.

The revised plan conserves a total of eight large trees, including up to four additional large trees along Queen Street. It includes a new tree planting plan that doubles the total number of trees currently on the site. The Fredericton Tree Commission has favourably reviewed the new tree plan for the Square.

In addition to conserving the Square’s largest trees, smaller trees will be replaced with 29 new plantings, including eight, pre-grown disease-resistant elms.  When completed, the number of trees in the Square will double from the current number.

“I think staff have provided what Council requested: solutions to save more large, mature trees. The revisions to the plan conserve most of the large trees in Officers’ Square. It’s some extraordinary engineering and it comes at a cost and some impacts to the original design. One of the options saves a large elm on the corner and eliminates an entrance on the corner with disabled access. Council will now have to weigh all these factors, and the two options, and determine how they want to move forward,” said Coun. Bruce Grandy, Chair of the City’s Development Committee.

“One thing I think everyone can all agree on is the status quo is not acceptable. Officers’ Square is one of our most treasured spaces, a National Historic Site, and it’s in a terrible state. A lot of the infrastructure is end of life. Some of it has already failed. It’s time for our community to find a way forward,” said Coun. Grandy.

Staff recommended the options that conserves four trees along Queen Street and eliminates the corner entrance, continuing a wall and cast iron ornamental fence around the corner as it has been for many years.  This option eliminates one of the two disabled access entrances along Queen Street. The cost of saving the four trees is $190,000-$200,000 although there would be some savings as result of eliminating the entrance.

The other option presented to Council protects three large trees along Queen Street and maintains the proposed entrance at the corner at a cost of $80,000-$90,000.

It is unknown if the other changes to the design will have a cost impact, as detailed design work has yet to be done on the conceptual plan.

Both options allow for public safety considerations for entering and exiting in emergency situations by slightly widening the main Queen Street entrance.

As result of saving the trees, the proposed walkway that doubles as a skating surface is reduced in size slightly, which also decreases the size of the Square’s Great Lawn by approximately seven per cent. Overall green space in the revised conceptual plan increases by two per cent over the original plan.

City staff reported they kept three principles in mind in revising the plan. First, the goal of saving more large trees.  Second, respect for the heritage of the site.  Third, vision a plan that accommodates all current uses of the site, as a public park, a heritage space and a community event space that hosts concerns and festivals.

Staff worked within heritage best practices, taking account of national and provincial character defining elements and Standards and Guideline for Conserving Historic Spaces in Canada. The City also consulted with Parks Canada and other experts on key elements of the plan.

“It’s a real balancing act. Everything in the Square interconnects. You can’t save one feature like trees without impacting other elements like the Great Lawn. It’s been challenging, but in the end, I think we rose to the challenge and came up with a better plan. It’s really great design,” said Juan Estepa, Manager of Heritage and Urban Design.