Fredericton / News / Officers square

Our Starting Point for Officers’ Square: The Current State

Officers' Square is a public space like few others. It is a gathering place, a cultural space, a retreat, and an important heritage site. Officers' Square is Fredericton’s most important public space, but we have loved it to death. Much of the key infrastructure is failing. Some of it is unsafe. The effort to revitalize the space began with this understanding. In order for us all to continue to enjoy Officers’ Square the way we do, the current state can’t remain status quo.

One of several fence columns with major structural damage.

After years of concern over the disrepair of the Square, the City of Fredericton took ownership in August of 2016. Although the City programed the Square, it never had ownership and therefore couldn’t make the necessary investments to restore the space. Years of inadequate maintenance by the previous owner resulted in collapsing walls, uneven sidewalks, rotting stage infrastructure and severely damaged green areas. Now, much of the infrastructure in the Square is end of life.

The first challenge of Officers’ Square is the wall and fence. The fence is loose and not fully connected to the retaining wall for the street risking the safety of visitors.

The wall & fence along Queen Street is unsafe and is a public safety hazard, according to 3rd party stamped engineering reports.  

The lawn in Officers’ Square is severely damaged. It lacks proper drainage. The lack of drainage and the consistent four-season use has left the soil compacted. The City has aerated the soil, seeded and sodded but grass can’t grow. Much of the space is simply weeds.  To use the Square in the ways we do, better drainage and restructured grass and soils are required.

These are just some of many areas throughout the Officers’ Square lawn where no grass exists and water pooling is a problem.

The grass had been worn into deep muddy tracks in some areas requiring improvised crusher dust paths. Skaters, major event audiences and event vehicles created a line of desire from the washrooms and parking lot into the square. It’s not a way to treat a National Historic Site. We need to recognize the way the space is used and design proper access points.

 

One of the crusher dust pathways in place in Officers’ Square.

One of the main features of the Square is the stage which has welcomed countless performers over the years. Aside from not having a roof, which causes cancellations when rain threatens, the stage itself is now falling apart. Stones are loose and unsafe. The wood substructure and the floor planking is rotten. Dancers and bands have not been able to perform. That’s why it's covered in plywood. The electrical system is end of life. Musicians were getting small shocks and a short-term band aid fix was done. Small fixes will no longer do. It’s time to replace the stage infrastructure in the Square.

Loose stonework and rotting wood are a reality of the Officers’ Square stage.

Sidewalks in the Square have also heaved and now pose tripping hazards for visitors. We all want the Square to remain accessible to everyone without risk of injury.

 

Wear and tear has taken its toll on some pathways.

Historical features of the Square such as the replica Married Quarters foundation (note cinder bocks at the base) is also in disrepair.  Walls are crumbling. Wood planks are rotten. Aside from looking awful, it is unsafe.

The replica Married Quarters foundation in Officers’ Square requires a fix.

Officers’ Square is loved by everyone. It brings people together and creates special memories. As we move into the future, we will work together to create a vision for Officers’ Square families, friends and visitors can enjoy for years to come. 



FAQs about Officers' Square Fence

Question:  What has happened to the cast iron fencing that has been removed from Officer's Square so far?

Answer: The sections of Cast Iron fencing have been removed from the site and are being stored at a City Depot.  The fencing was originally constructed in sections and welded together.  To transport the sections of fence they were cut at the welds. Two sections of fencing were damaged while being removed as they extremely brittle and break easily, even under their own weight.


Question:  What has happened to the stone removed from the wall?

Answer:  The St Annes Pointe Balustrade (the coping caps and posts) were removed as part of the general excavation as they were identified as 70/80’s era construction.  The cast iron fencing was saved as stated above.

The Balustrade on Queen Street is constructed with sandstone coping stones and posts, denoting a different era of construction than that of the St Annes Point Drive Balustrade.  If work proceeds on the Queen Street wall, the sandstone coping stones, posts and cast iron fence would be stored at our City Depot.


Question:  What can you say about the wall around Officers’ Square?

Answer: The retaining wall dates from 1901. Much of the balustrade, which includes the, the posts and decorative cast iron fencing, was replaced dating to 1976. As for the wall, it is not strong enough to hold back Pointe-Sainte-Anne Boulevard and Queen Street, even if rebuilt. The City will use sandstone and has the original molds for the decorative fence. The new wall will be rebuilt to look like the old one.


Question:  What about the fence?  If it needs to be replaced, what will it look like?

Answer:  It will look the same. In fact, we will use “original” materials, i.e., sandstone not cement.


Question:  Do we have to revitalize the wall; or can we restore it?  What does the legislation say?

Answer:  The character defining element of the Square is the decorative cast iron fence.  As for the base, there are many things the wall has to do from an engineering perspective: hold up the fence; hold back the street and sidewalk; and protect people in the Square from vehicles that could plow into the space. The intent is to revitalize the wall using a new cement based, faced with rock to replicate what is there now.



FAQs about Officers' Square Stage

Question: What about the design of the Stage? People understand the current stage is in horrible shape, but who was consulted on the stage design, i.e., stage left / stage right.

Answer:  Festival organizers looked at the plan; will check to see if theatre producers were also consulted. The challenge: the size of the space relative to the museum and Square, as well as the need to turn around trucks carrying equipment. Compromises were made to the size of the stage; it can’t overwhelm the Square or meet all the needs of music festivals, i.e., large events like the Cavendish Music Festival. To avoid damage to the grass in front of the stage, the use of hard surfaces were suggested.  The City will need to consult further with music / theatre organizers.



FAQs about Officers' Square

Question:  What about the fill being added the Square? Why is it being done? Is 5 m the right figure? The Square is lower than the street now; that part of the character of the Square.  Will that change?

Answer:  There is not  5 m of fill being added; more like 2.5 feet — less than a metre. Not all over; only in certain spaces to make the Square level. The square will still continue to be lower than the street; to have that “nested” feel.  The wall will be higher for public safety reasons.


Question:  By adding fill to Officers’ Square, will it impact Regent Street during a flood?

Answer:  No. It is really like a pebble in a bathtub; there is no impact. And that is whether the flood is one week or two weeks long.


 


Question:  As part of the revitalization, will there be natural turf or artificial turf.  And as for hardscaping, what is the percentage of grass vs hard surfaces.

Answer:  Real grass will be used in the Square. The grass area in the centre of the Square is proposed to be larger than is there now.


Questions:  Can the City to re-exam the inclusion of some of the features, i.e. the water feature? Can a portable stage be used instead of a permanent stage? The advantage would be that it would be in the Square when needed, but used in other parts of the city too.

Answer:  Water Feature:  The water feature is not a splash pad like in Wilmot Park.  There are no visible structures/pipes, but rather holes in the surface that allow jets of water to shoot upwards and vehicles to drive over the surface.  During the public consultation, it was heard that Officers’ Square was not very family friendly.  There was no playground in the downtown core. Not an attempt to recreate the Wilmot Park splash pad, but add a small feature to help cool people down. It co-exists with activities like summer theatre, etc.

Stage: It would be hard to find a portable stage that suits everybody.  If we go with that route; it would basically stay in the Square all summer because of the regular programming and festivals that take place there.  Is that what we want as an element of the Square all summer?  Maybe the Square is best served with a permanent structure.

 


Question:  Why is the grade being raised in the Square and by how much?  Why does it affect the trees?

Answer:  In an effort to level Officers’ Square, fill will be added. This will improve the usable space and allow for improvements to the lawn, walking area, which will support the skating track.

This will improve the lawn area and walkway, and support the skating track, which will be located under the walkway area.

At its maximum, the grade will raise 76.2 cm (2.5 feet), not the 1 m, 1.5 m or even 5 m being reported by the public.

Basically, the Square will be raised to match the existing stage elevation.  This results in minimal change to much of the Square, with the largest elevation differences being along Queen Street, closer to Pointe-Sainte-Anne Boulevard.