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The Overall Vision for Officers’ Square

We all love Officers’ Square. It is Fredericton’s great public space. 

To bring everyone into this community conversation, today’s blog outlines the proposed vision for Officers’ Square and why the various pieces were included. Over the coming days, we’ll dive deeper into the individual elements of the plan.

After almost two years of public consultations and stakeholder conversations, the City released the revitalization plan for Officers’ Square. With consideration for our shared heritage at the forefront of the planning process, the project attempts to balance the variety of ways you told us you want to relax, play, and celebrate in the Square.

The plan envisions a multi-phase, multi-year project. It images a great open green space, four-season recreational capacity, along with the ability to celebrate with cultural programs, community celebrations and festivals. It imagines a space that continues to offer winter skating despite a warming climate. It aims to create the best community-scale festival space in Atlantic Canada.

The vision is to maintain the historic character of Officers’ Square, welcoming local residents and visitors, young and old. As more people choose to live and play downtown, green spaces become even more important. We especially heard there should be more for families. 

Based on input during the consultation process, the following includes the following elements:

  • a restoration and slight enlargement of the Square’s central grassed space, the Great Lawn.
  • replacing the existing fence with the same 19th-century ornamental style fence.
  • a chilled skating track set under the (square) walkways of the space.
  • a new rain-protected performance stage for festivals and performances.
  • an intimate small stage for buskers and outdoor theatre performances
  •  a small locally-oriented food & beverage service area
  • a children’s playground and a small at-grade splash area with water jet features (see image below).
  • expanded entrances designed according to current public safety requirements

Officers' Square Concept

Click to view the interactive before and after concept photos

The Officers' Square Revitalization Plan builds upon almost two years of public feedback.

We heard a desire to experience concerts, festivals, films, and live major event broadcasts as well as have fewer of those events cancelled when it threatens rain. That’s why a rain-covered, flood-protected stage with new electrical infrastructure is set off to the side of the Fredericton Region Museum in what is now a parking lot.

Consultations told us you wanted a larger central Great Lawn, so that area grows slightly. Overall the usable public spaces are enlarged. While the Great Lawn remains grass, some other areas will have concrete paver stones. This better accommodates large events like Canada Day or the Tragically Hip Broadcast, which put upwards of 10,000 people in the Square. The area in front of the stage is pavers. Currently, that’s the area that gets the most damage during major events, both from audience pressure and bringing portable stages into the Square.

The plan re-imagines a portion of the current parking lot to include family-friendly play areas, but also a multi-purpose plaza that can accommodate various festivals and night market uses. It’s important to note: when not in use, it would remain a parking area. 

Wintertime enjoyment has always been an adored feature of Officers’ Square for Frederictonians. Your feedback told us that walking and skating in the Square is important so the plan proposes a revitalized walkway and a chilled skating track under that walkway. We called it a skating oval, but it’s shaped by the square. Officers’ Square remains Square (and grass).

You told us you want more amenities for families such as a play area. The plan proposes a playground and splash zone for the kids to enjoy. Not a splash pad like in Wilmot Park. Rather, the splash zone is an area where ground level water sprays would allow people to cool off in the summer. This is a small and inexpensive amenity common in similar public spaces around the world.

Bishop's Landing, Halifax
Bishop's Landing, Halifax

The proposed Splash Zone for Officers' Square will be very similar to the splash zone at Bishop's Landing in Halifax.

Public safety officials told us that we needed to take seriously public safety concerns. We propose new wider entrances designed to respect the site’s heritage.

Officers’ Square is our National Historic Site and a treasure. You were also clear about how heritage should be conserved. The plan proposes respecting the heritage through a design that acknowledges the important historical elements of the Square.

We’ve heard trees are important for many reasons. The City is working on options that will attempt to address this concern with the proposed plan. In the end, there will be more trees in the Square.

Officers’ Square has undergone many changes over its lifetime as its use has changed. For example, records show that the Square had a 14-foot wooden fence in 1791 replaced several times throughout the years. Versions of the fence have evolved from a wooden fence to a picket fence in the late 19th-century to the version of the fence people recognize today originally installed around the early 20th century.  Parts of it were replaced in the 1950s and 1970s.

Officers' Square
Officers' Square (1887) Photo provided by Harvey Studios

Officers' Square has experienced several changes over the years.

The revitalization plan for Officers’ Square is a heritage-first approach that aspires to find the right balance between respecting heritage and creating a great public gathering space based on the needs of residents and visitors of all ages.

Officers' Square Concept

The Officers' Square Revitalization Plan seeks to find the right balance between respecting heritage and creating a great public space based on the needs of residents and visitors of all ages.

The conversation around the vision for Officers’ Square continues.