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Millennium Park plan headed back to committee

St. Albert city council has a last-minute opportunity next month to make changes to the Millennium Park concept plan following a significant discussion on March 7 led to the withdrawal of two council motions.
Coun. Mike Killick says for how much the city plans to spend on Millennium Park, he'd like to see the space be a bit bolder. SCREENSHOT

St. Albert city council will have a last-minute opportunity next month to make changes to the Millennium Park concept plan following a significant discussion on March 7 led to the withdrawal of two council motions.

In development since 2016, Millennium Park will transform the undeveloped area behind St. Albert Place into an interconnected park space featuring a pavilion building, a four season water and ice feature, and open lawn spaces stretching from Lions Park to city hall. The current conceptual plan for the park has been in place since 2018.

During the March 7 council meeting, Coun. Mike Killick brought forward two correlated motions that sought to create an opportunity for council to make changes to the park plan, and to postpone the scheduled 2023 phase of the project. However, Killick eventually withdrew both motions after Chief Administrative Officer Bill Fletcher assured council that the goal behind the motions could be accomplished without a vote.

One withdrawn motion sought to have council and administration complete a workshop together to adjust and make changes to the Millennium Park concept before a new project charter is presented to council for approval.

The other motion looked to cancel the $337,100 worth of detailed design, landscaping, and servicing work on Millennium Park that was scheduled to be completed this year.

After a 45-minute discussion, council and administration agreed that council could make tweaks to the park plan during a committee of the whole meeting on April 5.

On March 7, council heard from Manda Wilde, the interim manager of recreation development and partnerships, that a request for proposals on the work scheduled to be completed this year has been ready to publish since January. 

Wilde told council that the estimated $15.8 million project will remain on its current schedule unless council makes significant changes to the plan when it's discussed next month.

Further servicing of the land is scheduled to be completed next year, according to the project charter included in the 2023 budget, and in 2027 the city plans to complete the detailed design of the pavilion building and water feature.

Actual construction of both the building and water feature is scheduled to be complete by 2030, the project charter says. 

Not bold enough

In an interview on March 6, Coun. Killick said he thought the current Millennium Park concept was good, but he worried the park won't be “bold enough” to make it a major attraction downtown. 

“The current plan just did not seem to meet that 'wow' factor for me,” Killick said. “I just wanted to see a much bolder plan for St. Albert and make it a real focal point.”

Killick said he wasn't looking to add further amenities to the park plan as he didn't want a significant cost increase, but he thought views of the Sturgeon River could be improved and the pavilion building could be made a bit bigger. 

“I would like to see it have a better green space and a view of the river and just open things up more so that we can have more residents there doing more things,” he said.

“I'm not looking to say we add a water fountain or anything like that, I just don't feel that the original concept plans had viewing out to the river as a key drawing point and I'd like to see that at least considered going forward.”

During the meeting on March 7, Mayor Cathy Heron said she shared Killick's concerns about the current plan.

“The issue is not about recreating the concept, it's about opening up what we currently have in front of us,” Heron said.

“I heard that preservation of trees was important to the public, but I guess the concept looks like it's dividing it into five separate parks instead of trying to open it up.”

Coun. Sheena Hughes told The Gazette she thinks now is council's last opportunity to make changes to the park plan before the underlying infrastructure is constructed, causing any future changes to be more expensive.

“To put in the infrastructure ... locks you into that design,” Hughes said. 

“It's going to be a significant amount of money — it will probably involve debt which means it will probably involve tax increases — and we should be sure that if we're doing something like this, it is actually something that we think is value for the money.”

“Whenever the build starts ... isn't as important as making sure that this is a plan that we think the community wants and reflects the needs and the cost analysis,” Hughes said.

Depending on the nature and scope of the changes made to the conceptual plan during the committee meeting next month, council heard, administration will not complete any further public engagement.

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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