Massive party planned for site still under construction in Fredericton

While construction workers are hard at work, sweating to complete landscaping at Officers' Square in Fredericton, the city's project engineer says the party planned ahead of Canada Day in the very same space will go ahead.

Officers' Square has been under renovation since 2018. The project faced controversy with activists calling on the city to drop the project altogether in the beginning, even wrapping trees in blankets to protest their removal.

The renovations inched along until they marked a milestone last December, with the opening of the skating rink in the square.

Now, a three-day festival and a Canada Day party are slated to kick off June 28 as the space reopens to the public, after a long-awaited, much-debated makeover, despite the fact that work is still underway and gates continue to block the public's access.

Construction is ongoing at the Officers Square in preparations for the 2024 Garrison Fest and Canada Day celebrations.
There are some small details that may not be completed but the site will be mostly ready, McCann says. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

According to Greg McCann, the city's project engineer, it's all going to plan.

"We're working away trying to finalize some last-minute items, not last minute but meeting our schedule so that we can have a safe and successful Garrison Fest," McCann said in an interview.

WATCH | 'The site will be safe and functional':

Garrison Fest is a free three-day concert series, which will feature Jeremy Dutcher, Kill Chicago and Adam Baldwin & the Jenny Wren, among others. It's meant to celebrate the square's grand reopening and lead up to the Canada Day festivities.

McCann said there are some small details that may not be completed but the site will be mostly ready.

"You may see some decorative elements that aren't complete ... but the site will be safe and functional."

McCann said the decorative elements include some esthetic lighting, for example, that's not needed for the site's functionality.

Project Engineer says constructions will be done and site accessible to the public but some minor details may not be completed.
McCann says things are moving from 'a construction site to maintenance now.' (Ed Hunter/CBC)

"For the next two weeks, it's just going to be a slow grind of installing paver stones and getting our audio and audio-visual equipment in place," he said.

"We're actually moving from a construction site to maintenance now."

He said redesigns based on stakeholder feedback on the project influenced the construction pace and timelines.

'We are communicating quite regularly'

Stacy Russell, Fredericton's manager of tourism and events, said planning the party without all of the finishing touches in place has meant co-ordinating with construction leads more often.

"We are communicating quite, quite regularly and we will continue to," said Russell.

"On everything that we do, there's always needing to build contingencies and us being able to roll with it," she said

Stacey Russell says engineering and all of the departments within the city are working together to be able to to throw a massive party for the great opening celebration of the Officers Square.
Stacey Russell says engineering and all of the departments within the city are working together to be able to to throw a massive party for the grand reopening. (Submitted by Elizabeth Fraser)

Contingencies are in place should bad weather come down on construction crews. McCann says even if it rains, they'll keep the site and construction workers dry until the last walkway stone is laid.

"Bad weather certainly can impact it," he said. "But, you know, if we have to start bringing in some big umbrellas or I don't know what you call them — tent structures — to get the work done, then, we'll do that."

Once the landscaping is done, picnic tables, umbrellas, benches and other esthetic touches will be brought in just in time for the crowds.