As Kew Gardens reaches the end of its renovations, local councillor and parks chair Mary-Margaret McMahon says the price tag hasn’t changed since the million dollar contract was awarded.
“The cost is finished but the work is not,” said the Ward 32 councillor, referring to numbers that were revealed in late 2015, and the handful of projects to be completed in the next few weeks.
The $1.1 million dollar contract, awarded to Pine Valley Corporation, was nearly double what was initially budgeted for the redesign. McMahon said in early 2016 that it came down to factors out of the city’s control, and took into account that the work would be finished over the course of a year, instead of over several years.
Now, with the work nearly complete, McMahon said she is “hearing from a lot of people who are happy with the park, they’re excited to have some public art and real community space to create a community hub.”
A number of readers have voiced concerns about the park renovation to Beach Metro via letters to the editor, emails and phone calls.
McMahon said she is “surprised that people would be upset about us spending money to improve their public space. In other areas of our ward and in the city, they would be more than thrilled to have a park improvement. Original numbers are always quoted before things are drilled down and they’re never accurate.”
One element that appears to be top of mind to some is the new public sculpture, in honour of Kew founder Joseph Williams, at the park entrance beside the library.
McMahon said none of the design elements should come as a shock. The 17-metre aluminium screen, also referred to as a veil, was a signature element in the architect’s initial design.
The city “did extensive outreach and community consultation about the park, we had a couple of public meetings and we had a working group that met regularly,” said McMahon.
McMahon explained that the design, created by PLANT architects, took inspiration from the Kew Williams Cottage and the veil was meant to incorporate the Chinese influence in its architecture.
“If you look at the cottage and the pavilion, there is Chinese influence with the architecture, so [the architects] pulled that up to have the decorative part of the veil and then they wrote a quote from Williams. They tried to make it thematic and connect it to the Kew Williams Cottage,” she said.
As for the Joseph Williams quote, noting the park as “an innocent place of amusement”, McMahon acknowledged that the ‘J’ in Joseph could be mistaken for a ‘T’.
“It is what it is at this point. I’m not sure what happened, but we’re going to leave it,” she said. “You know, it’s just kind of a folksy Beach character thing – like The Goof’s burnt out sign for years and Donald Summerville pool being a couple inches too short to be an Olympic pool.”
There are still a couple of small projects to complete, including lighting to be placed along the seats of the benches, resin to be installed around the trees to keep them in place, and lighting to be incorporated into the design of the veil. McMahon said bollards – short, vertical posts – have been installed to dissuade drivers from entering into the area with their vehicles.
“Now we look forward to animation and activation so if anyone is interested in running entertainment – busking, music, drama, story-time, anything like that – contact my office and the [Beach Village] BIA,” she said. “[I’m] looking forward to seeing how it’s enjoyed this summer.”
What do you think about the Kew Gardens refresh, now that it is near completion? Let us know in the comments.
This post has been updated.