Inside the blue fence that outlines Gore Park, between James and Hughson streets, it’s bustling with activity.

The park space is filled with construction crews busy operating dump trucks, cement trucks, excavators and even a mini-cement delivery vehicle. The entire surface is a mix of sand and gravel which is being prepared with special motorized tampers, paving the way for eventual cement walkways. The trees that circle the statue of Queen Victoria have been surrounded by new concrete curbs and eventually will feature new benches.

This is Phase 2 of the “Gore Pedestrianization Initiative” at Central Garden Block, the oldest part of the park that features a large Victorian fountain. This phase is part of a multi-year, multi-million dollar development and restoration project, which closed the park to the public in June.

“Phase 2 is the continuation of the pedestrianization of the south leg of King Street in the park space,” said landscape architect Meghan Stewart who leads the project. “It’s more of a facelift.”

A “facelift” when compared to the major redesign at Veteran’s Place from Hughson to John Street which was completed in 2015.

Work is underway to dig a massive trench that will extend below the road surface, replacing traditional catch basins.

“The drain is linear and will ultimately run the entire length of all three phases of the project,” Stewart said. “Phase 1 was the first time we used the product in a road application and we learned a lot of lessons and techniques.”

Those lessons are being applied to Phases 2 and 3 which will ultimately ensure the new pedestrian walkways are consistently flush with the park’s level, creating a more walkable space for pedestrians and allowing businesses to spill out onto the street.

It’s something Amy Castello, summer student at the Hamilton BIA, says will be beneficial because it will allow for bigger events and get more people moving around the city, spending time outdoors and even enjoying lunch which she said is what the promenade is all about.

“We get over 200 people per day and the Gore side may be even busier just because of the location,” she said. “People may be complaining about the construction but it will be worth it … The development goes along with everything that’s changing and the downtown core is changing for the better.”

She described the “vibe” in Veteran’s Park to be “reflective and respectful” and suggested the Gore section will likely be “more fun” with additional entertainment.

Playing human-sized checkers, Rasheed Castello who lives in the area says it’s fun to hang out in the park and is looking forward to being able to walk through the entire park.

His friend Francis Covington, who is visiting from Las Vegas, said he’s enjoying the park as well as the “slower pace.”

Phase 2, at a cost of about $1.7 million, also included removal of 10 ash trees — several remain despite being in poor health along with a few maple trees. A collection of 25 different trees will be planted as well as an assortment of hundreds of shrubs and perennials similar to those that were planted in Phase 1.

The city also plans to build a nine-metre-high beacon in the southwest corner of the park and a second at the eastern end at Catherine Street. The first beacon is expected to be installed by the time the park re-opens.

The extreme heat and lack of rain hasn’t impacted the timing of construction which is expected to be completed at the end of October. Stewart said the workers are able to take shade under existing trees and they’ve installed a trailer equipped with air conditioning.

“One hundred and fifty years of history at this site … It’s such an important space to people so making sure we meet the deadline and be able to open the park on time is a priority,” said Stewart about coordinating construction crews and the work still needing to be finished. “Making sure it is perceived as one contiguous space is the goal.”

Phase 3, at the eastern end of the park, is expected to start in a couple of years which Stewart said will be coordinated with the development of the Royal Connaught. It includes moving the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald from the west side of John Street to the east side.

this article is courtesy of the Hamilton Spectator.

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