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City celebrates ‘Festive’ grand opening

The community has a new place to gather and celebrate as the City of Lethbridge opened the new Festival Square Market Plaza and the newly completed Third Ave upgrades downtown today. The celebration kicked off a three-day festival called 'Lighting Up Festival Square,' which will feature key stakeholders, government partners and several performances for the community to take in. 

With funding coming from the Governments of Canada and Alberta, the City of Lethbridge has capitalized on creating further economic catalysts for Downtown Lethbridge.

The $1.71 million Festival Square Market Plaza, entirely funded through the Province of Alberta's Provincial Municipal Stimulus Program, will be a versatile, active and engaging public space for people and the local businesses in the area. The main draw will be its offering as a permanent market space with supporting infrastructure to support local producers, artisans and craftspeople a place to sell their wares year-round. The project includes an interactive stage, entry signs, decorative column lighting, programmable lighting and site furniture, as well as water/wastewater servicing and lane rehab.

The $10.083-million 3 Avenue Reconstruction – funded with $7,453,000 from the Canada Community-Building Fund (CCBF, formerly the Federal Gas Tax Fund) and $2,630,000 from the City of Lethbridge – features upgrades to underground infrastructure and improved access, traffic efficiency and safety making it a more vibrant and pedestrian-friendly street.

Mayor Blaine Hyggen says the City is grateful to our Federal and Provincial partners for their financial support in helping these projects contribute to the ongoing revitalization of Downtown Lethbridge.

"These two important projects have given new life to existing assets and they have created jobs to help stimulate the downtown economy," says Mayor Hyggen. "We believe Festival Square will build off the success of our patio and parklet infrastructure investment. And these grand openings serve as great timing for a welcome back all the wonderful events planned in our city this summer."

"The redesign and reconstruction of 3rd Avenue and Festival Square Market Plaza is a great example of successful collaboration among all orders of government to achieve local goals that matter to your community," says Minister Ric McIver of Alberta Municipal Affairs. "Provincial funding, along with federal and municipal dollars, will benefit locals and visitors with walkable spaces above ground and reliable utilities below the surface. And the project itself has helped achieve the goals of the Municipal Stimulus Program – creating jobs, enhancing provincial competitiveness and productivity, and positioning communities to participate in future economic growth. Congratulations on your vision and your hard work."

"We would like to thank all those involved in these projects, from the project teams and construction crews, to all three orders of government for their support and funding, to all of our partners who made these visions become reality," says Andrew Malcolm, Urban Revitalization Manager. "On behalf of the City, I also want to issue an extra special thank you to all of the businesses who have patiently waited as we worked on these projects. We truly believe it will be worth it. This is an exciting day for Downtown Lethbridge and the start of a great next chapter in its storied history."

"We at the Downtown Lethbridge Business Revitalization Zone office are thrilled to have been involved in the planning and execution of the Lighting Up of Festival Square," says Sarah Amies, Community Director of the Downtown Lethbridge BRZ. "The BRZ is looking forward to administering the Festival Square event bookings and foresees many exciting activations in this unique space. Thanks must be conveyed to the hardworking business owners and community members who have volunteered their time on the Festival Square Planning Committee and whose collaboration and collegiality have seen this project come to fruition. We hope that everyone will visit the downtown to participate in the Festival Square fun and games and rediscover all that the downtown has to offer."

Backgrounder on Festival Square:

In fall 2020, City Administration reviewed more than 25 potential projects against the Provincial MSP funding guidelines and submitted three for Council's consideration. City Council approved the $12.06 million in funding to the City of Lethbridge be allocated to the Lethbridge Airport Renovation – Airfield Lighting & Pavement Rehabilitation ($11.163 million) and Festival Square Market Plaza ($900,000). These were submitted and approved by the Province.

On June 15, 2021, Administration provided an update to Council identifying that the Festival Square project would come in over the $900,000 budget due to a combination of inflation and revised scope. Council requested Administration reach out to the Province to explore all options with the MSP funding and provide a report back to Council. The Alberta Government advised that while there was no additional funding available and a firm December 31, 2021, completion date for approved projects was expected, that flexibility would be provided to shift money between approved projects.

As administration returned to Council on June 29, 2021, a recap of the Government of Alberta correspondence and an update of budget projections for all three MSP-funded projects was provided. The two Airport projects are able to be completed as scoped with a surplus and therefore, administration recommended to shift unspent funds on the Airport projects to the Festival Square project. This allowed Festival Square to proceed – without any City funding and with a revised budget of $1.71 million – to ensure that the project is delivered as an economic catalyst for downtown – and that no MSP funding will be left unspent. The Airport project surplus funding facilitated revamped wastewater servicing, lane rehab, community lighting, entry signs and decorative column lighting, interactive stage, and programmable lighting.

Backgrounder on 3 Avenue reconstruction:

Originating in the Public Realm and Transportation Study (PRATS) (2012), this project was approved by City Council through the Capital Improvement Program.

As one of the oldest streets in Lethbridge, 3 Avenue South has always been a vital part of the community, once serving as the main east/west highway through the city. The vision for 3 Avenue is to create a more vibrant downtown and an environment that offers a safe, lively, accessible and attractive place to work, live, shop, learn and play. This was achieved through design techniques known as streetscaping, which includes street furniture such as benches, planters, trees, garbage cans and decorative street lighting.

A general promotion of mobility and accessibility was included through elements such as raised parking areas; bulb-outs at the intersections to reduce pedestrian crossing distances and increase visibility; widening of sidewalks; and a multi-use pathway. A unique design characteristic includes a raised intersection at 6 Street South which will enhance the user experience for festivals and special events.

Extensive public and stakeholder engagement leading up to the launch of the project continued through the duration of the construction to keep everyone updated on progress. 

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