Following its official reopening on July 31, 2015, St. Patrick’s Island today was the site of a Grand Opening Ceremony to celebrate the park’s completion. Following several years of intensive construction and restoration by Calgary Municipal Land Corporation (CMLC) – the organization responsible for the remarkable improvements underway in East Village and the Rivers District – this 31-acre treasure at the city’s centre reopened as an amenity-rich, family-friendly park space for all Calgarians to enjoy.
“St. Patrick’s Island is one of Calgary’s oldest parks, but after its prime in the mid-1900s the park fell into neglect. Despite its location at the heart of Calgary’s inner city, it was all but forgotten when CMLC took up the restoration challenge a few years ago,” says Mayor Naheed Nenshi. “Now, we’re delighted to return to Calgary and Calgarians a welcoming park space that’s as versatile as it is beautiful.”
Shaped by extensive public engagement to ensure the park would meet the needs and desires of its users, the master plan that guided the restoration of St. Patrick’s Island was based on the principles of “biophilia” – a landscape design approach that nurtures the instinctive bond between people and nature and provides opportunities for life-enriching experiences and activities by fostering harmony between constructed and natural elements.
“In designing and creating the island’s long list of amenities and attractions, our focus was squarely on functionality,” explains Michael Brown, CMLC’s President & CEO. “Just as it considered and responded to the ways individuals and families would use the park, our master plan for St. Patrick’s Island maximized the park’s value as a venue for community events and festivals. For example, the Rise is a perfect setting for community celebrations, performances and movies in the park, and the small amphitheatre at Confluence Plaza is ideal for performances and other programs throughout the summer.
“Now that construction is complete, we’re extending an open invitation to festival and event organizers to discover the park’s potential and work with CMLC to program the space.”
Providing a dramatic example of the park’s versatility as a festival space, Beakerhead (beakerhead.com) – a local organization that seeks to advance understandings of science and engineering as part of everyday life through art and culture – is today kicking off a week-long spectacle on St. Patrick’s Island. Towering skyward atop The Rise, people will see The Fabulist – a 35-foot inflatable public art, conceived and created by the three ‘Bees’ of Calgary art collective Bee Kingdom Glass: Ryan Fairweather, Tim Belliveau and Phillip Bandura.
“The Bee Kingdom artists are storytellers: usually in glass but this time, with the Fabulist, they’ve moved to fabric and created an artificially intelligent robot greeter for aliens,” says Jay Ingram, co-founder of Beakerhead. “The Fabulist is perfectly situated on St. Patrick’s Island. A delightful character that sparks imagination and is a beacon for activity in the park throughout Beakerhead.”
The Fabulist is part of A String (Theory) of Incredible Encounters - a five kilometre, temporary pop-up gallery spanning the city - and is open to the public during park hours during September 16 - 20, with daily tours by CMLC staff. This is just one of 60 events hosted by Beakerhead this year. See http://beakerhead.com for details.
CMLC’s redevelopment of St. Patrick’s Island and St. Patrick’s Island Bridge are key components of their placemaking strategy for the Rivers District. St. Patrick’s Island Bridge, which opened last October, will now carry the name of George C. King. George C. King served as the city’s second mayor in 1886 and 1887 and was also a member for the North West Mounted Police. Given the work that Fort Calgary is doing around maintaining Calgary’s history, it is fitting that the bridge – so close to the fort lands – honour that story.
“Placemaking is all about crafting spaces that inspire activity and attract human energy. The real value of an amenity like St. Patrick’s Island – and the real measure of success for our redevelopment efforts – is how well and how often people use the spaces we’ve created,” says Brown. “So far, St. Patrick’s Island has been an amazing success!”
Imagined as a mixed-use, amenity-rich master-planned neighbourhood in the downtown core, East Village will be home to more than 11,000 residents upon completion in 2027. With local amenities like RiverWalk, St. Patrick’s Island Park, the New Central Library, National Music Centre and an urban shopping centre, East Village has become a highly desirable neighbourhood in Calgary’s downtown core.