Cabot Square Refurbished: Now let’s keep it nice
By Sergio Martinez – mtltimes.ca
It is not the first time in the last few years that Cabot Square, that sort of frontier green space in the downtown west-end, gets renovated. What seems to be new this time however is a certain political will to make it not only a better public space in a physical sense with improved facilities, but also to allow that the surrounding community—mainly residents in the Shaughnessy Villageand other neighbouring sectors—may use it in a more welcoming and safe atmosphere.
The cost of refurbishing the whole space was 6.3 million, but the changes are impressive and fully justify the price tag: the pathways were enlarged and paved, lighting is much brighter with LED technology lamps, the benches were changed and more were added, and some innovations include the conversion of the old vespasienne (public toilet that had been abandoned for years), into a café, free Wi-Fi, as well as the addition of a few histographuses—special devices that may be manipulated by a mechanical handle allowing to see historical pictures of the area.
One of the big problems in the recent past has been the virtual hijacking of the square by drug addicts and drunkards. The removal of much of the grassy areas and their replacement by pavement although seen as a minus in these changes, on the other hand makes it less dangerous if someone leaves used syringes as it was the case before on the grass. The new benches are also designed with metal dividers allowing individual seating but preventing a drunk person from trying to sleep on them.
Since the renovations will not make the problem of homelessness disappear, Mayor Denis Coderre when inaugurating the new facilities on July 8, also remarked that community outreach workers will be regularly available in the square to deal with any problem that may arise, at the same time he emphasized that the principle of inclusiveness should also apply. The square is for all to enjoy. This notion was also underlined by the fact that the re-opening of the place was a festive one featuring gypsy music played and danced by the group Gypsy Kumbia Orchestra. Other musical and artistic entertainment will take place on the square until August 7.
For all downtown residents the refurbishing of Cabot Square has been a good news, in recent years the population in the area has increased, there are many families with small children which wanted to visit the place but were afraid because of safety concerns, now we all hope that the space that honours the great explorer who was the first European after the Vikings to visit Newfoundland, will once again be a nice and safe public space worth visiting and strolling under its magnificent trees. It is also expected that the new life for Cabot Square brings a renaissance to that somehow neglected part of downtown, including the Old Forum across the street where a number of stores have closed down in recent months, the last casualty being Pekarna, a very pleasant café whose demise is lamented by residents and visitors who used to enjoy its good pastry.
And as final note, to some extent it is also up to the neighbours to be vigilant in trying to keep the renovated Cabot Square safe, nice, and hopefully, free from loitering and acts of vandalism such as graffiti and scratching on the square benches and other facilities now in place, including the metro entrance at the north-west section of it.