Sunday 15 July 2012

New Conservatory for Assiniboine Park

Winnipeg's largest park is getting quite the make-over. The Lyric theater was upgraded, the duck pond was expanded, a children's play area was expanded, the Qualico Family Centre was built, the polar bear enclosure is being expanded and reconfigured as part of a whole zoo revamp, and a sign is being moved for the mini train.

Next up: a new Conservatory. A Request For Proposals was just released to solicit a conceptual design for the new venue. The existing conservatory is over 100 years old and is falling apart, therefore a new conservatory will be built and the existing one will be torn down. You may lament the loss of another century-old building, but the Assiniboine Park Conservancy argues that any historical value was lost due to repeated alterations and repairs over the years.


The new Conservatory must be a unique "signature piece of architecture" according to the RFP. The design will cost $5+ million, with the final cost of the project probably in the $45 million range, and expected completion in 2017. Sometime next year expect to see some fancy conceptual drawings of a pristine new conservatory featuring well dressed white people mingling around in front of it, to be used to assist with fund raising.

So far the improvements to Assiniboine Park, both completed and proposed, seem to have been very well received. If this new Conservatory follows that trend I don't anticipate that fund raising will be a huge problem. By that I mean it won't be a huge problem as far as the Conservatory is concerned. It could be a concern for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, if you figure that there's a fixed pool of potential donations out there, and every million going to the park is another million that's not going to the struggling CMHR. I sense a growing lack of enthusiasm for donating to the museum, while Assiniboine Park seems to be gaining momentum.

But enough about fundraising .. if the old conservatory is going to be torn down after the new one is built, where is the new one going? We don't know precisely, but we do know it will be somewhere in the south east part of the park. They want to keep the attractions spread out, and this one is going to anchor the SE quadrant.

I'm going to speculate on the exact location ...

The formal gardens take up a large chunk of the SE area of the park. I am sure those will not be touched, so there aren't too many other options. The area circled in green is a little-used picnic area that is easily accessed from the main entrance, and is close to an existing way-underutilized parking lot. I would bet money this is where the new Conservatory is going.

Assiniboine Park was neglected for many many years, so it's great to see this revitalization of one of Winnipeg's best features, and this is one more piece. I'm looking forward to the conceptual drawings. Our expectations are high ... don't let us down!

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