AMHERST – The revitalization of Victoria Square was celebrated with a town crier, a ribbon cutting and some cake May 24 in downtown Amherst.
“It’s beautiful,” said Valerie Christie, who took a lunch break from her job at the Royal Bank to take in the festivities. “The stonework and the gazebo are very nice.”
Her co-worker, Esther Forsyth, agrees.
“It’s a nice place to come over and sit on a sunny day like this,” said Forsyth. “I was a bit of a skeptic at first but now that it’s a finished product, it’s beautiful.”
Both women love all the sitting spaces.
“Before we were lucky if there were two benches here, now there’s lots of room,” said Christie.
Mayor Robert Small was happy to see people enjoying the revitalized square.
“I love the fact it’s now open and there is sunshine on the park,” said Small. “Before it was a dark, dreary, scary place to come with your family and walk through. Now it’s a safe, secure, well-lit, comfortable place to be.”
Small said it was about four years ago the Town of Amherst got together with the Downtown Revitalization Society and downtown merchants and decided that something had to be done to make downtown Amherst more attractive.
“A businessman approached me and said, ‘Robert, you have to do something to reinvest in the downtown. I own a building but its value is going down because people won’t go near it,’” said Small. “So there were a lot of economic reasons for this development.”
The Victoria Square renovation is part of a downtown development project that has seen work done on several streets in the downtown core, including Victoria and Church Streets.
“What we’re going to do next is a regional marketing strategy, where we want to identify Amherst as the place you stay and check out,” said Small. “Our historic downtown is something we want people to see.”
More pictures of the grand opening can be seen on the slide show at www.cumberlandnewnow.com.
The cost of the Victoria Square revitalization:
- The design costs were $35,000, which was funded by the province of Nova Scotia.
- Total cost of the revitalization was $1,125,000, funded by the Town of Amherst and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
- The Town of Amherst took $308,000 from their capital funds, and $358,000 from gas tax funding to finance the project, and ACOA contributed $459,000.
- Maritech was the general contractor and they came in on time and on budget.
“We wanted to make sure it was done for Remembrance Day (2011) and they worked day and night to make sure it was done,” said Small.
Did you know:
- Victoria Square was called Amherst Corner at one time.
- It has been a landmark as early as 1788.
- It was once known as Court House Square.
- The square was originally the vision of pioneer William Freeman.
- It was renamed in 1887 in honour of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.
- The bronze statue was erected in 1924, which was modeled after Captain Leon Hall Curry of the 85th Highland Brigade. He died in WW1 and is the son of senator Curry, the donor of the statue.