Upcoming environmental testing is to mark the beginning of the end of public space Brolly Square in downtown Terrace.
Imperial Oil this month is to drill to determine the level of hydrocarbons still present from the days when the location was a gas station in anticipation of receiving environmental clearance leading to an eventual sale of the property.
Some planters and a few of the upside down metal umbrella art pieces, from which the property takes its name, have already been removed in preparation for the drilling and a number of bricks forming the surface of the square are next to allow drills to be set up.
“Imperial is carrying out environmental assessment work there that requires drilling wells to monitor soil and groundwater over several seasons,” says Imperial official Jon Harding.
“Our goal is to eventually market the property for sale but this will involve several steps in the coming months and years that include assessing the environmental condition of the property; developing a remediation plan; remediation if necessary and applying to the province for a certificate of compliance.”
“We would market the property for sale once we have a certificate of compliance,” Harding added.
All this leads to the eventual end of an arrangement dating back to 2009 between Imperial and the Greater Terrace Beautification Society by which the latter installed the planters and artworks to create a viable downtown public space.
The understanding then as now was that the planters and artwork would be in place only until the brownfield property received a clean environmental bill of health, says the society’s Chris Hansen.
“We knew all along this would be temporary,” said Hansen of the society’s beautification efforts until such time that Imperial developed its plan for the property.
She asked residents to remember that until the arrangement between the society and Imperial was reached, the property, once the gas station building had been demolished, had been fenced off, was overgrown with weeds and became a magnet for garbage and litter.
Both Harding and Hansen said the two parties will work to ensure that the portion of the square not undergoing drilling will be kept open.
Hansen’s also looking forward to what might come next after the property is put on the market.
“Hopefully it’ll be sold so that there’ll be a profitable business there in our downtown,” she said.
Brolly Square was officially opened in 2012 after a contest resulted in its name — brolly being the commonly used description of an umbrella.
Over the years the square has served as a popular location for concerts, public events and charitable barbecues.
But it is also a location frequented by loiterers and scenes of public drinking resulting in complaints about anti-social behaviour requiring a police presence.
“That was one of the consequences we hadn’t intended,” said Hansen.
Harding said Imperial has put a priority on returning surplus property to a productive use.
“In 2017, we spent approximately $140 million on assessment, risk management, land remediation and reclamation activities resulting in 63 properties across Canada being put into productive use either via sale or lease returns,” he said.
Business owner looks forward to Brolly Square sale
John Heighington can’t wait until Brolly Square in downtown Terrace has been sold and a new enterprise established there.
“I’ve got a file this thick,” said the owner of Spotless Drycleaner and Laundromat, holding a thumb and forefinger apart to demonstrate his communications and complaints filed with the RCMP over anti-social behaviour at the location over the years.
The business, located across the alley from the square, gave Heighington a close up and very personal view of activities at the square dating back to when the gas station there closed, the building demolished and the property fenced off before Brolly Square was created by the Greater Terrace Beautification Society.
“They’ve been disturbing my business and my customers,” said Heighington of individuals who would congregate in and around the alley between his location and the square.
“I’d either have to ask them to move along or phone the RCMP. They’d either be laughing, dancing or fighting.”
Heighington even went as far as trimming a hedge at the back of the square property so as to take away a convenient hiding spot where people would congregate to drink.
And when the large planters were installed at the square, more spots were created where drinking would occur, he said.
Heighington said the social problems exhibited at the square can be traced back to addictions affecting individuals which in turn affect businesses and other citizens.
“The whole problem is that they’re not getting their justice and we’re not getting our justice,” said Heighington. “When you consider alcohol and psychological problems, people need to have those addressed individually.”
Heighington hopes a viable enterprise will eventually be established at Brolly Square when Imperial places it up for sale after receiving an environmental clean bill of health.
“I’d like to see something commercial there. That would be a huge tax dollar for the city,” he said.