The forty-two-million-dollar revitalization of Nathan Phillips Square is scheduled to be completed in 2012, at which point the Square will be a better (or at least a more newly renovated) public space than it has ever been before. In the meantime, the area in front of City Hall is going to be a giant under-construction buzzkill, as evidenced by the fact that the WinterCity festival has been canceled this year as a direct result of the project.
WinterCity has occurred annually for the past seven years. It typically begins at the end of January and lasts through early February. The festival has, in the past, included a number of performances at various indoor venues around the city, but the main attractions have consistently been free outdoor performances in Nathan Phillips Square. Last year, for instance, there was a Bollywood dance exhibition. In 2009, The Stills played a free show.
This year, with the whole of Nathan Phillips Square so badly torn up by construction equipment that even the possibility of ice skating in its famous rink this winter is in question, there is no possibility of using the area for large-scale celebratory purposes. “Yes, it is true, unfortunately,” said Giannina Warren, a spokesperson for the City’s Special Events unit, which produces WinterCity. “The large spectacle productions presented at Nathan Phillips Square as part of the WinterCity Festival present significant technical and safety challenges in light of the current construction,” she wrote, in an email.
Winterlicious, the associated prix fixe food festival, is unaffected and will be going off as planned, starting on January 28, with 150 restaurants participating. (There were rumours otherwise this weekend.)
The annual Cavalcade of Lights, also produced by Special Events, has been shortened from four weeks to one day this year, also as a result of the construction.