Calgary's long-awaited Poppy Plaza opened Saturday — two years late —as one part of the city's $31.5-million development plan along Memorial Drive.
Poppy Plaza was supposed to open in 2011 but ran into delays, ranging from weather to contract disputes. It's part of a larger development of public-use areas to honour war veterans.
"When we hear about casualties in Afghanistan, when we hear about over-long peacekeeping missions, we sometimes don't think about what that really means," said Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who was on hand for the opening. "That's why places like this are so important. They give us an opportunity to do that reflection, to bring into sharp focus that sacrifice."
'There are some legal issues that are still being settled out ...' —Mayor Naheed Nenshi
The original price tag for Poppy Plaza was $11-million but the final cost is not yet known because the city is suing one of the contractors used on the project.
"There are some legal issues that are still being settled out so we don't have a final number yet, when we do, we will of course let people know," Nenshi said.
The city's makeover along Memorial Drive also includes a number of other features.
There's the Soldier's Memorial and the centre medians with trees, lamp posts and banners.
There's also the controversial Peace Bridge, which faced construction problems and delays.
Mixed reaction from locals
The Poppy Plaza has been met with mixed reaction from Calgarians.
Some say the development wasn't needed and has become an unintentional centre for skateboarders and youth.
For others, it's a symbol of everything Calgarians have sacrificed.
"It is a beacon of remembrance for every Calgarian to look upon and reflect on the sacrifices of so many of our city's citizens so we can enjoy the fruits of freedom and prosperity," said Col. Roy Boehli of the 41st Canadian Brigade Group.
The next phase for the city's development plan will be a series of rest areas along the river from Point McKay to the Calgary Zoo.
There's no word yet on when construction will start.