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If you build it, they will come.
While many people continue to flock to the Peace Bridge as arguably the city’s most iconic image filling smartphones and camera memory cards, anticipation continues to build for what one city councillor refers to as the “crown jewel” of infrastructure in Calgary.
And while the October unveiling of the city’s $245 million Calgary Central Public Library may take some attention off of the Peace Bridge, there’s no debating what an impact the controversial project has had on the city.
Although it may be a mostly-beloved treasure now, it’s hard to forget the contentious debate and seemingly never-ending challenges the $24.5 million bright red Peace Bridge had to overcome when it was being built and ultimately unveiled in 2012.
Riddled with construction delays, political animosity and public contempt, the entire Peace Bridge process was antagonistic.
But as Ward 7 councillor Druh Farrell tells it, the spanning bridge was also a turning point for the city.
“I think the Peace Bridge was a watershed moment for architecture in Calgary, so when we started talking about beautiful architecture, we thought Calgary deserved things nice things and the success of the Peace Bridge cannot be denied,” she explains.
“It has become overwhelmingly the most noticeable iconic image of Calgary.”
While its place as an architectural marvel is well documented, use by both pedestrians and cyclists has grown consistently since it opened.
In July 2014, slightly more than 205,000 cyclists and walkers were recorded on the bridge, with that number jumping to 256,000 in July : 2017.
Six years later, while some Calgarians still deplore the mere mention of the bridge, many have come to accept it. Some would even say, love it.
Kelly Schmitz admits her disdain for the bridge has developed into awe since just last summer.
“I thought it was ridiculous to spend so much money for an architect that I never heard of for just another bridge,” she said.
Even driving by it filled her with thoughts that it was a waste of money. But something changed last year when she used the bridge for the first time.
“I have to say I loved walking on it. I thought it was beautiful and it changed my whole perspective. I still think it was a lot of money to spend … but sometimes it’s better to invest in the best than accept mediocre.”
She’s not alone.
Rosa Kubin balked at the price tag, the lack of consultation and the fact a Canadian architect wasn’t chosen and when the bridge was unveiled, she tried her best to hate it. But she failed.
“Now I can’t imagine our city without it. It’s iconic. Even in caricatures of our skyline, the red line of the peace bridge is ever present, along with the curves of the Saddledome and a pointy Calgary Tower,” she added.
For Brennain Strange who lives nearby, it’s a love-hate relationship with the bridge.
“All summer long, cars are parked in front of my house and people jaywalk with their babies and dogs to go take selfies at it,” she said.
But she marvels at the design.
“It’s just a fun, happy bridge. I like how happy it makes everyone that comes to walk across it. The sheer magnitude of people that use it is nuts. I don’t think a lot of people get how busy it is. And it’s lovely to see at night all the time.”
However, not all Calgarians are converts.
Just ask Lacey Roberts who always tries her best to support unique architecture in the city. In fact, the concepts initially intrigued her but curiosity soon turned sour once she saw the finished product.
“I understand it draws attention as intended and every time I’m down there are always throngs of people in and around the area of it,” she said, adding that when she walks through the Peace Bridge is when she notices sloppy work such as cloudy paint or foggy windows and what appears to be paint that dripped during the building process.
“These imperfections are noticeable and makes it feel like a rushed job. I’m just not a fan of our Chinese finger trap.”