Multi-million dollar sculpture coming to Mississauga

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Mississauga has a few iconic landmarks (the City Hall clock tower, the Port Credit lighthouse, and the Absolute Marilyn Monroe towers, to name a few) and it looks like it's about to welcome one more. 

The city is moving forward on the construction of what is known as the AVRO Arrow project, a $3.6 million project that involves the construction of a full-size replica of the iconic fighter aircraft that wasn't meant to be. 

The replica, which the Malton BIA says will recognize Malton's unique aviation history, would be constructed in Paul Coffey Park, next to the existing CF 100. 

The city says the total cost of undertaking the AVRO Arrow project in the 30-month timeline is $3,622,982. 

To move forward, the project will need funding from the City of Mississauga, federal grants, donations and in-kind contributions.

The Malton BIA will be entirely responsible for the fabrication of the replica and the installation at the Flight Garden. It will also be responsible for securing sponsors, donations and in-kind contributions. The city says the Design and Development Agreement will provide a schedule for the release of municipal funds in stages based on the percentage of completion.

The Flight Garden, which will contain various features and pedestrian access, will be developed with funding from the park development budget for Paul Coffey Park.

Since Mississauga is actively looking to attract visitors to the city through its Tourism Strategy, the arrow will be one component of a broader plan to promote the aerospace sector and the Arrow as a landmark.

For those who are unaware, the Arrow is indeed a unique part of Mississauga's history

The Peel Art Gallery Museum + Archives (PAMA) says that February 20, 1959, became known as “black Friday” in Canada because of the sudden and unexpected announcement from Ottawa that the Avro Arrow project was being cancelled. 

The announcement stunned the many thousands of workers at an aerospace plant in Peel.

So, what's the story behind the Avro Arrow?

PAMA says that in the 1950s, A.V.Roe Canada Ltd. (AVRO) developed an innovative fighter aircraft for the Royal Canadian Air Force

PAMA says the advanced plane, called the AVRO Arrow, featured swept-back wings and a needle-nosed cockpit.

“In 1958, Peel residents watched with wonder as the first Arrow thundered above their farms, breaking the sound barrier by flying at about 1,225 km/hour (764 miles/hour). More than 14,500 men and women worked in Malton on the Arrow,” PAMA says. 

According to PAMA, five Arrows were complete—with one in assembly—when the federal government abruptly cancelled the project.

“Politics, world events and economics combined to change the Air Force’s direction regarding defence. The government ordered the destruction of all planes, plans and parts. AVRO immediately laid-off 10,000 workers, leaving a large workforce unemployed,” PAMA says. 

While the cancellation came as a huge blow, PAMA says some of the innovative engineering behind the Arrow lived on. National Aeronautical Space Administration (NASA) immediately recruited a team of AVRO engineers who were vital to the success of NASA’s manned space programs, including the Apollo missions to the moon.

Many Canadians consider this ‘brain drain’ more significant than the loss of the plane, PAMA says. 

As far as the replica goes, the city says the BIA commissioned engineered drawings of the AVRO Arrow to Varcon Engineering and Stainless Outfitters' which were further reviewed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Canada. 

The Arrow structure will stand at four stories high and is designed to last without requiring any major renovations for the foreseeable future.

The current CF-100 that has been on a pedestal in the park since 1974 stands approximately two stories. Once built, the Arrow will become a city asset. 

Council approved up to $30,000 from the Municipal Accommodation Tax (the MAT or hotel tax) reserve fund for a consultant to work with the city's tourism staff to create a tourism and marketing plan to assist with the grant applications needed to realize a joint city/Malton BIA project of this magnitude.

Once it's constructed, the city will develop AVRO Arrow-related visitor experiences that could be delivered to locals, school groups and aviation enthusiasts.

The city says the project includes various goals, including attracting local and non-local school groups, developing educational programming that teachers can utilize to meet curriculum requirements, creating an interactive, educational, and entertaining aviation museum or theme park and more. 

The city says the project can also highlight the fact that Mississauga's aerospace manufacturing sub-sector is the largest across all major Canadian centres.

In addition, the BIA has plans to include the creation of a stop motion film on the construction and detailed historical information that will create a full story to showcase the aviation industry in Canada and specifically in Malton.

The city says the BIA has already secured funding from a number of sources. It has also submitted a federal grant application to the Legacy Fund - Building Communities Through Arts and Heritage through the Department of Canadian Heritage.

The BIA has also obtained a number of letters of support from different community groups including The Royal Canadian Legion and Mississauga Board of Trade.

The hotel industry in Mississauga is also supporting the project with pledges of "Arrow Tourism Discount Packages". 

The city says public interest has been growing as a 7'x4.5' model has been displayed at various events in different locations across Mississauga.

The city also says its community services department is planning to hire a consulting team to implement phase 1 of the Paul Coffey Park master plan (which is subject to the approval of the 2020 Capital Budget). Phase 1 will include the entry plazas, Flight Garden, parking lots, sport courts, a skate/scooter park, a sports lawn, family picnic areas, a leash-free zone, west and east pedestrian bridges adjacent to Derry Road and a full park trail circuit. 

The city requires approval from the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) to construct within their regulated areas at Paul Coffey Park, and the city says the TRCA is supportive of the Paul Coffey master plan.

The Flight Garden will be designed to accommodate the Malton sign and the replica AVRO Arrow.

The Malton sign, which will consist of two-metre-high letters (the site is featured in the cover photo) that spell out the neighbourhood's name (think of the now-famous Toronto sign), will be made out of glass and steel. 

According to a recent tweet by Ward 5 Councillor Carolyn Parrish, the Malton sign will be completed on Dec. 27. 

The AVRO Arrow replica should be completed by fall 2022. 

Cover photo courtesy of Carolyn Parrish's official Twitter page

With files from PAMA

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