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Mississauga added another piece to its rapidly growing downtown Wednesday with the opening of Celebration Square.

The two-level plaza sits outside city hall, close to the city's central library and across from the country's second-largest shopping centre.

The project has been several years in the making, conceived with the advice of the New York-based Project for Public Spaces and consultations with residents.

In addition to serving as a park for workers in the area and residents of its many new condo towers, the space will be used for concerts and parties.

As she inaugurated the plaza, Mayor Hazel McCallion recalled the difficulty of building community in Mississauga, which was stitched together from three established villages and subsequently constructed suburbs. In its early days, for example, the city tried unsuccessfully to launch a civic fair that died because of a lack of attendance, she said. "This square will do what we've struggled to do over the years, and develop a citywide spirit," she said.

What's there

The centrepiece of the square is a stage flanked by JumboTrons, to be used for concerts and other events. A long trellis on one side will provide shade for vendors during festivals and markets. On the upper level, closer to City Hall, is a shallow reflecting pool with water jets. In the winter, it will serve as a skating rink. For smaller performances, there is an amphitheatre, designed so passersby can see the stage and be encouraged to drop in.

What's happening

The city is wasting no time using the new space. This weekend, the square will play host to several International Indian Film Academy-related events, including a fashion show, musical performances and, of course, dancing. Several festivals are planned over the coming months, along with a regular acoustic concert series at the amphitheatre. City council opened the square with an outdoor meeting - the first in its history.

What else is getting built

The plaza isn't the only new building project in the city core. As Mississauga tries to build up its downtown from scratch, it's adding two more parks and a campus of Sheridan College. The institution's first phase is set to open in the fall; a second phase is scheduled to be completed in two years.

The politics

The festivities didn't stop councillors from discussing serious business. Much of it, appropriately enough, was development-related. They unanimously passed motions calling on the province to conduct a further environmental assessment on the planned Greenfield South power plant in the southeast of the city and asking Queen's Park to abolish the Ontario Municipal Board.

The first motion was part of a long-running battle between Mississauga, which opposes the plant, and the province.

On the second motion, councillors said they were annoyed at getting overruled by the OMB, a provincial agency that mediates disputes between cities and developers.

Councillor Patricia Mullin told council the OMB's decisions often come as a surprise to citizens who give input into how neighbourhoods should be developed, only to see their ideas superseded by the province.

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