Big expectations for
reprinted from Red Deer Advocate (Laura Tester) June 8, 2009
Over the next 20 years, Red
Deer's downtown is set to become a thriving zone of cultural
attractions, pedestrian-friendly streets and mixed use residential
and commercial development.
Community leaders are keen to see that vision happen.
For more than a year, the City of Red Deer worked with consultants
and gathered public input on how to invigorate the core. The end
result -- an updated version of the 2000 Greater Downtown Action
"This is an evolution in the types of uses in a few key downtown
areas that really relate back to the removal of the rail line that
used to run through the centre of the city," said Lorne Daniel, a
key consultant for the plan. "We have a lot of former light
industrial areas through the centre of the city that can now convert
to other uses."
Approved by city council earlier this year, the 2008 GDAP will be a
planning tool for developing three distinct, yet cohesive areas:
Riverlands, Railyards and Historic Downtown.
Red Deer city manager Craig Curtis said there's lots of development
opportunities for infrastructure, but also with land sales.
"There's a number of major sites that should over time generate
significant revenue," Curtis said. "It's a big endeavour, but we'll
unlikely build all the infrastructure, until we have at least got
definite interest in purchasing some of the sites."
Located west of Taylor Drive, Riverlands will evolve into a
mixed-use district supporting culture, entertainment and community
"The whole access to the river is now available," Daniel said.
"There's a great opportunity to have public spaces, parks and
residential and commercial spaces."
Plans for Riverlands include an upscale hotel and convention centre
on the former civic yards site, a prominent riverwalk, a public
plaza, boutique shops and artist studios.
Waterways would extend from the conference centre to a main public
square, although they could end up in privately owned areas as well.
Originally, canals with boats were being considered and were
strongly promoted by a business group.
"We rejected the canal idea because of a lack of community support
for it, and the very high cost," Curtis said.
With more things to see and do, additional visitors and residents
should be attracted to the downtown.
Riverlands and the Railyards district are slated to have
high-density housing to create sustainability.
"Unlike most neighbourhoods where populations stay fairly constant,
I think the population at the centre will increase over the years,"
North of Ross Street and west of Gaetz Avenue, Railyards would offer
various mixed uses, from grocery stores and restaurants to daycares.
Once know as Cannery Row, Railyards is uniquely located facing the
river, is adjacent to Historic Downtown and linked to the
neighbourhood of Riverside Meadows. New pedestrian and bike
connections to Waskasoo Park river trails would be created.
Both Riverlands and Railyards will see much transformation --
Historic Downtown not so much.
It will be important as the city's office, retail and heritage
Change within Historic Downtown will primarily occur around City
Hall, which will expand once the Red Deer city detachment moves off
its current site on 49th Street. A new Red Deer and District Museum
is recommended for the RCMP parking lot downtown.
Also key is Alexander Way (48th Street) redevelopment with enhanced
street design, an at-grade Taylor Drive crossing and a signature
pedestrian bridge to Bower Ponds. The aim is to have an attractive
continuous corridor from Bower Ponds through Riverlands and Historic
Downtown to Barrett Park.
Ten priorities are earmarked for this year, including a tourism
study for the Riverlands area and a feasibility study on possibly
relocating the Red Deer Public Market to the city's former bus
"This (downtown plan) is one of the opportunities that cannot be
squandered," Curtis said.