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Strong turnout for open house

reprinted from Red Deer Advocate (Laura Tester) March 30, 2011
The potential for turning 92 acres of prime land near the Red Deer River into a thriving mixed-use downtown area over the next two decades is huge, a public open house heard on Tuesday.

More than 100 people packed a building in Cronquist Business Park to listen to presentations on the latest plans for the Riverlands area in the southwest sector of the downtown area.

They heard more details on what this area could look like under the draft Riverlands Area Redevelopment Plan as well as road changes within the Taylor Drive Concept Plan. This area -- home of the former civic yards, (Carnival) Cinemas, Cronquist Business Park and Old Brew Plaza -- is primarily light industrial and commercial right now.

Consultant John Hull, along with urban planner Ken Johnson, have been working on the area redevelopment plan. It comes out of the Greater Downtown Action Plan approved two years ago to show how this area could attract a lot more residents, businesses and visitors to the downtown.

The vision for this area is one with shops on the ground floor, people living above and lots of activity on the streets. Public gathering places as well as destination spots like a hotel convention centre are part of the plans.

"People care about the Red Deer downtown and they see a huge opportunity," said Hull, regarding the huge turnout.

The opportunity is immense, particularly when a third of the land is city-owned. The former civic yards and Electric, Light and Power sites could develop into an "outstanding" downtown civic/commercial/mixed-use gathering place. The existing buildings of the former civic yards could provide opportunities for a year-round market. Other city lands in the area could see the creation of "iconic" building landmarks -- ones that become tourist attractions themselves.

"We have all the sewers, water and everything here now so even though this may seem like a grandiose plan, it's not," said Hull. "The city doesn't have to build all new services. It's a very efficient way to build."

Hull added the area redevelopment plan comes from a history of planning dating back to 1999, so it's been consistent and well thought out.

Developing riverwalks, as well as creating pedestrian crossings across Taylor Drive, will be key.

Marcel Huculak, engineer with Edmonton's ISL Engineering, presented a concept plan that showed connecting Alexander Way across Taylor Drive. Taylor Drive would also be reconfigured for a smoother connection.

Doug Streight, a businessman from the area, said he's glad that the river will become a focal point for the city.

"Right now, most people don't want to come to the downtown area because it's not very pleasing," he said. "I'm glad that they're enlarging the downtown because right now it's limited use."

He is concerned though with what may happen with rezoning in the future because that could affect his business.

Carnival Cinemas owner Bill Ramji said their present location along Taylor Drive is ideal because it's on the cusp of this exciting redevelopment area. He's pleased with the roundabout (an improved traffic circle) slated for the theatre's southwest corner.

Some parking space would be taken from the theatre as part of the Taylor Drive.

"We will work with the City (of Red Deer) on that and I don't see why we can't," Ramji said.

Paul Pettypiece, who is part of a group vying for attractions focused on Red Deer's railway history, said he was hopeful after hearing the latest plans.

City manager Craig Curtis said some attendees told him they liked the development opportunities, but that some of the infrastructure issues need to be resolved quickly. This includes either burying or relocating the high-powered transmission lines that affect a number of key sites, he said.

This power line project is part of a five-year plan, along with building roads on the former civic yards property.

Once public feedback is received on the Redevelopment Plan and Taylor Drive Concept Plan, they will then be forwarded to the Greater Downtown Action Plan committee. Council will then consider the two documents this spring. Preliminary engineering for the Taylor Drive could then begin this summer and the land use bylaw, including the zone map, would be amended for Riverlands.

Both plans are available online at

News articles related to historic downtown Red Deer redevelopment
(the original vision of the Forth Junction Heritage Society included an attraction in the new downtown
Riverlands but this vision was modified to have one destination close to the city and active rail line):

       Commentary: The Greater Downtown Action Plan progress and potential (Red Deer Express May 2013)
       News article: Riverlands development ready for debate
(Red Deer Advocate Sep.2011)
       News article: Railyards: Open house on a 20-year plan for downtown
(Red Deer Advocate June 2011)
       Commentary: Red Deer could use more bold visionary landmark designers
(Red Deer Express Sep.2010)
       News article: Paths to change (Rotary Recreation Park) (Red Deer Advocate Aug.2010)
       Editorial: Time for downtown vision
(Red Deer Advocate July 2010)
       News article: Big expectations for downtown Red Deer (Red Deer Advocate June 2009)
       News article: Chance of a lifetime (Red Deer Advocate Jan.2009)
       Editorial: No San Antonio but hope left for Big Wow (Red Deer Express Nov.2008)
       News article: Canal plan jettisoned (Red Deer Express Nov.2008)
       News article: Red Deer - Alberta's next great city (Red Deer Express July 2008)

Downtown Red Deer Ground Transportation Themes

Michael Dawe articles related to railway heritage of downtown Red Deer:
       Looking back to when Red Deer landed city status (Red Deer Express March 2013)
       Prosperous times for New Year's, 1912 in Red Deer
(Red Deer Express Dec.2011)
       An early community landmark - the Michener Fountain (Red Deer Express June 2011)
       Lots of street name debate in City's history (Red Deer Express Sep.2010)
       Region celebrating century of railroad heritage (Red Deer Express March 2010)
       CPR Station Park once shining jewel of Red Deer (Red Deer Express June 2009)
Canadian Pacific Railway Bridge now 100 years old (Red Deer Advocate June 2009) 
       Red Deer's downtown hotels have celebrated history
(Red Deer Express June 2009)
       The history of Red Deer's CPR station
(Red Deer Express April 2007)
       Red Deer becomes a divisional point for CPR
(Red Deer Advocate Special March 2007)


 News articles about the Forth Junction Heritage Society:
World-class destination centre still in the works 11/13       Praise today's big dream 01/12       Forth Junction targets county 12/11 
Forth Junction pulling toward a new station
12/11        A volunteer on the right track 12/10        Tourism board supports rail project 10/10
Forth Junction rail project seeking charitable status
10/10        Rail tourist attraction idea gets rolling 07/10        Railway heritage 06/10
New idea for Riverlands worth an Olympic cheer 02/10       Happy to hear more talk on large-scale attractions 02/10
One-time opportunity 02/10       Tourism proposal facing obstacles 02/10       World-class attraction proposed for Riverlands 02/10

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