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Big expectations for downtown Red Deer
 
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 Plan.

"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 gathering places.

"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," Daniel said.

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 centre.

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 barns.

"This (downtown plan) is one of the opportunities that cannot be squandered," Curtis said.
 


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)
       News article: Riverlands: Strong turnout for open house
(Red Deer Advocate March 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: 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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