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Forth Junction Project
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Red Deer Historic Downtown
Heritage and Redevelopment

Forth Junction Project Vision Sharing Historical Perspective Ground Transportation
Heritage Preservation
Forth Junction
Heritage Society


The Greater Downtown Action Plan
progress and potential

reprinted from Red Deer Express (Craig Curtis, City Manager) May 1, 2013
The changes to Red Deer's downtown over the last 30 years are due to a number of major catalyst initiatives. These include the relocation of Westerner Park to its current home at the south end of the City and the relocation of the downtown railway line and yards (to) adjacent to Hwy. 2.

Following the relocation of the railway line it was recognized that the Riverlands area west of Taylor Dr. presented potential for redevelopment. It also provided opportunity to link the downtown to the river. In 2006, the City approved the relocation of the former civic yards to a new site in the Riverside Heavy Industrial area; this major project was completed in 2009 leaving an area available for redevelopment.

In 2007 City council directed that a new focus be given to the downtown and this resulted in an updated Greater Downtown Action Plan, which was approved in February 2009. The recommendations in this plan were reinforced in the 2009 Strategic Plan which proposed that the downtown be identified and enhanced as the "vital core to the identity of Red Deer".

The Greater Downtown Action Plan was the result of a nine-month long planning initiative. Hundreds of residents participated in the process, a process that included speakers and walking tours as well as a design charter led by urban designer Michael Von Hausen.

Based on public input the plan identifies three primary zones within the greater downtown: Historic Downtown, Riverlands and the area north of Taylor Dr. currently known as the Railyards. The plan recommends the development of these areas as distinct but complimentary districts.

Historic Downtown is proposed to remain the focal area for the City's offices, retailers and public buildings. In order to enhance this area, the City gave priority to a number of projects which improve the pedestrian and shopping environment.

The three major projects include Veterans' Park, The Ross Street Patio and the revitalization of six blocks of Gaetz Ave., now commonly known as Little Gaetz. Veterans' Park provides a public gathering space as well as an improved setting and interpretation of the Cenotaph. The Ross Street Patio, which received an international planning award, brings life to the street and a venue for public gathering and formal and informal activities. The Little Gaetz improvements provide an improved shopping experience, as well as a setting for the new weekly downtown farmer's market.

Riverlands is proposed as a diverse riverfront community featuring medium density housing along the river, a site for a hotel and convention centre and other commercial opportunities. The relocation of the Civic Yards opens up over 31 acres for redevelopment which will link the downtown with the river. The plans for redevelopment were approved in The Riverlands Area Redevelopment Plan adopted by City council in October 2011. The development of Riverlands is dependent on a number of major infrastructure projects which are currently underway. These include the burial of the high voltage overhead transmission line as well as road improvements to Taylor Dr. and Ross St. The burial of the transmission line along the riverfront will create an improved residential/commercial environment and capture the market value of the properties available for redevelopment. The reconfiguration of Taylor Dr. and Ross St. will improve connectivity for pedestrians with the Historic Downtown. The redesign also has a clear cost benefit as traffic projections show that it will defer the need to widen the Taylor Dr. bridge.

Railyards is proposed as a vibrant mixed use urban living district with high density residential development and excellent trail linkages.

An Area Redevelopment Plan for Railyards is underway and is scheduled for completion in 2014. In the interim, road access has been improved through the westerly extension of 55 St. into the area. A major new mixed use development is nearing completion at the intersection of 55th St. and Gaetz Ave. and demonstrates the development potential of the area.

As the City celebrates its centennial a number of new initiatives and events are planned that will focus on the downtown. These include the reinstatement of The Ross Street Patio the first week of June with entertainment scheduled throughout the summer and evening concerts on July 5, Aug. 2 and Sept. 6; the official opening of Little Gaetz on July 12; the release of new historical walking tours and interpretive signage on June 6; and a centennial street dance on July 16.

The downtown will also host the annual Westerner and Christmas parades, CentreFest and Fiestaval.

The downtown is on the upswing. The City is seeing new investment in office and commercial development which has enhanced the area. The Donald School of Business with its acquisition of City Centre Stage is also seen as a major catalyst.

There has been progress but there is still huge potential to be realized.

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):

       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: 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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