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Letter to the Editor
Red Deer could use more bold visionary landmark designers

 
Commentary reprinted from Red Deer Express (Tim Lasiuta) September 8, 2010
 
Landmarks are funny things. For thousands of years human beings have used landmarks in a variety of ways. We use them in navigation, in historical contexts, for inspiration of literature, songs and poetry, and frequently plan trips around such attractions.

New York without Central Park? Paris without the Louvre? Moose Jaw without the big moose? Don't think so.

But what do we have in Red Deer that could qualify as a landmark that would draw people to our fair settlement and entice them to bring out their cameras and snap away?

We have Fort Normandeau. We have the Michener Building atop Michener Hill.

We have the 'Onion' watertower on South Hill. We have the Cronquist House at Bower Ponds, and for those with a hankering for 1900 architecture, 56 Street filled with the handiwork of Mr. Gaetz and family.

We have Heritage Ranch and the Kerry Wood Nature Centre. Downtown boasts a beautifully restored bank turned jewelry store, and a refunctioned railway station. Douglas Cardinal weighs in with our best known architectural icon, Saint Mary's Catholic Church on 39 St. After that, what else?

Where are the bold designers whose visionary concepts shaped our city? Where are the revolutionary thinkers who, given license and responsibility to create a plan that incorporates both function and form in perfect balance?

We have seen flashes of such creativity recently, with the Forth Junction project. Paul Pettypiece and team have assembled an attractive functional blend of past, present and future for the Riverlands area.

The River Valley and Tributaries Park Concept is bold and deserves broad support and encouragement. Rivers have always been the lifeblood of any community, and always will be.

The City of Red Deer is to be commended for their efforts to make City Hall Park an attractive place to gather and relax. Our park system is extensive, well maintained, and readily accessible for the majority of citizens.

All is not well however.

Consider our most recent additions to the city. Sweeping vistas of natural prairie have been replaced by cookie cutter houses. Downtown can now boast a 13-storey office tower with a small amount of style.

Our new neighbourhoods often appear to be carbon copies of other areas, right down to the house designs, fit and finish.

The new city yards at Three Mile Bend are beautiful and 'modern' to the core, but I really wonder how soon a century flood will render the whole area unusable, and how desperately the ensuing reclamation efforts will bankrupt Red Deer?

And then there is the Sorensen Station.

The long term plan to rebuild a downtown bus station complete with parking above is admirable. The green concept built into the roof and sides is timely and appreciated. Even the shiny side panels are interesting, and attractive.

Form aside, the creation of a parking facility downtown without support from a vibrant, private business, traffic generating small scale economy is short sighted. In truth, the Ghost Project statues generate more tourist interest than a bus terminal and are more sustainable in the long haul.

Mr. Mann will forever conduct his beloved Red Deer Royals while our downtown bus terminal becomes just another building that will someday be replaced by an office tower, or phased out as public transportation services fall out of style.

Creative architectural design should be our halcyon, not our epitaph. Buildings, communities, and features should compel, rather than repel public interest. We are best served by our communities when our surroundings challenge us, not lull us into a false sense of cosmetic surgery.

Tim Lasiuta, Red Deer
 


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)
       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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