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Canal plan jettisoned
reprinted from Red Deer Express (Johnnie Bachusky) November 12, 2008
The grand vision of bringing San Antonio's mega tourism River Walk vision to Red Deer has been turfed.

Instead the city's Greater Downtown Action Plan (GDAP) committee will recommend to city council this winter to adopt a plan for the Riverlands district that is similar to a scaled down version that was unveiled at two open houses earlier this year.

The committee's vision for the Riverlands will include lesser water features, ones that will not feature complete loops nor allow any type of boat traffic. However, urban designers will look at ways to have them usable for winter skating.

As well, the committee will recommend to city council to adopt a Riverlands plan, complete with a wide range of housing options, which is just as attractive and beneficial to city residents as it will be to tourists.

"There was a fairly strong group of people that said they didn't want to see a full-fledged canals approach. They didn't see that as being authentic to Red Deer. They saw that as possibly too expensive and too big a project to bite off," said project consultant Lorne Daniel.

"But at the same time those people very much supported the idea of water features and to a large extent the ideas of tourism facilities and big tourism draw in Riverlands."

On Monday, Daniel and project architect John Hull, along with Councillor Cindy Jeffries - chair of the GDAP steering committee - presented a media update and the results of public feedback following the Oct. 8 open house.

Daniel said a significant number of citizens in their responses were adamant that whatever is ultimately built in the Riverlands had to be unique to the city and region.

"And it can't be an idea transplanted from somewhere else," said Daniel.

"We had a lot more people say, 'No, we don't want canals' than people who said, "Yes we really do want canals."

Fourteen months ago a Red Deer Chamber of Commerce tourism sub-committee released a report recommending the city look into ways of turning the soon-to-be vacant 28 acres of city-owned Riverlands property into a tourism district modelled after the world-famous River Walk in San Antonio, Texas. Proponents argued Red Deer had a once in a life time opportunity to transform the city into a world-class tourism destination point rivalling the Calgary Stampede, West Edmonton Mall and Canadian Rockies.

Six months after the committee released its report the city ordered an update to its 2000 GDAP, and set up a separate River Walk Committee to look into the Chamber committee's proposal.

Last June, the city hosted its first open house into the redevelopment of the entire downtown core, including the Riverlands district.

World-renowned urban planner Michael von Hausen and his team of Surrey, B.C. associates unveiled a proposal that jettisoned a full-fledged canal system in favour of lesser watercourses, and a signature facility called The Ark.

On Monday Daniel said The Ark concept is still on the table but added the final signature project for the Riverlands could still be something entirely different.

Jeffries said the committee still feels it is vitally important to maintain the "tourism piece" for the Riverlands.

"We haven't missed that opportunity. There are still areas in the Riverlands area where we can have something that I think people will come down and say, 'Wow, this is really great," said Jeffries. "That has yet to be determined. I think in the next layer of planning we will start to see that shine through.

"Our citizens have said we want it to be for us as well. It can't just be a place for tourists to go," she added. "They said, 'We want it to be a part of our lives here in this community.' So I think we are on the cusp of something that is even greater than something that is just for people who visit."

Daniel said the GDAP committee should present its final report for council in January.

If council adopts the plan, Daniel said some pilot projects can move ahead next year, including moving the public market to the Riverlands and introducing temporary bicycle lanes in the downtown core by utilizing planters and concrete barriers.

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: 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: 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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