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News articles about the redevelopment of downtown Red Deer as a result of the relocation of the CPR yards to the west side of the city in 1990-91 and the civic yards to the Riverside Industrial Park in 2009
 
(the original vision of the Forth Junction Heritage Society included an attraction in the new downtown
Riverlands but this vision was modified to establish one destination near the city adjacent to the CPR rail line):

 
April 30, 2019, Red Deer Advocate (Susan Zielinski)
Work ramping up this spring in
Red Deer's Capstone

Work continues on Canada 150 Square
Capstone concept of square and hotel   Next week, Alexander Way will shut down in Capstone at Riverlands and construction will move forward this season on river walk trails and Canada 150 Square.
   Cory Edinga, Riverlands project manager, said work started in April in front of Carnival Cinemas and Sentinel Storage and will continue on Alexander Way.
   He said Alexander Way will close on May 8 for the season to allow for roadway work.
   "There's still a significant amount of work left there this year, but as sections of that road are completed, we'll be able to open it up in pieces. Access will still be available through 45th Street," Edinga said.
   Work on the entry near Carnival Cinemas will include shallow utility work and installing sidewalks, streetlights and landscaping, which will not require any road closures or impacts to the cinema.
   The vision for Capstone is a mixed-use urban neighbourhood with lively commercial streets, a variety of medium- and high-density housing, public spaces and green space to draw people year round.
   The city owns about 10 hectares of developable land, including land for roads and parks.
   Edinga said work on Canada 150 Square, the public gathering space to be located at the end of Alexander Way, will include installing utilities and electrical lines to serve some of the features of the square, along with surfacing, furniture and plantings.
   "There's still a lot of work to happen in the square. That's probably the busiest place for construction this season."
   He said there is really nothing comparable to the square, except for Veterans Park downtown, but Canada 150 Square will be an estimated three to four times the size of Veterans Park.
   Lighting and path widening will happen on the south and north river walks that run from Taylor Bridge to West Park. Paths will be closed for the season after the May long weekend with detour signs.
   Construction will also start on the parking lot located east of Canada 150 Square and south of Alexander Way that will add more than 60 parking stalls to the area.
   Edinga said by the end of the year, the majority of the work should hopefully be done, with only some touchups required next year.
   "We're appreciative of everyone's patience as we move forward on construction. It will be worth it once we're done," Edinga said.
Artist Rendering: A City of Red Deer concept drawing of what a hotel and Canada 150 Square could look like in
  Capstone at Riverlands. Contributed image.



August 30, 2017, Red Deer Express (Erin Fawcett)
Red Deer's Capstone at Riverlands
20 years in the making

   After 20 years in the making, the City of Red Deer unveiled its newest neighbourhood in the Riverlands District - Capstone at Riverlands.
   This new urban community will be located along the banks of the Red Deer River and next to the City's downtown core. Capstone at Riverlands, one of three districts to be redeveloped in greater downtown Red Deer, will be a landmark mixed-use neighbourhood.
   The neighbourhood is located west of Carnival Cinemas and includes 37 hectares of land.
   The redevelopment of Capstone is anticipated to take many years, and will include a mix of condos and townhouses; commercial development, including hotels, office space, shopping and dining; riverfront gathering areas; proposed cultural facilities such as a public market and artist studios; unique green spaces and water features and enhanced trail connections to Waskasoo Park and a proposed over the river bridge to Bower Ponds.
   "The name Capstone was chosen for its predominant meaning," said Mayor Tara Veer. "It can mean two things - one, the top or finishing stone of a structure or a wall and two, the crowning achievement or final stroke of a masterpiece, the culmination realized.
   "Both definitions speak to the very essence of this district. This district is built on a solid vision - it is strong, it is part of the foundation of our great City.
   "The name is also an appropriate representation of the future vision of this neighbourhood as it will connect people, providing a hub of activities and business opportunities for the City, our residents and guests to our City. It is about connecting our proud past and promising future of our community's crowning achievement."
   Tara Lodewyk, the City's planning manager, said construction of the streets will be done after the underground servicing is completed.
   "Alexander Way will be Capstone's main street. This main street mixes the existing with the new and creates a synergy between all of Capstone's diverse community components - public and private, commercial and retail, cultural and residential," she said.
   "The businesses and residents that are here now have created a neighbourhood and they are vital to the continued success of this neighbourhood."
   Veer added there is much more excitement to come as development in the area unfolds.
   "As a growing and vibrant City, Red Deer is putting an increased focus on economic development, specifically the redevelopment of our downtown district.
   "Capstone truly encapsulates the vision that has evolved with our community since Riverlands was first envisioned, all the way back to railway relocation and into the Greater Downtown Action Plan," she said.
   "With this newly-developed neighbourhood, Red Deer will now have an extended, vibrant, year-round downtown neighbourhood in addition to being home to much of Red Deer's office space, an increasing number of retail offices, small businesses and diverse residential populations."


April 19, 2017, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley)
Riverlands taking shape
Construction slated to begin soon
Riverlands to be unique neighbourhood bringing commercial, recreational
and residential together

Riverlands brochure screenshot   Red Deer's marquee Riverlands is beginning to take shape.
   A busy summer of construction is planned in the area west of Taylor Drive south of Gaetz Avenue.
   While much of the activity scheduled for this year is for work like replacing aging water lines, as well as stormwater structures, sewers and utility infrastructure, the vision for Riverlands is coming into focus.
   Riverlands project manager Cory Edinga said work will get underway along Alexander Way from just west of Carnival Cinemas to the riverfront. Some work will be done on 45th Street, which runs along the river.
   As well as trench work, there will be some grading and road base construction.
   "It's not going to look overly fancy, for the most part, this year," he said on Tuesday.
   "If we're lucky, we'll try and focus on the riverfront area," he said, adding trails and sidewalks could get done.
   Riverlands covers 12 acres and includes the former city public works yards, Cronquist Business Park, Carnival Cinemas, the Old Brew Plaza, and other commercial businesses and residential buildings.
   The vision for Riverlands is a mixed-use urban neighbourhood in the downtown area with lively commercial streets, a variety of medium and high-density housing and public spaces that will draw people year round. The city owns more than nine hectares of developable land in Riverlands valued at about $30 million.
   A centrepiece for Riverlands will be a civic plaza. It is meant to be a gathering place where events, celebrations and cultural events can be held.
   "That's part of what we'll get started on this year," said Edinga. "Then next year we hope to see it get finished off."
   Another unique feature that will begin to take shape is a park the city is calling the Green Spine.
   "That basically is from the intersection of Ross and Taylor down parallel with the river towards Alexander Way."
   It will see a pond, play areas, an outdoor food court, among other amenities.
   "We'll start doing some grading and getting ready for some of the main surface components. Then, hopefully, we'll get to landscaping and that kind of stuff in the late summer or fall."
   Residents shouldn't count on seeing the Green Spine complete this year, but they should get a taste of what is coming.
   "We'll start seeing some of the prep work and start to see what it's going to look like. Then, we'll finish that off next year."


May 1, 2013, Red Deer Express (Craig Curtis, City Manager)
Commentary
The Greater Downtown Action Plan
progress and potential

   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.


Sept. 3, 2011, Red Deer Advocate (Laura Tester)
Red Deer City Council
Riverlands development ready for debate
  
A plan of how best to develop Riverlands into a vibrant mixed-use neighbourhood over the next 20 years is going forward to Red Deer city council on Monday.
   Elected leaders will be asked to give first reading of the 2011 Riverlands Area Redevelopment Plan. The plan area is defined by the Red Deer River on the west, Taylor Drive on the north and east and the West Park neighbourhood on the south.
   The area redevelopment plan was crafted after the Greater Downtown Action Plan was finished in 2008 following extensive public input.
   Currently, Riverlands is a low-density commercial-industrial area.
   The intent is to make the area into a thriving public area that's pedestrian friendly.
   Visitors would be able to be wined and dined, see various entertainment and have the chance to stay at a prominent hotel convention centre.
   Plus, there would be a prominent riverwalk. The Red Deer River forms the border for over a third of the greater downtown, and much of that is in Riverlands.
   Development would take bold steps to enhance and connect to the river's edge, culminating in a central civic plaza projecting over the bank with a bridge across the river to Bower Ponds.
   "Riverlands will become the first truly 'smart growth' mixed-use, high density, urban neighbourhood in the city," says the document.
   The objective is to have 2,500 people live in Riverlands by 2031. The majority of the area will be zoned to allow medium density housing, with a height limit of 4.5 storeys.
   This plan adds new ideas for major civic gathering space, as well as arts and cultural venues. Plus, it looks at improved pedestrian and vehicle connections between Riverlands and the rest of the downtown.
   Some of the possible attractions include public art in prominent locations and throughout Riverlands.
   The city also envisions a year-round market within the former civic bus barns. The landmark hotel/convention centre at the north end of the plan area would include other businesses, including restaurants, bars and shops.
   The area redevelopment plan also encourages the development of publicly accessible open spaces on private commercial or residential lands.


June 15, 2011, Red Deer Advocate (Lana Michelin)
Railyards -- City 'too late' on railway lands: citizen
Open house on a 20-Year Plan for Downtown
  
The City of Red Deer is two decades too late in planning for the redevelopment of the downtown railway lands, says a Red Deer citizen concerned about preserving the city's rail history.
   Paul Pettypiece, a member of the local Forth Junction Society dedicated to keeping alive the city's railway heritage, attended an open house Tuesday that starts the ball rolling on a 20-year plan for the region around Superstore.
   While the area northwest of the downtown, which includes the Saputo dairy plant, Cannery Row Bingo, the city's water treatment plant, and new Edges project on the Red Deer River, is predominantly commercial and industrial, the vision is to make it mixed residential/commercial in future.
   According to the City's Greater Downtown Action Plan, Red Deer's downtown cannot be revitalized unless more people live, work and play/shop there, said the plan's chair Shirley Hocken.
   She sees families living in a high-density neighbourhood near the river, within walking distance of playgrounds and shops.
   Pettypiece believes this kind of redevelopment planning should have been done before the railway tracks were ripped out in 1990.
   "If the city had some forethought," he said, a bike trail, or green corridor, could have been created between the pedestrian former CP Rail bridge and the downtown CP Rail station.
   "The trail would have followed the path of the former rail tracks, preserving this bit of city heritage.
   But all the land was, unfortunately, sold to private developers, said Pettypiece, making a new trail now all but impossible.
   Some of the landowners are not likely to be moving anytime soon," he added.
   While city planners realize that the water treatment plant and industries such as Saputo will likely remain downtown for the long term, the area's redevelopment must be planned for, otherwise it will always remain the same, said Haley Mountstephen, who did not work for the city when this land was sold to private developers.
   Hocken believes the city saw a need, at the time, to make some money back.
   In any case, she believes there will always be a place in the area's future, for commercial ventures such as Superstore. "You will always need a shopping centre."
   Devon Snideman owns an automotive service shop in the area, and wonders if it will fit with the high-density vision.
   Snideman also wonders how parking will be handled. Unlike the small vehicles shown in many of the photographic examples of townhouse-style developments, city planners are seeking public input on, Red Deer residents drive big trucks and SUVs, he said. While underground garages could be built, Sniderman predicted "the big hang-up will be parking."
   Local residents can comment until June 30 on various visions for the area, and also enter a naming contest for the region online at www.reddeer.ca/namethisdistrict.
Webmaster note: A few minor typos have been corrected in the above article.
A note of clarification:
Pettypiece, a railway historian and resident of Red Deer County, does not believe a
  redevelopment plan for the area is 20 years too late -- only a linear park connecting the Canadian Pacific
  Railway bridge and the historic CPR station that would have given the area greater railway heritage value as
  part of a theme for the area. The original right of way, which would have made a natural pedestrian and
  bicycle pathway from North Red Deer to historic downtown, was sold to local landowners (who are not
  necessarily developers) making it very difficult for that specific potential heritage trail to be developed.


March 30, 2011, Red Deer Advocate (Laura Tester)
Riverlands
Strong turnout for open house
  
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 reddeer.ca.


July 20, 2010, Red Deer Advocate (John Stewart)
Our View (Editorial)
Time for downtown vision
   Does the strength of a downtown rest with its human element or its construct?
   In Edmonton, the debate rages over the proposed $450-million downtown arena complex and all that it represents to a downtown that in many ways is socially bereft, culturally diminished and economically deprived.
   Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz is expected to lay the foundation for the project with $100 million of his own money.
   He wants the city to mortgage the remainder and pay it off, ultimately, through a community development levy, made up of property taxes generated by increased development in the surrounding area.
   The theory is that an arena centrepiece will draw the people of the suburbs back to downtown Edmonton after workday hours, and spark a downtown revival that will include more construction and commerce. Events that draw huge audiences, like hockey games and concerts, spill over to restaurants, hotels and bars with little effort.
   Essentially, as novelist W.P. Kinsella would say, if you build it, they will come.
   In Red Deer, the process has been more modest and still needs a centrepiece -- or two.
   At this point, the revitalization of downtown has focused on office space, parking, upkeep and social housing. Each project -- from the new $21.3 million Sorensen Parkade and bus depot to the renovated Buffalo Hotel and the soon-to-be-renovated and expanded The River Valley (to provide affordable housing in the old Rancher's Valley Inn) to the multi-storey, $27 million Executive Place office building -- gives downtown Red Deer greater stability.
   Each time something as detrimental as the Arlington Inn is demolished, we make progress, even if simply by eliminating the roadblocks. In time, when a new project fits the economic conditions, that project can be part of the building blocks. (Certainly other roadblocks still exist, like the lots between 47th and 48th Avenues that have been vacant for years.)
   And there are great long-term plans to turn the area west of Taylor Drive into Riverlands, complete with condos, restaurants and nightclubs.
   And still, as downtown gains in character and attractiveness, the crying need is for a venue (or venues). The city's omnibus Rotary Park proposal has all the earmarks of a tremendous family social gathering place, centred on recreation and activity. It is in the embryonic stages of a great plan.
   Then final building block should be a culture centre, with a performing arts venue, a project that council is rightly reluctant to endorse now because of economic concerns.
   In the biggest of dreams, that centre would also house cultural groups, a new museum and archives and galleries, and perhaps a new library.
   When those two projects are completed, the downtown would have a soul to go with its infrastructure and business machine.
   The pressure is on now; the next boom will outstrip our resources, and something as revolutionary as high-speed rail will ramp up the demand for critical recreational infrastructure.
   But all of that takes planning, vision -- and money.
   The latter ingredient is in short supply right now.
   But Red Deer voters should be prepared to ask council candidates in the fall about their vision for downtown. And platitudes won't get the job done. After Oct. 18, we need a council that is prepared to map out a downtown plan that shows creativity, function and durability.
   And then, the human element will thrive.


June 8, 2009, Red Deer Advocate (Laura Tester)
Big expectations for downtown Red Deer
  
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 known 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.


Jan. 23, 2009, Red Deer Advocate (Paige Aarhus)
Riverlands plan 2008 MVH Urban Planning
Chance of a lifetime
  
City councillor Cindy Jeffries hopes Red Deer residents will get on board for a "once in a lifetime" opportunity to completely redevelop the city's riverfront.
   Jeffries presented an update on the Greater Downtown Action Plan (GDAP) at city hall Thursday. She and Lorne Daniel, a head consultant for the project, described a dramatically different downtown Red Deer.
   "This will be and is one of the highlights of my council career so far," said Jeffries, chair of the GDAP steering committee.
   The update reflects a growing interest in long-term high-density urban development and greater pedestrian access to the riverfront, developments that could transform Red Deer's low-lying downtown core.
   "One of the themes we use is 'growing up.' Red Deer is moving beyond being a town, a small city and you'll see some high-rise towers coming up," said Daniel.
   Three new areas -- Historic Downtown in the city centre, Riverlands west of Taylor Drive and Railyards west of Gaetz Avenue and north of Ross Street -- would be developed using three separate themes of live, work and play.
   Daniel said high-density residential development in the Railyards area will offer living space for "people of all ages and income levels. Housing for everybody."
   The neighbourhood would feature high-rise apartment buildings close to the riverfront and smaller apartment and single-family residential blocks in the area formerly known as Cannery Row.
   "It will be a mix of low- and high-rise, lots of windows and doors to create a sense of urban safety," he said.
   The Riverlands area, with its theme of play, is attracting the most attention. Developers envision a pedestrian bridge connecting Bower Ponds to a vibrant recreational area tailored to tourism.
   On the other side of the river (from Bower Ponds), where the civic and transit garages now stand, there are plans for a "Spirit of the River" plaza with space for outdoor cafes, buskers, market stalls and an "urban-style pool with fire pots" to attract evening viewing.
   Riverlands plans also include a new hotel and convention centre and a year-round indoor garden and water centre, initially called "The Ark" and re-dubbed "Prairie Oasis" by developers.
   Historic Downtown would get a new civic plaza, parkades to reduce congestion and a pedestrian path that connects Barrett Park to Bower Ponds.
   The path will make it much easier for downtown workers to ride a bike to the office instead of driving, said Daniel.
   According to the report, the full build-out of the action plan will take anywhere from 20 to 25 years to complete, depending on city budgets, government funding, private investment and the overall economic climate.
   "The GDAP 2008 Update is a concept plan . . . It guides the future development of area redevelopment plans . . . but does not prescribe specifics," said the report.
   But Daniel said baby steps, such as creating new public parks, will be taken as early as next year.
   "The idea is to build on what we have right now and not feel that we have to completely re-do things," he said.
   Council will decide on Monday whether to adopt the plan, which includes recommendations to hire a projects manager, hold public design competitions for major development elements and create a volunteer design review panel funded and coordinated by the city.
   "I think the plan looks great and I hope council will give it approval," said Jeffries.
Artist Rendering: MVH Urban Planning & Design Inc. (2008)


Nov. 19, 2008, Red Deer Express (Johnnie Bachusky)
The Big Wow is still in play
   A consultant's report obtained by the Express shows a full-fledged canal concept for the Riverlands would cost up to half a billion dollars, including more than $50 million to compensate private landowners.
   City manager Craig Curtis said the findings were the primary reasons why the Greater Downtown Action Plan (GDAP) steering committee will recommend to city council either next month or in January to adopt a scaled down concept featuring lesser watercourses.
   "It (full-fledged canal concept) is doable but for various reasons we have moved on to a plan we believe can be more easily implemented and still meet what we view as a "Wow" factor," said Curtis.
   Last week, key GDAP officials cited public opposition as the primary reason for not favouring a large scale San Antonio-inspired canal system for the Riverlands.
   However, the consultant's report, prepared by UMA Engineering Ltd., said the total estimated cost of building a Riverlands project with a fully looped canal system would be at least $353 million, including $52 million in land assembly costs through agreements reached with private landowners in the Riverlands area.
   "We believe that is fairly low, a low estimate. We believe it would be well above that," said Curtis, admitting he did not want to "overplay" public opposition into the city's decision to favour the alternative concept, unveiled last June by B.C. urban planner Michael von Hausen.
   Curtis said he does not have a cost estimate for the von Hausen concept. However he did suggest millions of dollars will be saved by eliminating costs for bridge structures, the purchasing of private Riverlands properties, as well as many more millions for opting with a scaled down waterway system that will ultimately cost only a quarter to a third of that for a full-fledged canal system.
   The UMA report advanced a concept featuring a closed-loop canal 1,650 metres in length with an average width of 12 metres. It also proposed a 200-metre long enclosed all-season canal section along the Alexander Way corridor, covered by a glass canopy spanning across the canal from three-story high buildings on both sides of the waterway.
   The UMA canal concept would have meandered through both city-owned and private lands while the waterways of the von Hausen plan will only go through city-owned property. Both concepts proposed using a storm water system to feed the waterways.
   UMA was contacted by the city to study the San Antonio-inspired canal concept first advanced 14 months ago by the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce tourism committee. The consulting group prepared its report for the River Walk Committee, which was working in parallel with the GDAP steering committee.
   The GDAP now endorses the von Hausen concept that features a non-looped watercourse system that will have narrower and shallower canals. They will not be able to accommodate boats.
   The von Hausen concept is now drawing criticism from members of the Chamber committee who feel it won't have enough of a "wow factor" to boost tourism in the city and region.
   However, Curtis emphasized the only major difference between the two concepts are the size and depth of the waterways.
   "We believe the plan we have developed has just as much 'Wow' as the other vision," said Curtis. "We think it is based on the other (UMA) vision and adapted to our situation.
   "From my perspective it embraces the key elements of the Chamber concept," added Curtis. "It can certainly be more easily implemented because it doesn't require any land assembly, and to implement the total vision it doesn't require the participation of the other businesses. The primary public improvements are on our land."
   He said the von Hausen concept also makes allowances for private landowners in the Riverlands area to eventually connect into the development.
   "Down the road they can link in to the features we have done and potentially have their own waterway they could tie in," said Curtis. "They could do all kinds of things in that area but the impetus would be on them to do that."
   Meanwhile, members of the Chamber's tourism committee say they are still pushing ahead to have a full-fledged canal system in the Riverlands, arguing there is strong support for it from the business community.
   "All I know is that the times I have been presenting this idea to various groups in the community I felt there was support for it at every level," said Ken Mandrusiak, the chair of the tourism committee.
   "At the beginning if there was any lack of support it was more from a lack of understanding of the concept. But once you explained it there seemed to be support."
   Mandrusiak said his committee is having a meeting soon to determine strategy but added it was likely the more than 800 Chamber members would be surveyed to see if there was wide-spread support for the full-fledged canal concept. He admitted there is now "urgency" to his committee's work because city council is expected to endorse the von Hausen concept either next month or in January.
  

July 2, 2008, Red Deer Express (Erin Fawcett)
Red Deer - Alberta's next great city
Riverlands plan 2008 MVH Urban Planning  
Internationally recognized planner Michael von Hausen said he believes Red Deer is the next great city in Alberta.
   He, along with planner Michael Gellar were in Red Deer last week to lead the community in shaping a vision for downtown.
   Over the course of the week they led an evening workshop on the future of downtown and prepared key urban design concepts for downtown Red Deer.
   Concepts were then displayed for input June 24 and were presented on June 26.
   "This is an opportunity that many cities would love to be a part of," said Mayor Morris Flewwelling.
   Von Hausen and Geller broke the city's downtown into three districts.
   The first district was The Core, which was labelled as a six block radius in the immediate downtown area.
   The planners said with the recent closure of Uptown Cinema, they envisioned that as a new civic centre where opera and multi-cultural events could be held.
   They also suggested the public parking lot to the east of the building could be a space where celebrations and big announcements are held.
   Von Hausen and Geller discouraged the parkade on top of the transit terminal saying it would be a negative impact on the downtown core and should be left as an open space.
   Other features in The Core district included gas fireplace features with seating on street corners and the enhancement of selective alleyways.
   As well, the planners identified more residential surrounding The Core area.
   The second district was identified as the Railyard district.
   This area includes the pedestrian train bridge and the Alpha Dairy Plant.
   Von Hausen and Geller said they would like to see residential in that area including ground oriented townhouses and high residential towers.
   The green space just south of the pedestrian train bridge could be used as a park which could hold various community events.
   The third district was identified as the River Crossing district.
   This area is located south of the Taylor Drive bridge.
   Von Hausen and Geller said more residential was needed in this area.
   The planners also identified a year round market for the area as well as a convention centre and hotel and a pedestrian bridge over the river to Bower Ponds.
   Also identified in this area was a 50,000 sq. ft. building called The Ark which would include a tropical garden with a 200 ft. tall observation tower in which you could see the whole city.
   "Overall we want to encourage unique shops with international flavour, a cultural arts centre and galleries," said von Hausen.
   "We ultimately want to slow down traffic in the downtown and review the parking requirements and usage."
   He added he would like to see the creation on continuous sidewalks with trees planted on either side of the street and landscaped parking lots.
   "We could also introduce a historic bus trolley that would move along Alexander Way down to the river front," said von Hausen.
   He added this vision is up to the residents of Red Deer to implement.
   "This is your future. This is your choice," said von Hausen.
   This summer a consulting team and steering committee will create a draft of the Downtown Action Plan as well as a feasibility study based on the information gathered by von Hausen and Geller.
   It is expected a draft plan will be presented for public feedback in the fall.
   Once refined, that plan will be presented to city council for approval and implementation.
Artist Rendering: River Crossing district concept showing "The Ark" indoor garden and hotel/convention
  centre. Graphic by MVH Urban Planning & Design Inc. (2008)

News articles about the vision and progress of the Forth Junction Heritage Society
News articles related to the railway heritage of Central Alberta
News articles about green transportation: transit, biking and high speed rail

News articles about recent rail-related development projects in Central Alberta
News articles about related regional heritage, history and culture
News articles about regional destinations, tourism and miniature worlds


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: 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: No San Antonio but hope left for Big Wow (Red Deer Express Nov.2008)
       News article: Canal plan jettisoned (Red Deer Express Nov.2008)


 

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