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
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,"
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
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
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
"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
"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
April 19, 2017, Red Deer Advocate (Paul Cowley)
Riverlands taking shape
Construction slated to begin soon
Riverlands to be unique neighbourhood bringing
and residential together
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
As well as trench work, there will be some grading and road base
"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
"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)
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
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
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.
Railyards is proposed as a vibrant mixed use urban living district
with high density residential development and excellent trail
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
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
2011, Red Deer
Advocate (Laura Tester)
Red Deer City Council
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
Visitors would be able to be wined and dined, see various
entertainment and have the chance to stay at a prominent hotel
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
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
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
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
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
part of a theme for the area. The original right of way, which would have made a natural
bicycle pathway from North Red Deer to historic
downtown, was sold to local landowners (who are not
developers) making it very difficult for that specific potential
heritage trail to be developed.
30, 2011, Red Deer
Advocate (Laura Tester)
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
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 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
"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
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
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
"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.
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
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
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
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
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
And then, the human element will thrive.
Red Deer Advocate (Laura Tester)
Big expectations for
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
"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
"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,"
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
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
"This (downtown plan) is one of the opportunities that cannot be
squandered," Curtis said.
Red Deer Advocate (Paige Aarhus)
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
"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 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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
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
As well, the planners identified more residential surrounding The
The second district was identified as the Railyard district.
This area includes the pedestrian train bridge and the Alpha Dairy
Von Hausen and Geller said they would like to see residential in
that area including ground oriented townhouses and high residential
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
"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
"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
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)
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)