Red Deer’s downtown has lots to offer for citizens. (Contributed)

Red Deer’s downtown has lots to offer for citizens. (Contributed)

JOHNSTON: Focusing on downtown Red Deer

Hello Red Deer, I hope you are enjoying our beautiful Alberta summer we have been experiencing this month. While we started off a bit rainy, July brought us some sun and allowed us to get out and about to enjoy all the beauty our region has to offer.

One of my most favorite things to do year-round is to explore our incredible downtown, and Council recently approved a new Entertainment District for Ross Street Patio, making it easier for you to enjoy the patio, the entertainment, and the businesses in the area.

So, in addition to live entertainment, you may be able to enjoy a cold beer the next time you visit Ross Street Patio! Entertainment Districts are designated public areas where adults may consume alcohol outside of licensed premises. A request to designate the Ross Street Patio as an Entertainment District was initiated by the Downtown Business Association (DBA) this spring, which led to the development of a new bylaw. While the bylaw could be expanded to include other locations in the future, it currently applies only to the Ross Street Patio area.

While relatively new to Canada, there are numerous international jurisdictions where open consumption is allowed in public areas. Learnings from those areas showed us that Entertainment Districts provide opportunities for municipalities to revitalize key neighbourhoods, drive tourism, and support local businesses. This is something Council and I are very interested in for our downtown.

I was recently asked what my vision was for Red Deer one year from now. Pragmatically, I used the word spaces as the theme. What that means for me, when I see the spaces in our downtown, Capstone, leased space and space for development and greater utilization, I dare to dream. I dream of transforming spaces. While over 50 small businesses have come into our downtown over the last year, we do have many that need revitalization, and I can’t wait to see that happen. The potential is extraordinary.

One such change is the recent sale of the former Government of Canada building across from City Hall Park. The landmark building has been for sale since 2018 and was recently purchased for redevelopment. Built in 1951, the building has housed many Federal services including a post office, customs office, local RCMP and the National Film Board. The sale of this building shows that there are more businesses who want to invest in the area.

We’ve got the historic courthouse on the northeast, Executive Place across the street, then City Hall and City Hall Park, and now this former Government of Canada building, which will no doubt improve vibrancy downtown, and spur greater economic development through the legitimate use of it. We are very excited for the potential of the space, what could go in, and what it can bring to this prominent space in our downtown.

So, I encourage all Red Deerians to come to our downtown for the first time, or the one-hundredth time. There is no better time than right now to do so. From the Wednesday farmers market, to the Ross Street Patio entertainment, to events in Capstone or Bower Ponds Prime Stock Theatre events – there is no shortage of things to do.

Hope on an e-scooter, cruise around and discover the places you may never have seen before.

One event I am much looking forward to is Meet the Street, an inclusive arts and culture experience that celebrates visual and performance art, music and meaningful community partnerships in Red Deer’s downtown core. This year features a new partnership with Centrefest Street Performer Festival. Join Council and I downtown during the September long weekend for mural tours, live music and art, vendors, kids’ activities, plus the excitement of world class street performances.

Whatever you do this summer, I hope you are able to spend time with friends and family. I hope you have been able to come out again, reconnect with neighbours, friends, and meet new people. Connections are what matter, and there is no better time than our great Alberta summers to make those connections and build community though fellowship.

Ken Johnston is the Mayor of Red Deer.