Drawing a larger and more diverse population into Red Deer’s city centre is viewed as a key part of making it a better place for everyone, says a local consultant.
On Wednesday, the SAFE task force held a town hall meeting, asking people from various interest groups for their ideas on how to build a more sustainable, active, friendly and economically viable downtown.
Physical plans have been laid out, including redevelopment plans for the Cannery Row and Riverlands areas, said Lorne Daniel, who was part of the team to develop Red Deer’s award-winning Greater Downtown Action Plan.
The SAFE task force is charged with filling in the blanks by looking at ways various groups, including businesses, social agencies, government and cultural groups can work together to create the vibrant community envisioned in the GDAP.
“When you go into a downtown area in any community in the world, when you really feel safe, one of the dynamics is just a lot of people, really a diversity of people, on the streets at pretty much all hours of the day. In that kind of environment, most citizens feel comfortable,” said Daniel.
“When you don’t feel comfortable is when you walk down a lonely street and there’s you and another person in a hoodie . . . walking down the street toward you, and you start wondering who is this person?,” he said.
City manager Craig Curtis, who emceed the meeting, said the SAFE group recognizes that everyone, business operators, shoppers, office workers, homeless people and those who suffer mental illness and addiction are all citizens of the downtown.
The purpose of Wednesday’s Town Hall meeting was to gather ideas from as many different groups as possible on how all of those different kinds of people can co-exist in a vibrant and exciting city centre, Curtis said after the meeting.
People gathered for the meeting were each asked to write down their own anwers to a set of questions. Then, each table was asked to come to a consensus on the same set of questions.
The SAFE task force will review and discuss the questions as it develops its plans, said Curtis.
“This task force could go in 100 different directions. What it needs to do is focus on what the key issues are and what key issues we need to tackle,” he said.
“As Lorne said, the more people you have, the less the individual on the street that might look a little scary is of any concern at all. What we’re trying to do is create a balance.”
RCMP Supt. Brian Simpson, head of the city detachment, said policing plays a role, but making more arrests isn’t the only answer to creating a safer and friendlier environment in the city centre.
“We won’t arrest our way to a solution. We will be part of the solution, but we won’t be the total solution,” said Simpson.
City citizens will have more opportunity in the near future to have their say in creating the kind of downtown envisioned by the SAFE task force, said Curtis.