Downtown project gets council OK

A five-storey mixed-use building will become neighbours with a dairy plant in downtown Red Deer.

A five-storey mixed-use building will become neighbours with a dairy plant in downtown Red Deer.

Council approved River City Developments’ Elements development on Monday.

The building, which will be developed along 55th Street and Gaetz Avenue, will have 12 residential units, plus 254 parking stalls and nearly 6,300 square metres of commercial office space.

Developer Ken Wessel said the building will be a “true enhancement” to the area.

“I identified the old Shell site as being a premier area that hadn’t seen its share of good quality development,” said Wessel.

Wessel originally thought of building a strip mall but after looking at the Greater Downtown Action Plan, decided the larger proposal was a better idea. City staff showed interest when the concept was presented to them, Wessel added.

Wessel said he hopes people will want to live in the building, even if it overlooks the Saputo Foods dairy plant.

“If you go to any inner-city development, you will see things that aren’t that pleasant,” he said. “Our intent is to kickstart the development of the downtown core.”

His hope is that the Saputo plant, built in the early 1950s, will eventually move to another location.

“The real challenge for Saputo is to address the viability over the long term,” Wessel said.

Saputo plant manager Kevin Hyshka didn’t speak on the plant’s future in the downtown but did say the company was concerned with any potential impacts to shipping.

He added Saputo isn’t against Wessel’s development.

Saputo plans to build a new milk receiving bay that will be entirely accessible from the company’s property.

Wessel will not receive any development permits until a number of conditions are met by the city, including entering into a cost-sharing agreement with the city on building a three-metre sidewalk along the west side of 50th Avenue and part of 55th Street.

“I had hoped to be in the ground three months ago,” Wessel said.

Council further approved constructing the road along 55th Street in stages so that access is maintained to Saputo plant until Aug. 31, 2011, subject to development approval. The city has had plans to extend 55th Street west into the Railyards district, directly south of the proposed site, for several years.

“The idea of the road closure makes more sense than doing the development after the road is in place,” Wessel said. “The access we require in and out of the site for this size of development would be adversely affected by way of having 55th Street in play.”