Hopes high downtown

Red Deer city council is pumped about reinvigorating the greater downtown.

Red Deer city council is pumped about reinvigorating the greater downtown.

Mayor Morris Flewwelling and Councillors Buck Buchanan, Cindy Jefferies, Lynne Mulder, Gail Parks, Larry Pimm, Tara Veer, Lorna Watkinson-Zimmer and Frank Wong unanimously supported the Greater Downtown Action Plan earlier this year. When asked to talk about key accomplishments over the last two years of their three-year term, these politicians expressed enthusiasm for such huge potential within the centre of Red Deer.

“Over 700 people were involved in the planning,” said Flewwelling. “This is so exciting.”

Consultants, stakeholders and the general public were involved in the plan that focuses on pedestrian-friendly streets, riverfront public spaces and developments, and more potential for high-density housing. It comprises most of the river valley, bordered by the river to the northwest and Waskasoo Creek to the southeast.

Jefferies, chairwoman of the Greater Downtown Action Plan committee, said she’s excited for the significant changes that will occur over the next two decades.

“The move of the civic yards was a huge accomplishment and will forever change the face of our city,” said Jefferies, referring to the civic yards move from Cronquist Business Park to the Riverside industrial area. “It gives us a tremendous opportunity to develop the waterfront.”

Mulder calls the downtown plan a “proactive move” for the city while Veer said the plan will ultimately create a “vibrant downtown that people will want to go to.”

Watkinson-Zimmer said she would like to see downtown development move faster, but with the economic slowdown, she’ll “have to be patient.”

There’s further potential for city growth in spite of an economic downturn.

One achievement hailed by many councillors is the strong municipal ties with neighbour Red Deer County.

A few years ago, the relationship soured between the two over land issues.

Announcing a “spirit of co-operation” in July 2007, the city and county adopted an intermunicipal development plan that identified growth areas for both.

Flewwelling, who was mayor at the time, said this intermunicipal plan has allowed for badly needed industrial land and other annexation growth for the city.

Wong was similarly pleased to see additional industrial land come on stream. “We were out of land and we were losing business to other municipalities,” said Wong.

The stronger relationship with the county has resulted in greater service for all residents.

“I’m happy to see the transit out to Gasoline Alley,” said Buchanan.

The city also partnered with the county and other municipalities towards the Plasco Energy Group waste-to-energy plant project. It will be built on a county waste transfer site east of Penhold.

“I am extremely proud of that and I think the community will be,” said Mulder, a council representative on the Central Alberta Regional Solid Waste Commission. “While it hasn’t started, it is a wonderful green opportunity.”

Several councillors also applauded a number of finished capital projects, from renovations to the Golden Circle to the new police-fire station on 67th Street.

“I was glad to see the new civic yards get done because so many services come out of that central location,” said Pimm. “It was a very expensive project. You could label this council for having done that. It’s been done well and will last a long, long time.”

Other accomplishments hailed by council:

Flewwelling — Continued community-wide efforts to fight homelessness.

Buchanan — A new council committee formed to focus on crime and crime prevention.

Mulder — A new dog bylaw was recently passed.

Parks — Anti-idling vehicle policy was put in place for municipal staff. Council successfully sought a more in-depth review on secondary suites.

Veer — Helped with the city’s new strategic plan that will guide future decisions for the city.

Watkinson-Zimmer — The implementation of more water conservation measures for various sectors.

Wong — Glad to see the renovation of the G.H. Dawe Centre and the new police-fire station on 67th Street, both of which will better serve northside residents.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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