Pedestrian-friendly shopping areas may or may not be viable

These aren’t just four-foot sidewalks. These are significantly landscaped.” If a large-scale leisure area was developed in the town centre district, then a massive sea of parking would back onto surrounding residential areas, Baker said.

A chilly climate and people’s penchant for cars may throw a kink into City of Red Deer plans for extensive pedestrian-friendly shopping areas.

The City of Red Deer wants to develop town centre districts that would focus on mixed-used development and walkable streets.

Those town centre districts, along with small town Prairie-looking Main Street districts with smaller commercial spaces, are being eyed for new neighbourhoods in surrounding East Hills communities such as Clearview North. Melcor Developments is developing that neighbourhood west of 30th Avenue and south of 67th Street.

Melcor Developments wants parking and loading beside the stores within the town centre districts. City planners were concerned this move would spread buildings out even further.

As well, Melcor frowned on having store entrances on the public street side. It wants only entrances on the parking lot side.

Brian Baker, vice-president of property development for Melcor Developments in Edmonton, said they have a “pretty good idea of what is saleable and marketable” to retailers.

Melcor presented drawings to city council on Monday on its town centre district — a collection of stores with extensive parking and wide pedestrian paths lined with trees and shrubs. The various strips of businesses had various roof lines and were aesthetically pleasing on all sides — unlike big box stores that have large blank walls.

A gazebo and fountains were leisure attractions on the commercial site.

Baker said it’s important to have enough parking because people like using their cars here.

“We don’t have a climate of even a Seattle or Vancouver, not even close,” he said. “There’s more linkages with this development (here) than any that I have ever seen. These aren’t just four-foot sidewalks. These are significantly landscaped.”

If a large-scale leisure area was developed in the town centre district, then a massive sea of parking would back onto surrounding residential areas, Baker said.

“Those people are going to be looking out their windows and they will see an ocean of asphalt with a cluster of buildings in the middle to create that walk-through,” Baker said.

While councillors were receptive to Melcor’s plans for making the area more pedestrian-friendly, they felt more could be done.

Councillor Tara Veer said she went to one shopping area in Spokane, Wash., where the parking circled around the development. “It’s very pedestrian friendly.”

“I’d like to see them tighten up the buildings,” said Councillor Lorna Watkinson-Zimmer. “All I could see when I saw that aerial (plan from Melcor) was buildings and massive pieces of asphalt. We’re still making car No. 1.”

Melcor’s concerns will be addressed again on May 4.

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