‘Shabby’ Gaetz Avenue set for a facelift

Old-fashioned street lights, paving stones, decorative street markers and more trees are proposed to give Gaetz Avenue downtown a more pedestrian-friendly update.

Old-fashioned street lights, paving stones, decorative street markers and more trees are proposed to give Gaetz Avenue downtown a more pedestrian-friendly update.

When portions of Ross Street and 49th Street were given trees and paving stones in the mid-’90s, Gaetz (50th Avenue) was overlooked, said city manager Craig Curtis.

He believes it’s time to revitalize this other major shopping corridor to entice more people to come downtown.

Gaetz Avenue “is looking rather shabby,” said Curtis, who likes the traffic-calming proposals in the Gaetz Avenue Revitalization Proposal.

While 28 angled parking spots would be sacrificed in the process of making vehicles to “meander” around slight curves, Curtis said the new parkade would make up the shortfall.

The city hired ISL Engineering of Edmonton to get public input on street improvements, and the results were unveiled to a largely positive response at an open house Wednesday.

Kamini Prakash, owner of Taste of Fiji restaurant, called the changes visually pleasing.

“It’s a start, absolutely,” said Star Cunningham, of the downtown-situated MediAesthetics Institute, who hopes the design features will encourage more property owners to spruce up their building exteriors.

City resident Blaine Newton was “optimistic,” but questioned if the changes would be enough, since some people perceive a downtown safety problem.

Pat Butler, of ISL Engineering, believes the look would go a long way towards making the street look friendlier. He mentioned street-level lighting would also brighten the pedestrian view along wider sidewalks.

Downtown worker Susan Peebles wondered if these improvements would lead her to shop more downtown, since second-hand and discount stores still make up many area businesses.

Gentrification takes time, said Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling. But he believes there’s already a decent mix of shops.

While city cyclist John Johnston was disappointed no bicycle lanes were proposed, Flewwelling said this is a pedestrian-focused avenue — he would rather add bike lanes to cross streets.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com