$12-million Ronald McDonald House gets OK from MPC

A proposed Ronald McDonald House for Red Deer drew praise from municipal planning commission members on Monday as site development was approved for the $12-million project.

A proposed Ronald McDonald House for Red Deer drew praise from municipal planning commission members on Monday as site development was approved for the $12-million project.

“It’s a very attractive building,” said Councillor Lorna Watkinson-Zimmer, of the three-storey design.

“I think it’s a fantastic use of that site, which is a very difficult one,” said city manager Craig Curtis, of the 19,127-square-foot building to be built on a sloped lot at 3908 50th Ave. east of Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

Ronald McDonald Houses have been built in 30 countries to provide a place for families from outside town to stay who are coping with critically ill children or high-risk pregnancies. Red Deer’s house will feature 11 family suites as well as play areas, a large communal kitchen and other living spaces, as well as office space for the Ronald McDonald House staff and fundraisers.

Red Deer architect John Hull said he tried to “walk the line between tradition and playfulness in his design, which uses five different exterior colours, multiple roof peaks and imaginative window designs.

Larry Mathieson, executive director of Ronald McDonald Houses of Alberta, said a fundraising campaign is already underway and a little over $1.3 million has been raised locally. Eighty per cent of the $12-million fundraising target must be reached before construction can begin.

Mathieson is hoping the home will be ready for its first families in the summer of 2011.

“That’s our target,” he said. “Everything’s been going well so far.”

Ronald McDonald House originally considered a smaller facility located inside the hospital. But it soon became apparent there was enough demand for a facility with nine to a dozen suites. Mathieson said pediatric nurses told him that a facility of this kind has been needed for a decade in Red Deer.

The building has been designed with 11 underground parking spaces so families do not have to go out in the cold to return to their suites. An outdoor play area has been set aside for children and sidewalks will link the house to 50A Avenue and down the sloped site to Gaetz Avenue. Ronald McDonald House is willing to pay for the sidewalk connection, which partially crosses city-owned land, to Gaetz Avenue, the planning commission was told. A licence and encroachment agreement will be signed to allow for the sidewalk and to give permission to post a sign for the house on city land next to Gaetz Avenue.

Other details to be worked out in coming months include developing a plan to remove storm water runoff from the site. A water retention drywell to hold water until it can be moved into nearby storm water sewers is one option being considered by builders Timcon Construction.

There are 12 Ronald McDonald Houses across Canada.

A new one was built in Calgary two years ago and Edmonton’s was recently expanded to 40,000 square feet from 16,000 square feet.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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