Early concepts of the Asooahum Centre took shape as community members shared ideas about the look and feel of the long-awaited project on Wednesday.
As early as September, construction will begin on the integrated affordable housing and cultural centre on 3.5 acres of canoe-shaped land on Riverside Drive.
The Red Deer Native Friendship Society has been working on the project for several years and recently received approval from the City of Red Deer to build on the remnant site. The provincial government has allocated roughly $2.6 million for 16 housing units, and the society has bigger plans to build a cultural centre for the entire community.
About 50 people including society members, Riverside Industrial Park business owners, and other supporters attended the afternoon design workshop.
The concepts and the vision that emerged are now in the hands of Edmonton-based architects Manasc Isaac who will bring the ideas together and create the blueprints. Potential flooding on the site was voiced several times during the afternoon.
Vivian Manasc, senior principal with Manasc Isaac, said all construction projects have risks in planning, design, construction and operations. She said once they see the topographic drawings and look at the magnitude of any risks, they will be able to develop a strategy to mitigate risk.
“We know these are not the kinds of risks that are hard to mitigate,” said Manasc. “These are risks that are commonly mitigated. Mitigating the risk of flooding is not a challenge. It is done all the time. It’s just a matter of choosing one of many technical solutions.”
The firm has more than 30 years experience working with aboriginal communities on community centres and housing projects.
Once the designs are ready to go, potentially in six weeks, the society will file for a development permit.
Tanya Schur, executive director of the friendship centre, said the goal is to have families in the building by next spring and they will continue working in that direction.
“Our project will be modest but it will honour nature and honour the culture,” said Schur.
Schur said she was overjoyed with the turnout from the community, supporters and Riverside Drive business owners. She said diversity and different perspectives will turn the project into something wonderful.
Shawn Moore, owner of Trimmed-Line Tree Services in Riverside Industrial Park, participated in the workshop. Moore had some early concerns over what seemed to be the city pushing ahead a project instead of selecting the best site for the project. He said it has been only in the last few weeks that he has realized how much the project is needed in Red Deer.
“The project will enrich the community and definitely benefit people who need affordable housing,” said Moore.
Leslie Stonechild, the Friendship Centre’s housing and cultural liaison worker, said he was pleased to be involved in the designing process for the worthwhile project.
“We tell our youth all the time that if you believe it, you can achieve it,” said Stonechild.