A parcel of city land needed for the expansion of the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter was officially sold to the non-profit on Tuesday.
Details of the sale of the previously city-owned lot at 5321-47 Ave. were discussed in an in camera meeting, but council later approved the property transaction amounting to $170,000 in the public portion of the meeting.
A zoning change that allows for the expansion of the women’s shelter onto a parcel of city land immediately north of it was unanimously approved by council last June. At the time, the shelter’s executive-director Rayann Toner said the shelter was already “stretched beyond our limit,” having to turn away 1,500 women and children in 2019.
Although many abused women have opted to stay put at home during the pandemic, Toner anticipates a much greater need for shelter services once the pandemic is over. “We could get triple or quadruple the calls,” she told council last summer.
While design plans for the larger shelter building were still undetermined, it could be up to four storeys high. Toner would like to see an increase to 48 beds from the current 40 and to create 12 transition housing units to help women become more independent after leaving the shelter.
She previously told council that a reconfiguration of bedroom space will allow for more families to stay there.
The city lot that was purchased by the shelter is largely undeveloped, with only an 84-year-old Scout Hut sitting on it. A strip along the creek bank on the east side of the property was kept as environmental preserve. Council was previously told that a study of bank stability would be needed at the development phase of the project.
The cabin-style Scout Hut was constructed in 1937 as a meeting hall for scouts and rover patrols. It has not been used since the ‘80s and is not designated as a historically significant site in the city’s Land Use Bylaw.
In 2019, city administration undertook a historical evaluation that found the Scout Hut had not retained the character-defining elements needed “to communicate its significance.”
However, city councillor and local historian Michael Dawe had questioned this, noting the hut contains a plaque recognizing a 1930s visit from Canada’s then Chief Scout, John Buchan — Canada’s Governor General from 1935-40 and author of the adventure novel The 39 Steps — embedded in the fireplace mantle.
Several central Albertans with memories attached to the cabin have expressed interest in having it moved onto private land.
According to the city of Red Deer, administration will look at ways of removing the cabin from the site and installing a commemorative plaque to acknowledge the history of the Scout Hut.