Council divided on market options

Keeping the former City of Red Deer bus barns city-owned or selling it over to a private developer consumed a lot of council debate over the merits of having a year-round market.

Keeping the former City of Red Deer bus barns city-owned or selling it over to a private developer consumed a lot of council debate over the merits of having a year-round market.

Red Deer leaders grappled on Monday over how a year-round market could best fit inside the old bus barns in Riverlands.

Should the city retain ownership and then contract out operations for the market? Should the city sell off the land to a private owner who would then develop it, with some city investment still included?

Council was heavily divided over the issue so a decision was set aside for a couple of weeks.

The Year Round Market & Artisan Spaces report that went forward to Red Deer city council suggested the best option would be private ownership and development, with city investment (Option 4). This would give the city some control over the project.

Councillor Chris Stephan favoured Option 2 because the city would still own the land but would allow private hands to run it.

“We are still going to be investing, but it’s something that we own,” Stephan said. “I believe that the public finds that much more acceptable than investing in something we don’t own, which would happen with Option 4.”

Stephan added he likes the idea of a year-round market, but wondering if the city was jumping the gun on this specific land use. The city should have a strong business case for a year-round market, he added.

Council was told a request for proposal could go out to private developers, who would then give their culturally-oriented proposals on what they’d like to see for the land.

The Greater Downtown Action Plan suggested a public market and arts studio complex would be a great fit for the old civic garages within Riverlands, an area west of Taylor Drive set for mixed-use development.

Councillor Tara Veer said she was leaning towards Option 2 as well. With its important downtown location, the land should stay in the public domain.

“The private (contracted operations) would still allow that entrepreneurship,” she said.

But city manager Craig Curtis said this route would involve a lot of city investment.

He suggested administration’s recommendation was better where the site would be developed privately with some city investment. The city’s investment could involve selling the land at a lower price in return for certain public facilities the developer would build or renovate.

The other scenario is for the land to be sold at market price, but then if it’s developed according to certain conditions, the city would invest financially.

Councillors Paul Harris and Lynne Mulder figured Option 4 would offer the best in terms of creativeness.

Councillors Buck Buchanan, Frank Wong, Stephan and Veer voted in favour of Option 2, but the motion was defeated by Mayor Morris Flewwelling, Harris, Mulder and Councillor Cindy Jefferies. Councillor Dianne Wyntjes was absent.

The year-round market report also included Option 1 (city ownership, city operated) and Option 3 (private ownership and development only). During earlier public consultation, others options were given: Option 5 (having the market owned and run by a co-operative) and Option 6 (city gets if off the ground with a timeline to move it into the community).

Administration will return with more information, including economic development opportunities around the former transit barns.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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