The long-awaited demolition of empty buildings on the Michener Centre North site is getting underway this month.
Alberta Infrastructure delivered notices this week alerting residents of Clearview Ridge that contractors will start knocking down the 28 fenced-off structures in April.
As the removal of hazardous materials and utilities will be needed, the majority of the work is not anticipated to be completed until mid 2022.
The buildings north of 55 St. were constructed in the middle of the last century and were formerly used to house residents with mental disabilities. They have been sitting empty since 2014 when most residents were relocated to the south Michener site, or moved into group homes.
The brick structures were since boarded up and fenced off to stop squatters from entering. They are unsafe, and “not suitable for repurposing,” states Alberta Infrastructure.
Demolition, which is expected to cost from $15 to $20 million “is the safest and most cost-effective way forward for the site.”
The effort is expected to create 85 to 100 jobs.
The government contracted Visco Contractors Ltd., of Edmonton, to bring the buildings down. According to Alberta Infrastructure, this site will later be cleared and seeded with grass.
Paths, operated by the City of Red Deer, will remain open for as long as possible. If closures are needed for safety reasons, the government stated advanced notice will be given.
The surrounding green spaces, which are popular with hikers and dog walkers, will also remain open for now. But Alberta Infrastructure stated that sections will be restricted when underground utilities are scheduled to be removed.
Emily Damberger, planning manager for the City of Red Deer, said the city is still in the process of acquiring this land from the province.
But by the end of 2021, she expects opportunities will be provided for community feedback about future uses for this site once demolition and remediation is completed.
The city has no plans to turn this 158-acre parcel, next to the Michael O’Brien wetland and the east entry to the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary, into housing.
Tara Lodewyk, general-manager of development for the city, stated earlier this year that it will remain a natural area and be tied into the City of Red Deer’s trail system.
The city will also be taking possession of the historic J.J. Gaetz house, which has been sitting vacant for years. The city plans to preserve the home, a municipal designated heritage site. Future uses are to be decided.
Mayor Tara Veer stated last November that the house could become an centre for interpreting “a visual history of the lands.”