A group of walkers

Focusing on Riverlands — before

The Jane’s Walk focusing on Red Deer’s downtown revitalization on Saturday provided a ‘before snapshot’ of Riverlands.

The Jane’s Walk focusing on Red Deer’s downtown revitalization on Saturday provided a ‘before snapshot’ of Riverlands.

Located west of Taylor Drive, Riverlands is considered the city’s pre-eminent project to convert the former civic yards into a thriving mixed-use district supporting culture, entertainment, residential development and community gathering places.

Plans include an upscale hotel and convention centre, a prominent riverwalk, a public plaza, boutique shops and artist studios.

“There’s few cities that have land right on the river front, and especially right across from such a beautiful park like Bower Ponds,” said Jordan Furness, downtown co-ordinator with the City of Red Deer.

He said often there’s fractured ownership and owners may not have any interest in redevelopment. But in the case of Riverlands, the city owns 30 acres and is keen on transforming the site.

All the former civic yards buildings are in the process of being torn down.

Plans to bury power lines along the river are being finalized.

“Right now it’s not a lot of the flashy stuff. It’s really working on the infrastructure, making sure the water and sanitary are adequate for the area.”

Furness said the big change for the public will be the start of construction of the Taylor Drive Improvement Project this summer that includes reconfiguring the Taylor Drive and Ross Street intersection to improve traffic flow, safety and accessibility for pedestrians and road users.

In five to 10 years, Riverlands will hopefully be a destination area, he said.

“It’s going to be one of Red Deer’s only waterfront development areas.”

Elsewhere in the city, setbacks are required to accommodate flooding as well as the park system so there really isn’t a lot of riverfront area with nearby residential. Waterfront construction is possible at Riverlands because it’s outside the flood mapping zone because the bank is quite high compared to Bower Ponds and the BMX park on the other side of the Red Deer River.

Jane’s Walks are free walks held to encourage people to explore their community, it’s walkability, history and future development.

Jane’s Walks started in 2007 and honour the legacy of urban activist and writer Jane Jacobs, who lived in New York for decades before moving to Toronto in 1968.

The Riverside Meadows to Riverlands: Downtown Revitalization Process walk attracted 13 participants despite Saturday’s snow, was one of six walks held from Friday to Sunday in Red Deer.

The walk, led by Furness and senior city planner Quincy Brown, started at the site of the former Harpers Metals where redevelopment turned the scrap yard on Kerry Wood Drive in Riverside Meadows into multi-family housing Riverpointe Crossing.

Other recent upgrades in the downtown were visited and discussed during the walk.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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