With the return of Centrefest, the launch of a new Afro-Caribbean festival, Wednesday markets and plenty of Ross Street entertainment, Mayor Ken Johnston sang praises for the city’s downtown on Thursday.
Looking around at the new Justice Centre and the old Canada Post building, which is slated to become new kinds of offices, Johnston said it’s only a matter of time before other empty spaces at the city’s core are also transformed.
“Our city needs housing. It desperately needs housing,” said Johnston. He believes local developers can help make this happen by renovating some empty office spaces into apartments — a concept he saw taking place in Toronto.
City officials are now working with the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce to see how to make lots in Capstone align closer with the business community’s needs, perhaps by rejigging zoning. “We are effecting transformation,” the mayor added. “It’s coming, it’s going to happen.”
While Johnston admitted the downtown still has issues with public perceptions of crime and vagrancy, he stressed his commitment to renewal. “Better things are coming.”
City manager Tara Lodewyk noted a new vision for the heart of the city is outlined in the Downtown Activation Playbook. The plan for the 2022-2026, stresses the importance of partnership and relationships in realizing the area’s potential. She noted the city is working with the DBA, chamber, and many other organizations to create events to ignite some excitement.
For instance, the first-annual Afro-Caribbean festival is being planned for the Ross Street Patio area on Aug. 12. And on July 29 and 30, Centrefest, Red Deer’s performing arts festival, will be returning to the city’s core with some international, provincial and local entertainers.
Lodewyk encourages city residents to also check out DBA’s website downtownreddeer.com/events for Ross Street Patio entertainment, which is happening nearly every day of the week — including live music, open air art ,and the Wednesday Downtown Farmer’s Markets.
Regular live entertainment is also being planned for Alexander Way (48th Street).
The summers events at Capstone can be found at Liveincapstone.ca/events. Among these are Capstone Friday Night Markets with food trucks on June 16, 23, 30 and every second week in to mid-September. There are free creative art classes and yoga in the square, a Cars and Carnival Event on June 27 and live music on many Fridays and Sundays.
On Father’s Day Sunday, June 18, the Memphis Mafia will perform from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Canada 150 Square. The Central Alberta Chamber Orchestra will play from 6 to 8 p.m. on June 28.
To reinforce a sense of public safety at the city’s core, more police presence will be seen in the downtown and on park trails this summer, said Red Deer RCMP Supt. Holly Glassford. Bikes, a Segway and a utility terrain vehicle will be used by officers, as well as more police foot patrols.
Glassford noted most of these officers’ work is not based on complaints — they are being pro-active to head thing off before they become problems. She noted crime is down, and “we are committed to our priorities,” which includes making Red Deerians feel welcome and safe in the city’s core.