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Michener North site will become part of Red Deer’s park system, says city official

‘Complex’ demolition of buildings to start this spring
Demolition of buildings on the Michener Centre North site is expected to start this spring, and abatement and restoration work will continue for about a year. (File photo by Advocate staff)

The park-like Michener Centre North site will remain a natural area and eventually be tied in to the City of Red Deer’s trail system, confirmed a municipal manager.

After years of negotiation, the City of Red Deer announced in November it had worked out an agreement to purchase this scenic 132-acres from the province.

Tara Lodewyk, the city’s general manager of development and protective services, confirmed on Wednesday what many parks-lovers hoped to hear — that housing development is not planned for this beauty spot, which is popular with hikers and dog walkers.

“This is an exciting, wonderful piece of property and we are looking forward to having it as part of our municipal infrastructure,” said Lodewyk.

She expects the former Michener land — which sits next to the Michael O’Brien wetland and the east entry to the Gaetz Lakes Sanctuary — will become part of the city’s much-used parks and trails system.

Signs warning hikers to stay away from the Michener Centre North site could be posted as early as this spring, however, as the provincial government plans to demolish the aged buildings on the site.

Alberta Infrastructure expects to award a contract next month for the demolition of the vacant buildings that once housed residents who were developmentally disabled, said department spokesperson Haydn Place.

The contract will also include site restoration, and is expected to be a long, involved process. Place said hazardous materials, such as asbestos, have added complexity to the job so timelines have had to be adjusted, for safety reasons.

Demolition is expected to start this spring, but the majority of this project likely won’t be completed until mid-2022, Place added.

The boarded up, fenced-off Michener Centre buildings, located between 55th Street and Crossley Street, have been vacant since 2015 when remaining Michener residents were moved to the south site, or into group homes.

The structures are of differing ages and built of different materials. Place noted their deteriorated state is also adding to the longer time frame needed for the project’s completion, since a consultant’s review of the site is needed in preparation for demolition.

Place expects a wider area will be fenced off, in accordance with Occupational Health and Safety guidelines. Advance notice of path closures will also be posted.

While $10.1 million has been set aside in the 2021 City of Red Deer’s capital budget for parkland acquisition, the final price the municipality will pay for the mature, treed parkland and wetlands has not yet been determined, said Lodewyk.

She added negotiations are ongoing, and will depend on the state of the land once remediation is compete. The soil where the buildings stand needs to be cleaned of contaminants before the city officially takes possession of this property for municipal use.

The city is also taking possession of the historic J.J. Gaetz house, which has been sitting vacant for years. While the city plans to preserve the home, future use is yet to be decided

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