People want more green space in Riverlands

Gathering spaces missing in redevelopment plan

A lack of green space in the Riverlands redevelopment plan remains an outstanding issue for some Red Deerians.

On Monday city council tabled the proposed Riverlands Area Redevelopment Plan for up to three months to allow administration to meet with property owners about issues of concern identified by about 10 people at Monday’s public hearing.

Gordon Bailey, with West Park Riverlands Association, said residents were pleased the building height at the former EL&P site was reduced to what was originally planned.

But he said the city would ruin the last opportunity to create a really special park-like space if it allows the area closest to West Park to be “chockablock” with five-storey structures.

“We are hoping they would be more innovative and attract restaurants and other things that would be attractive to that setting and still allow people to have some park-like area to relax and enjoy that wonderful section of the river valley that attracts so many people along that bike path,” said Bailey who spoke at the public hearing on Thursday.

Other issues raised at the public hearing included clarifying future uses within commercial areas and adequacy of green space, reviewing the pedestrian link as it pertains to existing businesses, parking availability on the Riverwalk and Alexander Way, and clarifying processes and timing of Riverlands development.

Bailey said proposed Riverlands Area Redevelopment maps give a distorted view of green space because it’s not all usable green space.

Green space closest to West Park is mostly forest with either steep slopes or hills on either side of the walking trail. It’s not a gathering place, he said.

Ribbons of green space elsewhere in the plan are just pathways, and the riverbank is also not usable park space, he added.

“They were showing the green space along the river, but most of it is a 45-degree bank, or more. There’s no way people can take advantage of that green space so you’re ending up with a narrow strip which is just a wider boardwalk that would replace the current bike path,” Bailey said.

Jeff McDonald, owner of Purearth Organics in Riverlands, said over the years the plan for Riverlands has lost a lot of green space and that’s not the way to attract people.

“High density housing is not what’s going to do that,” McDonald said.

He said there are huge benefits to Riverlands redevelopment, but Red Deer doesn’t yet have the population to support high density apartments.

West Park resident Steve Jervis said nearby residents are not opposed to development, but he was concerned the EL&P site could end up with a high-density, low-income housing project.

He was impressed that council listened to residents’ concerns about the building height.

“At the end of the day, you’ve got to be happy. It could have been a lot worse,” Jervis said.

Amendments were passed on Monday to reduce the height for any building developed at the former Electric, Light and Power site from eight storeys to five. Space created by the realignment of Alexander Way would also be available for parking, public amenities, and determining future roadway access for a minimum of 10 years instead of five before options for the space is re-evaluated.

McDonald was glad the space created by the realignment of Alexander Way could provide parking for a longer period of time, and that the space won’t necessarily be home to a building in the future.

Once parking is in place, it might be difficult to take it away, he said.

“I think parking is going to be a big issue here. It’s already becoming an issue. We’re got more and more businesses and it’s just going to get more and more crowded.”

Council will consider the administration’s Riverlands report in the coming months.