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Public input on uses for former downtown Red Deer hotel site to be sought: city official

New development on this property may not come for some years
Red Deerians will have input on short-term uses for the site of the former Buffalo Hotel and Club Cafe, says a city official. The long-term goal is to have new development at this “gateway to the downtown.” (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Red Deerians will help decide short-term uses for the mid-downtown space that was opened up by the demolition of the Buffalo Hotel and Club Cafe, says a city official.

Whether discussions about the vacant half-block at Ross Street and 51st Avenue take place at a public town-hall-style meeting, or through an online survey has not yet been decided, said Wade Martens, land co-ordinator for the city.

“The public will have a say…we are working (on the means) with our communications department,” he added.

While suggestions of a temporary park or market space, or skating rink were brought up at a past city council meeting, Martens said “nothing concrete” has yet been decided.

But he added Red Deerians will not have to put up with just a plain gravel parking lot on this property for years to come.

“We will have to do some visioning with stakeholders,” he added, including the Downtown Business Association. “There are different ways to activate that space… Our Downtown Activation Playbook will help facilitate activities…”

As for a longer-term use for the site, Martens said it will be developed in a way that complements the rest of the downtown block. “It will fit in and have the right look and feel.”

The historic hotel and cafe were brought to be pulled down by the city to open up that important corner for the right kind of commercial, retail, office or residential development, said Martens.

But what kind of development springs up at this key corner, across from the historic train station, will be up to future city councils, as well as the public to ultimately decide.

Mayor Ken Johnston previously described having a new downtown attraction and gathering place in this spot. He was excited about the redevelopment potential to this “gateway to the downtown.”

Neither the 40-suite Buffalo Hotel nor the Club Cafe buildings had protected heritage status even though both had a long history in Red Deer’s downtown. Parts of the old hotel went back to 1903, with an Art Deco addition from the 1939. The Club Cafe also went back to the 1920s-’30s.

In December, city council was unanimous in buying the properties for the sake of demolition after hearing they were in a bad state of repair. Council heard that once the Buffalo and Club Cafe buildings are demolished, their sites could be combined with existing city-owned Arlington Hotel land at 5022 49 Street to offer a prime downtown space for redevelopment.

Martens then stated, “We know we will be able to do more for our downtown and our community, by repurposing this prime area of our downtown”.