The dream of having a new public gathering place that links Red Deer’s downtown with riverside park trails is soon to be realized.
Ground was broken Friday on a new pedestrian square, named Canada 150 Square/Place Canada 150.
It will be central to the neighbourhood known as Capstone at Riverlands and a gathering spot for all Red Deerians when it opens late in 2018 or early in 2019.
Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer called the planned paving stoned square an “anchor that brings our citizens together” — particularly as Red Deer grows beyond 100,000 people.
The project that commemorating an important birthday for Canada, is also a major milestone for Red Deer, she said. Veer believes this first public amenity project at Capstone, celebrated community pride and “a realization of the longstanding vision for Riverlands.”
The ground breaking marked the first of many changes yet to come within this central neighbourhood.
City manager Craig Curtis said the 4,000-square metre pedestrian area is being envisioned as opening onto the riverbank on one side, and surrounded on its other three sides with commercial and restaurant developments — as well as upstairs residential apartments and condos.
Future festivals, concerts and sporting activities will be held in the square. Curtis can also imagine outdoor patios and a hotel going up next door.
Canada 150 Square is being planned as an extension of the Waskasoo Park system and Canada Trail and part of a continuous pedestrian link to the downtown. It will be “a versatile, innovative and, accessible space where citizens can gather, relax and connect,” he added.
While neighbourhood redevelopment will be a long-term transformation, the square’s construction will start next spring. It’s part of the overall budget for Riverlands, which will ultimately be recovered through land sales and taxes.
Red Deer city councillors lined up to dig a ceremonial spade in the dirt, as Red Deer-Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins, Red Deer-Mountain View MP Earl Dreeshen, and Red Deer North MLA Kim Schreiner watched.
Coun. Paul Harris, who first envisioned such a square for Riverlands 20 years ago, said Friday’s ceremony was an emotional moment for him and all city council.