Downtown Red Deer is expected to drastically transform in 2023 — whether for better or worse, depends on your perspective.
Red Deer city council recently purchased the Buffalo Hotel and Club Cafe with the intent of demolishing both buildings built in the first few decades of the last century.
The hotel from 1903, with a 1939 addition, was recently used for transitional housing and then vacated. It has since been vandalized by people who broke in.
The art deco-style structure at the corner of Ross Street and Gaetz Avenue South was deemed by city council to be beyond repair. It’s considered by members of the public as either an eyesore that deserves to be removed, or a building worth preserving and transforming.
The hotel and Club Cafe from the 1920s next door take up half a city block.
When these buildings are demolished in the spring, the remaining empty space will make a big difference to the look of south Ross Street — especially when these new vacant lots adjoin another empty lot directly south, which was cleared of the former Arlington hotel in 2009.
Red Deer city council hopes getting rid of “derelict” buildings in this “gateway” location will create a positive difference to the downtown, hopefully attracting a developer to invest and create a new space that will draw more people to the city’s core.
Many citizens wonder whether this idea will take off — or whether they will be looking at an empty space in the heart of the downtown (perhaps converted into a park or vendor area) for many years to come.
Some people have commented on social media that plenty of undeveloped lots already exist in Capstone, which is nearer to the Red Deer River. So far, there’s been little action seen on building commercial/residential projects on these lots.
While social problems, both real and perceived, continued to deter some local people from the downtown, hundreds of Red Deerians enjoyed the Ross Street Patio, which hosted multiple musical events throughout the spring, summer and fall of 2022.
Restaurants benefitted from open mic nights and scheduled entertainment, as well as the Wednesday evening farmer’s Market. And the Downtown Business Association declared the new Entertainment District, in which patrons are allowed to walk around with alcoholic beverages, a great success.
The DBA announced ambitious plans to host 250 special events, including farmers markets, concerts and theme days in 2023.
So far, the future for Red Deer’s homeless population remains up-in-the-air. Red Deer city council put two options on the table as to where the permanent homeless shelter could be located. The provincial government took the first choice off the table last fall.
Mayor Ken Johnston said this month that he’s confident the province is onboard with the city’s second choice site, which can’t be made public until provincial approval is obtained. Negotiations are underway with the private property owner and Johnston has no timeline for when an announcement will be made.
Meanwhile, the temporary shelter run by the Safe Harbour Society, continues to operate behind Superstore at the former Cannery Row Bingo space.