When you propose a project as large and important as redefining the culture of an entire city, you can be sure some people will be opposed — either out of principle or because they might be negatively affected personally. It is impossible to make everyone happy.
But it is possible to make sure everyone is heard. And believe it or not, sometimes naysayers actually have a point.
Of the comments sent to the City of Red Deer by people affected regarding the Riverlands Area Redevelopment Plan, nobody is saying the plan is a bad idea.
Quite the opposite; feedback trends more to excitement and anticipation.
But concerns, some of which were raised by Councillor Chris Stephan at Tuesday’s city council meeting, do need to be addressed.
Specifically, what can we do for businesses for whom access is going to get more complicated?
In the public feedback process, one recurring theme is concern for the safety of families using the water park at 48th Street and 52nd Avenue. Fencing the area off from street traffic, which was one suggestion, will inhibit pedestrian access.
With traffic slated to increase on the 48th Street link to Taylor Drive, parking nearby will also become a problem. Something for the experts to look at.
Another concern arose over traffic noise along Taylor Drive, with the addition of more lights and longer cycles for pedestrian crossings of the six-lane artery. Stop-and-go traffic on a major artery is noisy and dangerous. We already have condos overlooking Taylor Drive downtown and one would not envy people living near to six lanes of stop-and-go traffic.
Suggestions included having elevated (or even underground) pedestrian crossings, to give people access to (among other attractions) the city’s only movie house.
If we can build a bridge across the river for pedestrians to get to Bower Ponds, a bridge over Taylor should not be impossible.
It would allow Taylor Drive to do what it was designed for: getting people from the north industrial area to the south, and linking the areas in between.
Stephan’s concern for access to the Railyards area east of Taylor Bridge and behind the Superstore shopping zone caused him to vote against first reading of the proposal on Tuesday.
The plan for the Railyards (a contest is under way to have the area and its redevelopment re-named) is for high-density housing. (Riverlands will be a medium-density development.)
But access into and out of this area does not appear be as smooth as for Riverlands. Not good in a high-density residential development. To that problem, we will add access to Taylor Drive from the area called North Downtown.
North Downtown holds a lot of apartment buildings and the closing of 55th Street for a condo/shopping mall project being built at Gaetz Avenue has already affected access for people in North Downtown.
No big deal? Think about Red Deer College.
The city is adding a whole lot of new housing with its Greater Downtown plan. Presumably, some of it will be available to college students. But will they be able to afford these new spaces in a swanky new development?
If not, traffic planning should make it easy for students to get from existing apartments to the college. This plan does not appear to do that — and that is not good for the city as a whole.
Really, getting to Red Deer College from North Downtown, and even from Woodlea, is a bit of a pain right now. Expect no help with the plan unveiled on Tuesday.
There will be tweaks and changes to the plan presented on Tuesday, but the overall goal is too attractive to let it get bogged down.
We built Taylor Drive to keep flow-through traffic out of downtown and to relieve pressure on Gaetz and 49th Avenues. We don’t want to build a pedestrian-friendly city centre and then force traffic back through it by building restrictions onto Taylor.
Greg Neiman is an Advocate editor.