Native friendship centre to launch fundraising campaign in ’15

The Red Deer Native Friendship Centre will kick off a capital fundraising campaign next year to raise an estimated $4 million to build a cultural community hub.

The Red Deer Native Friendship Centre will kick off a capital fundraising campaign next year to raise an estimated $4 million to build a cultural community hub.

Tanya Schur, executive director of the friendship centre, said they also plan to ask for help from the City of Red Deer, and the provincial and federal governments.

The planned cultural community centre, to be called Asooahum Centre, will be east of Lions Campground on Riverside Drive.

Schur said the centre would be open to all residents and groups in the city, not just the Aboriginal community.

The Aboriginal community wants a cultural gathering place for all nations to practise Aboriginal culture and to help Aboriginal people succeed.

Schur said the cultural centre would also enrich Red Deer as a tourist destination and will promote Aboriginal cultures including Cree, Blackfoot and Métis.

Schur said the cultural centre may meet the needs of some cultural or arts groups, individuals and business groups in the city.

The centre will be built next to the eight-plexes with 32 affordable housing units. Ground clearing is already underway for the $4.5-million housing project.

Schur said the cultural centre will be like the Golden Circle seniors centre, with programming like the Kerry Wood Nature Centre. Schur said the centre will be an integral part of the new community on Riverside Drive. Residents will be able to book space for everything from a business meeting to an anniversary party.

She said they will apply for heritage and cultural grants at both the provincial and federal levels, in addition to the capital fundraising campaign.

The housing component of the project is well underway.

Crews began servicing the site in November, with plans to finish over the winter. Construction is expected to begin in May.

In early October, volunteers transplanted about 200 trees to another part of the site before the servicing work began. Schur said the society has worked hard to preserve as much of the wooded area as possible. Members of the Community Action Group for the Environment (CAGE), who planted trees on the site about 10 years ago, helped move the trees.

Some of the trees that had to be removed will be used to make furniture for the centre, or to be sold at fundraising auctions. Some may be sold as firewood.

An official ground-breaking ceremony for the housing project is slated for May. Families could move in as early as next December.

Schur said a third party will manage the housing units. The society is looking at the Lethbridge Aboriginal Housing Authority, which manages 79 housing units, as a model.

Schur said the price on the site servicing was much higher than expected and that took money out of the project.

Schur said servicing on the proposed Clearview site cost an estimated at $900,000 compared to the $1.7 million it cost to service the area on Riverside Drive that was eventually chosen.

The city has been working with the society since 2012 to find a location for the housing/cultural development. A site was initially earmarked in Clearview Ridge but it was scrapped after backlash from the community. The Riverside Drive site was selected after a task force looked at 20 sites in the city.

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