Red Deer Native Friendship Society takes possession of land for Asooahum Centre

The Red Deer Native Friendship Society now owns the land where individuals and families will live and breathe aboriginal culture.

The Red Deer Native Friendship Society now owns the land where individuals and families will live and breathe aboriginal culture.

The Asooahum Centre, an affordable housing and cultural centre development, will be built on Riverside Drive, just east of Lion’s Campground.

The city transferred the title and issued a development permit this week.

Tanya Schur, society executive director, said in a release that the Asooahum Centre and cultural housing development is an important part of making a place of belonging for people. She said it will allow people to come home to their cultural identity, and build a strong and proud community that can share the aboriginal culture and traditions with all people in Central Alberta.

The society has settled on a basic design of two apartment-style buildings called eight-plexes and a tower with 16 units. There will be some market housing.

The cultural centre component will take another estimated $5 million to build and a fundraising campaign is underway.

While it has about $4.5 million from the provincial government for the housing units, the society has faced hurtles surrounding its location for nearly two years.

After a proposed site in Clearview met with opposition, the city and the society struck up a joint committee that looked at about 20 sites throughout the city and ultimately settled on the site on Riverside Drive. The location drew criticism about the potential for flooding due to its proximity to the Red Deer River, the appropriateness of having people living in a light industrial area and the loss of trees.

Two Stantec Engineering studies concluded the development area would be above the flood levels from 2005 and the society conducted its own hydrology study to ease the minds of its members.

The cultural centre and housing development will feature a culture site with outdoor space for programs and ceremonial uses, a community garden, office space and interpretive elements. There will be no basements and the trees will be used in the construction.

Mayor Tara Veer said the collaboration between society, the city and the community will result in a facility that will improve public access to this section of the Waskasoo Park system with emphasis on aboriginal culture.

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