Sunday, 22 February 2015

Alexander Way

After reading the Riverlands Area Redevelopment Plan I decided to take a walk down Alexander Way (48th St) starting from Barrett Park. There is so much potential and I am very excited for what is to come over the next 10-15 years!

Barrett park is connected to the rest of Red Deer via our city’s extensive trail system and the redevelopment plan calls for 48th st to network with the trail system here so as to fully integrate the downtown, the riverlands and eventually bower ponds. The vision is to make Alexander Way into a dynamic mixed use, pedestrian corridor. So I curiously started walking from this point and headed west. 

After strolling to the edge of Parkvale I got to the intersection right by the casino where the new spray park was recently constructed. The spray park is a fantastic landmark and makes this area more vibrant and attractive. During the summer months families come in droves to enjoy this amenity. As the downtown redevelops it is important to preserve existing green spaces as they will become increasingly more valuable.

I continued west and walked up to the bus terminal. Right before the terminal there are 2 gravel parking lots behind where the old police station used to be. I wonder who own’s this land and what their plan is? 

I stopped and cast my gaze down the street and noticed the predominance of parking lots on the north side and retail/restaurants on the south side. I would humbly put forth that; as a general design principle going forward, if we have to choose, new parkades should be on the south side and new retail and coffee shops should be on the north side. That way the businesses get sun and the cars get shade; not the other way around. This would be especially appealing to cafes and restaurants who desire sunny street patio space.

When I got to the corner of 50th ave and 48th st I stopped and mindfully looked around. I remembered how little gaetz (50th ave) used to be a 2-way and I couldn't help but remark to myself how much of an improvement it was to this area to redesign it for pedestrian use. Then I looked down Alexander Way and tried to visualize what it would be like if we continued this single lane, angled parking, pedestrian focused design all the way east to 47th Ave and west to the Riverlands. This design would increase the amount of on street parking and make the entire area more attractive. Maybe it is a good idea? What would the ‘unforeseen’ consequences be?


I ended my walk at the fountain on 52nd ave. and peered across to Carnival Cinemas. Soon there will be a pedestrian friendly intersection crossing Taylor Drive and people will be able to continue walking into the Riverlands and that is going to be when all the really exciting stuff starts to happen!

A Performing Arts venue was, according to the Community Amenities Study, the 4th most desired amenity by our citizens and the redevelopment plan indicates a potential site for this cultural landmark in the Riverlands. Such a development would be a commercial anchor for the entire area. 

The return on investment from a cultural landmark like a performing arts venue would be measured by the INCREASED PROPERTY VALUE of its SUPPORTING TAX BASE and in the QUALITY OF LIFE afforded to our citizens.

I have backpacked around South America and there is one urban element that almost every South American city has but very few North American cities have; namely a town square or an agora space. An agora space is an informal, unstructured public space where people can gather to interact, relax, converse and grow as a community. It’s a space where street artists perform, preachers preach, protesters protest and politicians … politicalize… Its a space which belongs to everyone young and old alike. 

The closest thing Red Deer has to a town square is perhaps the Ross Patio or maybe city hall park. I am excited that there is a plan for such a space in the Riverlands. It is encouraging to know that Riverlands are being designed to be a vibrant, socially sustainable space.

In the future the pedestrian bridge to bower ponds from the Riverlands will be the crowning achievement of Alexander Way. Once we reach that tipping point THE DOWNTOWN WILL REALLY FLOURISH! 

The steps our city is taking to invest in quality of life will spur growth and will increase the city’s tax base thus enabling more investment potential. This well known concept is called the virtuous cycle and has been proven to work by many cities around the world. This is the direction that Red Deer is heading and this is the Alexander Way.

Cheers,

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Sunday, 15 February 2015

Red Deer Is A Great Place To Live

Hey everyone,

I recently wrote a letter to the editor of the Red Deer Advocate. Below is a copy of the letter:

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I would like to thank the visionary leaders of our city who made Red Deer such a wonderful place to live. Looking back there have been many pivotal moments in the history of our city and thanks to the continued foresight of so many passionate citizens, we continue to see successes built upon successes. 

View A Short Video About Kerry Wood
Courtesy of WaskasooPark.ca
The preservation of the Gaetz Lake Sanctuary is one of those successes. That we have such a pristine site right in the middle of our city is truly a testament to the strong sense of environmental stewardship we Red Deerians have! It took the visionary leadership of many citizens to set aside this land to be preserved. When our city was just starting to grow there was an abundance of pristine nature all around us. But the value of the Gaetz Lakes were understood and the vision of environmental sustainability was carried forward for future generations. 

It's hard to imagine that the train once came through what is now Taylor Drive and that the downtown station at the end of Ross was once the central hub of our city, complete with grain elevators! The railroad that once connected our city to the rest of Canada and drove our economic engine is now a celebrated memory.


When the railroad was routed around our city the bridge which had stood the test of time for many decades was actually slated for demolition! It was thanks to visionary leadership that the bridge was preserved and revitalized into a heritage landmark and is now a vital integration of our celebrated trail system. People in our city love the trails and want to see this asset continue to expand as our city grows. In fact the entire Waskasoo Park system is a treasure; thanks to so many devoted people who make it happen.


Now, it is easy to take for granted that the Red Deer river is so pristine, but it is so by design. The Red Deer river watershed is a strategic resource and through many initiatives it is being sustained. One such initiative is the vision of a regional wastewater treatment system which ensures a world class standard of wastewater management. Sewage from regional communities is diverted to Red Deer's central facility and treated thus enhancing the sustainability of our watershed. It's a solution that has been years in the making and is just now coming to fruition.  


Looking forward to the development of the Riverlands, how many cities get the chance to fully redevelop 1/3 of their downtown from scratch? What an amazing opportunity we have! Thanks to many people who worked on the vision of our city's downtown, the civic yards were moved to their new site and upgraded to their precedent setting environmental standards. Future development in our city will be held in contrast to those distinguished standards. Now the entire area across the river from Bower Ponds has been opened up for the future! The Riverlands will be a great source of pride for our city thanks to the vision of many community leaders.


If you get a chance, look at the satellite view of Red Deer on Google Maps; you will see the right of way for the North Highway Connector from 30th Ave to highway 11A. The plan to further connect North and South has been in the works for decades and we will see it unfold in the next few years. The bridge we will build across the river is truly a bridge to the future.


This note comes with a mention of caution. As our city grows and matures we should look to and learn from the successes of our past and of from the successes of other cities. What has worked well elsewhere in Alberta? What has worked well elsewhere in the world? How did other cities adapt and grow over time and how can we learn from them and emulate their best ideas? 

Looking to the future, what is in store for our city? Will the paradigms of the past continue to serve us? How will progressive trends in vehicle technology change our mobility? How will advancing trends in renewables change how we get our energy? What will the effects of climate change be and how will we adapt? How will we stay competitive in an increasingly more volatile global economy? How will we continue to realize our shared value of social justice and continue to make our city safer and more homeFULL?


I commend the leaders in our community who continue to build upon the successes of the past and who are rising up to current challenges with bold new ideas and creative solutions. I am very optimistic for the future of Red Deer. I have confidence that Red Deerians will continue to demonstrate visionary leadership. Surely, great things will continue to happen here.


Jonathan Wieler (@Wieler4RD) - Red Deer


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Sunday, 1 February 2015

It's All About Community!

“What we want, what we do and what makes us feel good are rarely the same choice.” Happy City - Charles Montgomery


Hey everyone,

As I write this I am sitting in a delightful coffee shop that is a short walk from my house and I had the pleasure of bumping into one of my highschool teachers. He even remembered my name and said that he voted for me when I ran for Red Deer city council! We ended up sitting together and enjoying a great conversation over our coffees!


Now the topic I wanted to write about today is my experience volunteering at the Red Deer Rebels hockey game and selling raffle tickets to raise funds for Volunteer Central. But the chance encounter that I had with my former teacher has me thinking about a concept of which I am most passionate about, namely, walkability and human scale urban designs.


It was so awesome to run into someone I haven't seen for years and to share a coffee with him! After all, that is what the city is for! The built environment we live in directly affects the quality of life that we are able to enjoy. My close proximity to this coffee shop statistically increases the amount of chance encounters I will have and therefore connects me to my community more!


I will still talk about my experience volunteering at the game but now upon reflection I can see how all of this ties together. It's all about community. It's all about relationships.


I'm always looking for more ways to get involved in the community and I have found that volunteering is one of the best ways to do that. Now I fully admit that I do it because it makes me feel good. There are things that I want and there are things that I do but it takes a mindful choice to line those things up with what actually makes me feel good. Choosing to volunteer is such a mindful choice and I am filled with gratitude to have the opportunity to serve Volunteer Central as a board member and as a volunteer.


The most recent thing I was involved in was selling raffle tickets to raise money for Volunteer Central. We sold tickets to win a Rebels Suite donated to us by the United Way! It was a great event and lots of fun, and I got to go to my first ever Rebels game for free. Yes, its true, I have lived in Red Deer for 20 years and that was my very first Rebels game. But I digress.


At the hockey game I ran into many respected community leaders; whom striving politicians like myself LOVE to meet. It was really tempting to single them out of the crowd and treat them with elevated reverence. But I was very much aware how important it is to treat all people equally. It is all about the person right in front of me.

While selling tickets in a crowded corridor with hundreds of people walking past it was very easy to become distracted and miss the person right in front of me. But I mindfully focused my attention, as best I could, solely on the person I was engaging with; even if it was for a mere second, because for that moment they were the most important person.


The relationships that we build with people infuse our lives with energy. Being at this coffee shop and volunteering at the hockey game both connect me to other people and it feels GREAT! My proximity to this coffee shop removes barriers that would otherwise hinder my ability to connect with the community. The relationships I am forming give my life purpose and vitality!


So with all that said I will leave you with this. If you see a need act on it immediately and try to fill that need. It will make you feel good. Just do as our previous mayor, Morris Flewwelling says; “get on your horse and just do it!”

Now, you may ask, how do you choose which need to fill? Let your heart and let your eyes tell you and remember that everything is connected to everything else. Also remember that infinite change starts with an infinitesimal step!

Keep in mind that we humans are tribal. Thank those who help you! Lastly, never underestimate the power of a handwritten note. It is great to send emails, or make phone calls but there is something about a handwritten note that shines forth gratitude! 

Be grateful, say thank you!

Thank you,

Cheers,

“We are pulled and pulled according to the systems in which we find ourselves and certain geometries ensure that none of us are as free as we might think.” - Happy City, Charles Montgomery


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