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.


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