Historic Downtown remains 'the starting point'
Historic Downtown Red Deer is defined by the originally surveyed railway town site of the early 1900s. It is a gridded layout of streets, lanes, and sidewalks lined with street-fronted commercial properties.
The wide axis of Ross Street, visually anchored by the historic train station to the west, was designed not only for the day-to-day commercial life of the new frontier town, but also to hold markets, civic celebrations and parades. Gaetz Ave. was part of the Calgary-Edmonton Trail, an important commercial stop on the main north-south provincial artery.
The city’s early population lived around the commercial / civic core in neighbourhoods such as Parkvale, Waskasoo, and Lower Fairview. Today these older neighbourhoods provide unique residential character to Red Deer.
For the last 50 years, the automobile has created a new urban design pattern for Red Deer, as suburbs, malls, and now retail ‘power centres’ have transformed the living patterns of the city. Through years of challenge however, Downtown Red Deer continues to reinvent itself and thrive. It remains the heart of the City – offering acceptance, culture, history, civic awareness, work, and home to a growing diverse population.
The future of Historic Downtown is strong
Red Deer's downtown core - its 'Historic Downtown' - continues to be the focal point for our growing community. The Greater Downtown Action Plan includes provision for a number of improvements to the city centre, including a new Civic Plaza, upgraded retail laneways, redeveloped City of Red Deer properties, and more pedestrian / cyclist friendly streets.
The new City of Red Deer parking garage, now under construction above the Red Deer Transit terminal, will encourage more shoppers and visitors to stop downtown, park once, and explore on foot. A new Cenotaph Park is proposed for the existing Cenotaph monument in Ross St. The mini park would replace the driving lanes on the north side of the Cenotaph with an attractive area for sitting and visiting, in front of the new Executive Place office tower (currently under construction).
The downtown plan also recommends the creation of a larger outdoor civic event space - a Civic Plaza, to be located just west of City Hall. Those plans are being integrated with plans for expansion of City Hall with an annex tower on the site of the current RCMP building. The goal is to create vibrant outdoor spaces that attract people and events to our city centre.
In additon to the changes planned in the Historic Downtown are important new links to the redeveloping Riverlands and Railyards areas - and the river itself. In the future, we will be able to walk easily from the riverfront, through the redeveloped high density residential areas, to the downtown core. Alexander Way (48 St.) is a key route in the plan - including a proposed level street crossing at Taylor Drive. That new connection would ensure that the current downtown is connected to the vibrant new special events zone (including a hotel / convention centre) in Riverlands.
The plan calls for keeping the majority of retail and office spaces in the downtown core. However, the redeveloped areas along the river will be 'mixed use' areas with an array of services that are required to make them attractive residential areas.
The intersection of Ross St. and Gaetz Ave. is proposed as a feature meeting point - perhaps including an archway or other prominent structure to signal its historic role as the city's original intersection.