Creating Cenotaph Plaza will transform the sunny side of Ross Street on the block that is home to Sunworks. Two years ago the community was invited to imagine together what the downtown could be and suggest possible projects and initiatives that would create community and be perhaps transformational. So many great ideas were heard from those that attended. Ideas found a home in the planning documents that the City now uses to guide their work in transforming and creating a vibrant and cultural-rich atmosphere. These plans will improve economic activity, create safer streets, and re-energize the work that downtown merchants have been working towards for years.
Cenotaph Plaza is one such idea that is becoming reality quickly. It may be the single most important thing to happen in the downtown in years and certainly is the most important enhancement to Ross Street since the installation of the lighting and paving stones 20 years ago. Citizens noticed how the two lanes to the south of the new Executive Place didn’t cause a backlog of traffic moving west along Ross Street in spite of being blocked off at the corner of 49th Avenue. They wondered “what would happen if the City kept these lanes (which is now a staging area for construction) and created a park-like cultural space?” Essentially an unintentional experiment had occurred, and in noticing what was happening an opportunity emerged for consideration.
Over the past 18 months the City has explored the idea thoroughly and agreed on its feasibility and potential. This project is one of the first to be developed and has been approved and funded through City Council. This is a smart investment in the downtown which will result in an increase in property values and hence the tax base for the City. It will increase the number of people on the street by attracting new visitors downtown, which will in turn help businesses to thrive, and create safer streets. It provides a space for cultural and community programming. It will help attract leases to the new Executive Place which will be home to the most attractive city streetscape and the busiest pedestrian street in the city.
The proposed plan incorporates the recently restored Cenotaph in its existing historical and symbolic location. The plan includes suitable lighting, benches, landscaping, and streetscaping all of which are based on the principles of Crime Preventions through Environmental Design (CPTED). The Plaza fits with the City’s Municipal Development Plan and Strategic Plan, and the Greater Downtown Action Plan (GDAP). The GDAP concepts stem from the community visioning efforts done two summers ago which also suggested a plaza that would be a distinct feature in Red Deer’s historic downtown, and help balance the need to slow vehicle traffic and create a safer pedestrian-friendly environment.
Here is the original concept by artist Dave More, as well as the proposed plan. They are yet exploring, mid-street crossings, scattered crossing at either end of the street, passenger drop off and pick up, signage, and other details.
The most exciting part is that in days it will begin. Executive Place took their crane away and is starting to tidy up the construction site. City crews are schedule to begin work on the project in the Spring and have it completed by the end of 2010. Retailers and restaurant owners along this block are very hopeful the street will be the place to visit and enjoy both in the summer and in the winter.
In many ways this project feels like a culmination of the work that store-owners and restaurateurs have been doing along this block for a while. I feel a celebration coming on.
Here’s the story that ran in the Red Deer Advocate this week. Notice the comments at the bottom by anonymous bloggers. Most of the comments are favourable but of course there are those that just don’t understand why this is important at all. What people will say when they are anonymous disappoints me. I’m in favour of people adding their voices to the discussion if you can bear it.