A plan to re-purpose Central Elementary School and develop the Canada Games Celebration Plaza to the west of the school was approved in principle by City council during Monday’s meeting.
This plan comes from a partnership between the City, the 2019 Canada Winter Games Host Society and Red Deer Public School District.
Council unanimously approved the plan.
Councillors Dianne Wyntjes and Buck Buchanan were absent.
“This is one of those true partnerships between three parties,” said City Manager Craig Curtis. “Firstly, on the economic side, it’s obviously a catalyst for revitalization in terms of our Greater Downtown Action Plan,” he said.
“Secondly, from a cultural perspective, it’s not only protecting and preserving an important heritage building, but it is also the opportunity to bring the cultural services section back into the downtown where it truly belongs.
“It’s also important to note that we’ve had success with two other heritage buildings – the Old Court House which has been repurposed in the private sector and also the old firehall which has become the part of our library complex.”
City council agreed to purchase Central Elementary School and the lands west of the school from Red Deer Public School District for $1 to have this vision come to fruition.
Council also will consider approving $7.5 million to upgrade Central Elementary School during the 2017 Capital Budget deliberations which were set for Nov. 22nd and Nov. 23rd.
“This is an opportunity to save an important part of our heritage.”
It is intended the building will be used as the 2019 Canada Winter Games headquarters up to and during the Games.
After the Games wrap up, the building will be used for broader community use, including relocating Culture Services to the downtown with future operational partners.
“This is an innovative and sustainable solution that will meet our operational needs and provide our community with a central, downtown place to gather and celebrate excellence during the 2019 Games,” said Lyn Radford, board chair of the 2019 Canada Winter Games. She added there had been other sites looked at around the City, but everything kept coming back to the current site at the Central School building.
“The Canada Games movement creates unity through sport, which not only results in infrastructure and sport legacies but also creates cultural legacies. Long-term, this partnership will leave a lasting legacy in Red Deer’s downtown for the community to enjoy.”
Central Elementary School (also known as Gateway Christian School) was constructed in 1939 and is one of Red Deer’s most significant historical sites. The building was closed as a school in 2013 and currently houses tenants leasing office space.
“We share a common vision with the City of Red Deer and the Canada Winter Games. Now we get to return the favour by turning over our valued and loved Central Elementary School which will become an exciting and vibrant part of downtown Red Deer providing a long lasting legacy to celebrate sports, arts and culture in Red Deer,” said Bev Manning, board chair with Red Deer Public Schools.
While there were concerns raised about issues like parking in the vicinity, council as a whole decided to move ahead and offer their support to the development.
Councillor Lawrence Lee said the partnership contributes to a, “Larger vision of a healthy, vibrant City arts-wise, culturally and as a community gathering space.” Councillor Paul Harris added that, “We win on all sides of the equation with this. We don’t this opportunity very often.”
Councillor Lynne Mulder agreed. “I think this is a terrific partnership – so good on so many fronts.”