Catholic Social Services request for new site tabled

Project doesn’t fit with Riverlands vision, search on for alternate site

Questioning if a Catholic Social Services redevelopment project for a Riverlands building fits with the area’s vision, Municipal Planning Commission tabled the request in favour of the City lending a hand in finding a more suitable site.

On Monday, Berry Architecture, on behalf of Catholic Social Services, requested a development permit for a Riverlands building located at 5589 – 47 St. near The Quarry condominium.

But the Greater Downtown Action Committee was among those who felt it wouldn’t fit with the future vision for the area which calls for high density residential and a blend of retail and commercial uses.

“Our concern is that if this went in as a temporary use, that it may like so many uses in the downtown, become a permanent use or one where there would be enormous difficulty in finding an alternative site,” said City Manager Craig Curtis on behalf of the Greater Downtown Action Plan Committee.

The Committee also felt Catholic Social Services clients would be better served in the downtown core where zoning wouldn’t be an issue and transit would be more accessible and user-friendly to clients.

“As far as Catholic Social Services are concerned, it would seem to me that the ideal time to find a site to redevelop would be now when properties is lower in value and construction costs are low. That might not be the case a few years down the road when they are leasing this building.”

Ultimately, MPC tabled the issue, opting to have the Committee help Catholic Social Services find a more suitable and permanent location in Red Deer.

In its request, Catholic Social Services was seeking approval to occupy the building for five years. Built in 1997, it consists of warehouse space on the main floor with part of the second floor used as storage and the rest serving as the residence of the building’s owners Lyle and Lisa Beck.

According to Marc Barylo, chief development and community relations officer with Catholic Social Services, the organization is well-aware of the long-term vision for the Riverlands but felt redevelopment of the area is unlikely within the next five years.

He said it’s critical to expand office and training space in support of the City’s vulnerable.

“This office building would be providing services to persons with physical and developmental disabilities,” he said, adding the new site would virtually double the space the agency now has. “In this building, we would also provide support and training services to families willing to support these people.

“To meet the needs of your citizens, our current space isn’t doing it.”

Counseling support would also be provided at the site, he said.

Barylo acknowledged the concerns raised by the City and others in the Riverlands community.

“In four or five years, we would be out of there looking for better space.”

He was concerned that if the right space isn’t found, CSC may have to rebuild on their current site.

The building’s owner, Beck said leasing the space to Catholic Social Services would be a win-win. “We are looking to upgrade the use of our building until such time a market for the additional redevelopment, as the building is currently underused.”

But City Councillor and MPC member Buck Buchanan suggested tabling the request and having the Greater Downtown Action Plan committee assist Catholic Social Services in finding a more suitable, permanent site.

“The only thing that’s going to happen at the end of five years is that you are going to be homeless, and that concerns me immensely,” he said, adding that CSC should consider working with the City to find a solution.

Barylo agreed, adding that the issue couldn’t wait too long as the current site has problems not only with a lack of space but flooding as well. “Some of our training space isn’t usable at all.”

Catholic Social Services will be back before MPC with its request in three week’s time.

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