A grassroots public committee looking into the idea of a year round public market for Red Deer has formally agreed to move forward to seriously explore the feasibility of opening the venue in the Riverlands – possibly as early as this fall.
On Thursday, 20 Red Deerians gathered at the Scott Block to discuss the feasibility of creating the venue at the old bus barns site, which has been vacant since early 2009 when the City’s public works department moved to its new quarters east of Three Mile Bend.
And while costs and budgets for the project were not even discussed there was considerable enthusiasm among participants to move forward and partner with the City to make the initiative a reality.
“I think this number of people really validates what we have already heard in the community, that we want a year round market, and that people really want to gather in formal settings like this,” said downtown businessman Paul Harris, one of the key organizers of Thursday’s public forum. “I absolutely feel it is time to start moving on this and I think a community based group does a much better job at moving things along in a quicker way. If we can partner with the City over this building, or some other way, then we will be able to really get things going. I would love to be in there this fall.”
And while many challenges were brought forward during the meeting, and no solutions put on the table, participants left with a feeling of optimism that the year round public market idea is finally picking up momentum.
“I feel really happy this is on the table. Certainly there have been lots of conversations over time in a variety of groups to talk about this. The greater downtown action committee has been talking about it. It is in the Riverlands plan,” said Janice Wing, CEO of the Red Deer & District Community Foundation, who volunteered to be part of the new core committee to move along the initiative.
“It is just a matter now of deciding who is going to take some leadership and get things moving. But really and truly coming from a grassroots level we can move things along a bit quicker.”
During the forum, which lasted well over an hour, participants – which included representatives from the arts community, business people, a realtor, a school teacher and even vendors from other public markets – agreed the concept would require considerable research and study, particularly on how year-round public markets have done in other municipalities, notably in Calgary, Edmonton and even as far away as Kitchener, Ont. and Saskatoon.
Harris told participants the bus barns venue would be large enough (about 35,000 sq.-ft) for a year round public market but it is not properly insulated for winter weather. They also heard there might be environmental issues arising from past public works contamination under the facility’s concrete flooring.
However, Harris also said the City is now undertaking an environmental assessment of the site, and that the issues facing it may not be insurmountable.
‘These are the challenges and as entrepreneurs and creative thinkers there are lots of solutions out there,” said Harris after the meeting, adding that a Riverlands site would also open up many opportunities for the arts community. “That first master plan for the area in 2003 talked about moving the bus barn and moving all the City yards out and turning it into an arts district. Even then a public market was talked about.”
Harris said the group’s core committee will meet over the next couple of weeks, and then proceed with its next steps, which will be put forward to the entire group membership.