Two projects focused on encouraging more people to visit the downtown core are moving forward.
Wood Buffalo council met on Tuesday where they approved creating a park on Franklin Avenue and Main Street and building a year-round event space on the waterfront.
The park would be located on the ‘arena land’ which is currently being used as a parking lot.
Councillor Mike Allen believes this is a good first step to help improve downtown.
“The worst thing we can do is nothing and that’s all that’s happened since all the processes started in consulting for the downtown core.”
The big concern about the park was whether it would take up the entire space. However, it would only cover part of the area with the design phase currently underway.
Mayor Don Scott and Councillors Keith McGrath and Claris Voyageur voted against the project.
Speaking on Fort McMurray Matters, Scott says he doesn’t think this is a good fix for all the money that was spent clearing the land.
“There was, I think, over $45 million spent on the expropriation. I don’t think anybody at the time who did the expropriation would have envisioned that the end result would in part be a park.”
The project is expected to start in 2020 with funds coming directly from the Wood Buffalo Downtown Revitalization Advisory Committee who recommended the park.
As for the year-round event space, council unanimously approved the project.
It would include washroom facilities and power structures which are expected to help encourage more events to be held in the area.
“That’s the heart of downtown, if we can get this right then we won’t have to worry about traffic downtown in the middle of Frankin Avenue but the riverfront, to enjoy nature and mother earth,” said McGrath.
Scott noted the waterfront is the ‘jewel of the community.’ He added this will help increase the traffic in the area while also showing off one of the region’s best areas.
“Other parts of the world really take advantage of their waterfront, we have not done so and we’re just starting to get to that point now where we’re starting to have events down there.”
Funds for the event space are included in the 2020 budget. Construction is also expected to start sometime this year.