December 4, 2023

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Council has authorized the municipality’s newest plan to breathe financial life into downtown Fort McMurray. The downtown Space Redevelopment Plan (ARP) prioritizes the economic system, security, transit, parks and aesthetics of downtown.

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Audio system praised the plan at Tuesday’s council assembly. They usually known as it “real looking,” “versatile” and “centered.” The plan is far narrower in scope than the Metropolis Centre Space Redevelopment Plan (CCARP) that council handed in 2012. The plan hinged on the creation of an enviornment to spark funding in downtown. The sector was cancelled in 2015 and the positioning is now Kiyam Neighborhood Park.

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Councillors authorized the plan unanimously, though Councillor Lance Bussieres had considerations about parking maintaining with improvement and plans for aesthetic requirements in new buildings. Councillor Loretta Waquan was absent for the vote.

Bussieres additionally had considerations about security after the subject was talked about by Dianne de Souza of the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce. de Souza and her membership are pushing the municipality for a enterprise watch program. Mayor Sandy Bowman is supportive of the concept.

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This yr’s municipal price range consists of funding for six new Mounties and 4 new peace officers, filling these positions has been sluggish.

Council was advised the RCMP faces a nationwide recruiting scarcity and fewer cadets are graduating as officers yearly. Hiring peace officers in Alberta could be a sluggish, bureaucratic course of.

Council was additionally advised that the municipality and housing teams are discovering housing for folks in encampments scattered all through the area. An encampment on Manning Avenue was cleared in August after housing was discovered for its residents.

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The Pomeroy Lodge is seen in downtown Fort McMurray, Thursday April 4, 2019. Photograph by David Bloom Photograph by David_Bloom David Bloom /David Bloom/Postmedia

Delegates excitedly assist ARP

The remainder of the delegates at Tuesday’s assembly have been excited concerning the plan as they supplied their very own suggestions.

Sharon Heading of Arts Council Wooden Buffalo hopes the plan will assist the humanities neighborhood. The plan prioritizes making downtown a hubs for arts and occasions. ACWB is popping the previous Landmark Cinemas right into a centre for artwork, music, theatre and creativity.

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Bryce Kumka of the Wooden Buffalo Improvement Advisory Committee praised the RMWB’s Downtown Revitalization Incentives Program (DRIP) and known as the plan a pure development for downtown. He objected to changing angled parking, although.

Kevin Weidlich of Fort McMurray Wooden Buffalo Financial Improvement and Tourism (FMWBEDT) mentioned he’s assured the plan will encourage builders. He additionally felt the plan has no limitations to new improvement.

“We’ve got one thing to level to, to promote and to debate with the builders,” mentioned Weidlich. “By seeing this, they see a sign from the neighborhood that the neighborhood is able to do enterprise with them.”

Downtown resident Cullen Hen inspired council to prioritize inexperienced areas, and improved walkability on sidewalks and trails. He described downtown as “a dusty frying pan in the summertime and a windy tundra within the winter” when speaking concerning the quantity of concrete within the space.

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“I believe the explanation why folks resent in search of a parking area a lot downtown is as a result of it sucks to stroll a lot downtown,” mentioned Hen.

Resident William Whiston praised the plan’s acknowledgement that Fort McMurray is a “winter metropolis” and should meet these challenges. He shared Hen’s ideas on walkability and known as for improved public transit and accessibility. Whiston additionally challenged council to spend extra time strolling in downtown to be taught what’s nice concerning the neighborhood and what must be improved.

“You’ll curse below your breath on the lack of the nice infrastructure and I’m certain you’ll put some nice coverage into place. Give this factor the budgetary energy it wants,” he mentioned.

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A commuter walks between buses on the Foremost Terminal in downtown Fort McMurray, Alta. on Tuesday February 17, 2015. Vince Mcdermott/Fort McMurray Immediately/QMI Company

What’s within the Space Redevelopment Plan for downtown?

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Wider sidewalks, improved transit and bike lanes

Bike lanes could possibly be launched in a pilot program on choose downtown streets. Efu mentioned they won’t be on high-traffic routes comparable to Franklin Avenue.

The plan additionally requires wider sidewalks; extra bushes alongside streets and sidewalks; and indicators connecting folks between completely different paths, sidewalks and trails. Angled parking must be changed with parallel parking, and multi-level and underground parking must be constructed. Upgrading the present bus terminal and making a second terminal can also be proposed.

ARP argues downtown is centred round autos. Most industrial and retail developments on Franklin Avenue are behind parking as an alternative of nearer to the road. Public transit in and to downtown is missing.

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Suggestions discovered strolling round downtown can also be not an fulfilling expertise. Many trails, paths and sidewalks in downtown don’t join to one another. There are few facilities comparable to benches or sheltered seating areas.

Security a precedence

Suggestions discovered many individuals don’t really feel protected downtown. Plans from builders don’t oversee the priorities of police or social staff, however ARP argues design performs a job in security.

Improved lighting each inside and outside buildings can promote a protected night-time atmosphere. Personal land and constructing house owners can be inspired to incorporate ornamental lighting in constructing upgrades.

Extra home windows and clear constructing supplies promote pure surveillance. Encouraging industrial, residential and mixed-use developments to have primary doorways and home windows in the direction of the road improves security and makes the world enticing.

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The plan requires adopting Crime Prevention by way of Environmental Design (CPTED) insurance policies to vary this notion. This consists of utilizing landscaping—comparable to fencing, shrubbery, and modifications in texture and design—to convey a way of possession.

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Two youth hockey groups play for gold on the Shootout on the Snye hockey match at WinterPLAY 2020 on Sunday, March 1, 2020. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Immediately/Postmedia Community

Promote historical past, heritage and occasions

One of many many challenges in getting folks to go to downtown is a scarcity of occasions. ARP requires utilizing current amenities for festivals, ceremonies and different neighborhood occasions to advertise native heritage. Supporting the humanities can encourage a vibrant cultural scene to develop.

Including artwork into trails and in public areas, working with Indigenous communities and frequently reviewing historic websites can promote native historical past.

There are few park areas downtown. The plan argues the parks that do exist have challenges with security, accessibility and year-round entry. The plan requires increasing the path community, turning vacant areas into parks, planting extra bushes, and selling Kiyam Neighborhood Park and Jubilee Plaza.

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Modernized requirements for buildings

ARP requires larger requirements for structure and concrete design in main new buildings. The world surrounding the deliberate Arts Incubator on Manning Avenue ought to have public facilities. The plan additionally helps increasing Peter Pond Mall, growing vacant heaps for mixed-use tasks, and growing retail and industrial insurance policies for close by residential areas.

How one can appeal to companies into downtown are lined by different plans, such because the Downtown Revitalization Incentives Program (DRIP). Outreach from teams like Fort McMurray Wooden Buffalo Financial Improvement and Tourism (FMWBEDT) or the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce may also be key.

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Downtown Fort McMurray, Tuesday April 2, 2019. Photograph by David Bloom

Downtown poorly maintained, however has untapped potential

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The report sees right this moment’s downtown as lagging behind the remainder of Fort McMurray. Individuals advised the municipality throughout suggestions classes that downtown lacks requirements on cleanliness, beautification, character and vibrancy. It is “visually unappealing” and doesn’t really feel protected. Downtown’s facilities are poorly maintained, folks argued, and “doesn’t mirror satisfaction of possession.”

“The downtown can maybe be greatest described as a collection of business areas, interspersed with residential neighbourhoods, a medical hub and the Keyano School Clearwater Campus,” the report notes. The plan notes:

  • The 2021 municipal census places downtown’s inhabitants at 10,638 folks. Downtown has persistently hovered round 10,000 folks for the reason that Eighties whereas the remainder of Fort McMurray has shifted.
  • Roughly 51 per cent of individuals downtown are between 35 and 64. Kids are 23.8 per cent of downtown in comparison with 28.3 per cent in the remainder of Fort McMurray.
  • Downtown has twice as many low-income households in comparison with the remainder of Fort McMurray. The report discovered 8.3 per cent of individuals make between $40,000 and $59,000 yearly in comparison with 3.5 per cent in the remainder of Fort McMurray.
  • About 32 per cent of downtown residents work in retail, meals and lodging, waste administration and remediation, or administrative work. The oilsands employs 19.7 per cent of downtown residents in comparison with 30.1 per cent in the remainder of Fort McMurray.
  • The report argues Fort McMurray might probably assist three to 4 main mixed-use tasks and downtown can play a job. Most downtown companies deal with retail, however newer developments are opening elsewhere. Additionally it is estimated folks spent $706 million yearly by way of on-line buying or by buying outdoors Fort McMurray.
  • As of Might 2022, 19 per cent of downtown’s workplace area (117, 502 sq. ft) was vacant. Downtown has 621,047 sq. ft of workplace area.

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