Thursday, 20 July 2017 07:00

High River is working its way to becoming better than ever with its Area Redevelopment Plan

Written by  Demi Knight
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The newly-renovated downtown area in the community of High River. The newly-renovated downtown area in the community of High River. Photo courtesy Town of High River

With the Alberta floods behind them, the Town of High River is taking the devastation the event left in its wake as an opportunity to build the downtown area into a place of wonderment.

With a new Downtown Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP) in the makings, Town officials are hoping to revitalize, protect and upgrade the existing core of the community.
Not only is this plan set to shake up the way High River is viewed as a town by surrounding communities, but it was also recently recognized for its planning excellence by the building resilience conference in Calgary.
Craig Snodgrass, Mayor of High River, says the magnitude of the changes being made to High River are extreme and that it’s always a positive for others to recognize these efforts.
“With a project of this magnitude with all the aggressive changes that we had to do and infrastructure repairs, and all the streets that had to be torn up, we wanted to take the opportunity to change the way we do business and the way our town is received,” he says. “We’ve had phenomenal success so far, and it’s probably one of the most aggressive and innovative changes a town is undergoing throughout Canada, so it’s always nice to be recognized.”
Khalid Mohammed, the town’s manager of planning and development services, accepted the award for planning excellence within the small town/rural category for the ARP at the building resilience conference held June 19.
Since the floods in 2013 brought devastation and destruction to many throughout the town, High River leaders have worked endlessly to create a ‘build it back better’ mentality, which will provide the community with more innovative improvements.
However, most importantly to all those that were affected, both personally and financially by the floods, the Town has made fast moves to invest more than $100 million to address and improve the flood risks that once damaged them so badly.
“Most of the flood mitigation is already done. We have 8.5 kms of dikes that protect us to the 2013 flood levels plus extra metres of protection. These changes made our town the most protected in Canada against flood risks and quite possibly the whole of North America,” says Snodgrass of the new plan implemented to keep the town safe from another flooding devastation.
Besides being the best-protected town in Canada against another waterflow disaster, officials are also taking this chance to rebuild and revitalize the area, making it even better than it was before. Some of these plans include incorporating wide, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks throughout the area, so the people of the town have as much access and mobility as vehicles. This part of the plan hopes to better create a friendly and inviting place for residents to meet up and socialize within the heart of the town.
Members of the planning committee also recognize the necessity for natural beauty and hope to naturalize the parks and green spaces so, not only is downtown practical, but beautiful.
Snodgrass says although the town went through extreme devastation in the past years, they were given an opportunity to stop and measure exactly how they wanted to rebuild their community into something more exciting for the years to come.
“This has been a big team effort, and we didn’t want to waste the opportunity that natural disasters bring. With devastation comes light to make a difference, so we thought to ourselves, what did we want it to look like? We wanted to put it back together better than before.”
With this ARP, the Town is seeing new land-use bylaws that help to regulate and control uses and development of land within the town to ensure safety and fairness in relation to the Town’s new vision.
With new businesses and buildings coming to the improved community of High River each month, the town can continue to build and grow many years into the future thanks to the ARP’s long-term policies and implementation strategies.

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