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City offers guidelines for downtown development

The City of Lacombe is finding ways to improve the heart of the community – downtown Lacombe.

The City of Lacombe is finding ways to improve the heart of the community – downtown Lacombe.

At the beginning of this year, the City of Lacombe adopted its new ‘Downtown Area Redevelopment and Urban Design Plan’, also known as DARP.

DARP is a set of guidelines for the redevelopment of downtown Lacombe, said City Planner Jen Kirchner.

It represents what the City would like to see the community become based on its assets and help minimize the City’s weaknesses.

Adopted in January, DARP sets out a whole range of guidelines to improve downtown and as Manager of Planning and Development Lyla Peter said, “Take the great things and make them better.”

The plan deals with both functionality and aesthetics. In addition to making downtown look good by taking into account things like architectural design, Kirchner said things like pedestrian safety and ways to encourage activity downtown are also looked at through the plan.

She added it is important to emphasize that the City has no intention of demolishing what already exists in downtown Lacombe and that the plan focuses more on any new developments being made.

While DARP does not have much effect on downtown currently, it provides a framework for what direction can be taken for future development in the downtown area, said Kirchner.

Peter added that the plan seeks to “Make sure downtown continues to be the heart of Lacombe.”

It is also important to note that the purpose f DARP is not to create ‘cookie cutter’ neighbourhoods or make everything in an area look the same, said Kirchner. Instead, the goals is to create options for developers that adheres to a certain criteria while not limiting the developers.

“It’s kind of like a shopping list of things they can work from,” said Peter.

DARP was brought in this year to replace an older plan that provided similar guidelines to developers. However, due to the age of the plan and Lacombe’s growth, it became necessary to revise the plan. Kirchner and Peter said that DARP will also help to define more clearly some of the more vague guidelines that existed previously.

The plan was created by Edmonton based firm Pario Plan in partnership with the City of Lacombe. Pario Plan and the City recently hosted a design charette at the Lacombe Memorial Centre earlier this week and will continue to work together to further develop the plan.