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Feature Article

BUILDING PERMITS TOP $100 MILLION FOR FIRST TIME DRAMATICALLY: 1978

Written By: Michael Dawe
Published By: Red Deer Advocate Centennial Book
Article Used with permission. © Copyright Michael Dawe and the Red Deer Advocate, 2007
2007-01-01

Building permits top $100 million for first time dramatically

The amount of new construction in Red Deer in 1978 was truly staggering.

For the first time in history, the value of building permits issued by the City of Red Deer broke the $100 million mark.

It was up dramatically from the amount recorded the year before.

It was also an astonishing 10 times greater than the total amount of building permits issued at the beginning of the decade.

Much of the construction involved public buildings.

The biggest project was the regional hospital, which was estimated to cost $57 million by the time it was done. Work on this massive complex involved not only the demolition of a two-block row of old houses on 43rd Street, but also the excavation and reshaping of the north-facing slope of the Hospital Hill.

Another big project was a $16-million provincial government services centre, which was to be six stories high and cover much of the north side of the 4900 block of 51st Street.

With the huge influx of oil and gas revenues into provincial coffers, the size of the government had increased until it was needed by city staff.

The new Provincial Building was an attempt to consolidate many of the new government offices and services into one location.

The provincial government saw m-creased spending on post-secondary education as an important investment in the future.

It also placed a priority on creating educational opportunities outside of Calgary and Edmonton. Hence work began on the addition of two

large academic wings on the Red Deer College complex as well as the construction of a students' association building.

It was not only the provincial government that was caught up in the building spree.

Red Deer city council approved an $11.3-million expansion of the sewage treatment plant. Preliminary work began on a $6-million third traffic bridge (Taylor Bridge) across the Red Deer River.

City council also approved the addition of a third floor on City Hall to ease the overcrowding in city offices.

After some careful planning and strategy by senior city administration, this expansion eventually became a two-storey addition, with some of the space on the extra floor to be rented out to the private sector.

The private sector was as active as government.

Parkland Mall, which had opened in late 1970, constructed more than 18,500 square metres (200,000 square feet) of additional retail space, nearly doubling the size of the mall.

There were 43 new retail outlets, as well as a large Sears department store as a new anchor tenant.

This project greatly enhanced Red Deer’s status as the regional shopping centre for Central Alberta.

The downtown was transformed with a number of major office building projects.

The largest was an eight-storey professional centre, which was constructed on the corner of43rd Street and Gaetz Avenue, across the street from the emerging regional hospital complex.

Other, somewhat smaller, office buildings were constructed along Gaetz, 49th and 51st Avenues, as well as 47th and 48th Streets.

Tentative plans were made for major office complexes near the new Provincial Building.

With the population of the City surging by six and seven per cent per year, there was a massive amount of residential construction totalling more than $50 million.

The biggest project was the construction of Red Deer’s tallest apartment building on the South Hill a 14storey structure that eventually became known as Checkmate Court.

While all this construction in Red Deer was very impressive, the biggest construction project of them all was not included in the city’s $104 million of building permits.

That was the massive $375 million Alberta Gas Ethylene plant that was being built near Joffre.

At its peak, this project employed more than 800 construction workers.

Needless to say, with all the work being done at Joffre and in Red Deer, there was a growing shortage of labour.

Wages began to rise significantly.

Prices for other construction materials also began to Jump.

Inflation was already beginning to heat up across the country.

In Central Alberta, the cost of construction, the price of houses, and the cost of living in general began to soar.

It was one of the black clouds that began to form as the Red Deer economy felt the effects of an overheated boom.

This article was written by Michael Dawe for the Red Deer Advocate’s Centennial Book. The Heritage Community Foundation would like to thank Michael Dawe and the Red Deer Advocate for permission to reprint these materials online. Please visit the Red Deer Advocate online.The images in the article are part of the collection of the Red Deer Archives. Please visit them online.

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