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Street corner landscaped as park, final fate undecided

A parcel of land at the corner of 50th Street and Lakeshore Drive in Sylvan Lake has been landscaped and opened for public use

A parcel of land at the corner of 50th Street and Lakeshore Drive in Sylvan Lake has been landscaped and opened for public use while it awaits its final fate, according to Sylvan Lake communications officer Joanne Gaudet.

The land is the former site of the Sylvan Lake Hotel which was torn down to make way for a seven- to nine-story hotel and conference centre, said Sylvan Lake Mayor Susan Samson.

After town land use bylaws changed, which prohibited buildings in the area from being higher than four stories, development plans for the land changed to a condominium complex with ground-level businesses. When the recession hit, said Samson, development plans were halted because the town was “oversaturated” with condominiums.

An underground parkade was instead constructed on the land. Samson said the town didn’t want the unappealing concrete structure, so they asked property owner Reliant Developments to install a decorative fence and landscape the space.

“This has been an ongoing project,” said Samson, adding that it included installing the greenery and negotiating with the property’s owners. While the space was landscaped last year, it did not open to the public until about a month ago.

“It just took that long to get an agreement,” said Samson.

As part of the agreement, the town pays $1 to Reliant annually, which Samson said is a token exchange of money to make the agreement binding. Property taxes are paid by Reliant, according to Gaudet, but the town has to maintain the space. The lease agreement is renewed annually.

“I am pleased that they offer us day use of that site,” said Samson. She added that it was a council initiative to open the site to the public.

Reliant principal Dan Wilson said they have been in preliminary discussions with the town to construct a mixed-use building on the property, with commercial space on the bottom and condominiums on top. However, he stressed that nothing definitive has happened yet.

“The market just is not there yet,” said Wilson, citing other buildings that still have vacancies. “When the time comes we will bring proposals to the town.”

The park is an interim solution for town residents, said Wilson.

“It’s a better interim solution than leaving it as a construction site,” he said.

Samson said she hopes the land is developed in the future, citing the real estate value of the property.

“We need people living and shopping in downtown,” said Samson. “That’s a key property.”

The park appears to be seldom used and untouched spider webs decorate the trash cans in the area, all of which contain no garbage.

However, Samson said the area was used to hold a bouncy castle to entertain the younger set while the Stanley Cup was in Sylvan Lake and part of the street was closed off. Samson said she is waiting to see what happens in the area the next time a similar event occurs.