Mayor Jeff Genung believes the groundwork laid for the development of three parcels of downtown public land will help lead Cochrane into the future and says council has no intention of leaving it on the shelf to gather dust.

"I would say it would be an epic fail if we just accepted it as information and then carry on about our day," says Genung. "That's not going to happen."

The mayor says the concepts presented by the tri-site task force are high level and what's important now is for the town to roll up its sleeves and develop a phasing and implementation plan.

On Dec. 10, town council accepted the tri-site committee's conceptual plans as information. It also asked for a phasing and implementation plan to be developed by administration no later than mid-2019.

Several members of the tri-site committee spoke on different aspects of the plan but the biggest and most controversial question has been the future of the 15.3-acre site on 5th Ave. The Cochrane Lions Club holds the lease for the majority of the parcel and has for over 50 years.

Kevin Firkus, who served on the committee as a representative of the Cochrane Lions Club, says the committee was a somewhat eclectic group of people who offered a variety of opinions on what could be accomplished. He says his mind changed quite a bit during the process. 

The concept of a 5th Ave. park area that offered seasonal uses does offer logistical challenges that need to be further explored but he agrees with the overall concept.

“It does achieve the goal of improving the usability of the park throughout the year while still accommodating the rodeo," said Firkus.

In response to the presentation, there were no real questions raised by council, only praise for the work completed.

Among those was town councillor Tara McFadden, who called the committee's vision transformative for downtown Cochrane. Alex Reed said it was a testimony to council's commitment to being transparent in its methods and to ensure the voice of residents is included in shaping the town's future.

Noting a huge focus of council has been to improve transportation corridors to this point, Genung says the tri-sites project is an important community builder and an opportunity to show the world Cochrane is serious about being a tech incubator and innovation hub while continuing to paying respect to its rich western heritage. 

"We are serious about embracing the future," says Genung. "All of these projects have a huge importance as we move forward into the future."

"We asked you to dream; you've dreamt and now the responsibility is squarely on our shoulders to come through," he told the committee.

"The vision of the Cochrane has laid before us and I'm super excited about this. Thank you, guys."

Now, though, comes the tough part. There's many moving pieces involved and questions of funding and potential partners to consider.

"Now council needs to come back with a draft implementation plan to start to fill in some of the blanks," says Genung. "So what's next? What can we afford to do now? We need to zoom in another layer."

While Dave Devana, the town's chief administrative officer, suggested the development of part of the former Esso Bulk Station site on Railway Ave. may come first because some GreenTRIP funding, Genung isn't quick to zero in on that site.

"We don't know what partnerships we can create or what other groups have funding that we know about or not. As part of the draft implementation plan, I think some of those conversations will be had over the next month or two."

It has also been suggested the relocation of the Big Hill Lodge to the rodeo grounds may come first because it doesn't rely upon town funding, only land allotment.

"Do they have money in the bank and can they build tomorrow? That's nothing to do with the town at all other than providing them space and allowing them to work on a plan. Maybe they're first and it may not be on the other site. It might be on the rodeo grounds."

That, though, would require the relocation of one of the town's ball diamonds and the town will need to complete its annexation of recreational land north of Heritage Hills so to develop ball diamonds first.

"There are a whole lot of pieces that are moving that we have to line up."

There's also the potential for public, private partnerships (P3) projects to help speed along some of the work the town couldn't otherwise afford to undertake at this point.

"If we were to create partnerships, like a P3, there could be the potential of getting some of it fast-tracked and built sooner. I don't have the answers to all of that but that's part of the implementation plan. Who can we reach out to? Who could help us achieve our vision?"

"We don't have any names in particular, but the town's not nimble enough to build all of this on our own."


Big Hill Lodge Could Potentially be First Project Undertaken