Recently I walked from the College to Sobeys South along Taylor Drive. Along the way I thought about how it is getting harder for students to afford the cost of post secondary. Often debated solutions are tuition caps, regulations and government subsidies; but there are some other angles that get overlooked.
#1 Car dependence: It can cost around $10,000 per year to own, operate and maintain a vehicle. If you are a student attending a car dependant college that expense probably ranks in the top 5 expenses you’ll have.
#2 Affordable Student Housing: As RDC grows the demand for affordable student housing will increase. Prospective students need good places to live nearby and they will base part of their decision to stay in or come to Red Deer for higher education on the availability of affordable housing close to campus.
Now with all the excitement around RDC becoming a polytechnic university there should be equal excitement for the surrounding area specifically that vacant lot just south of the campus (Phase 3 Southpointe Junction). But the current plan (2009) seriously lacks vision and if brought to fruition will turn that space into a clone of just another big-box-store-parking-lot-drive-through district with no authentic character and more grinding traffic congestion.
Instead of turning that space into a clone of so many other big-box-store-parking-lot-drive-throughs we could turn that space into a mixed use, walkable extension of the college. With more focus on multistory residential so that there will be more housing options near the college. And more focus on pedestrian access so that it will become more of a possibility to live, study and work all within walking distance of the places you need to go.
Moving forward, if the conversation about how to develop Southpointe Junction includes discussions about more affordable student housing and how to decrease car dependence for students that space will grow in lock step with RDC by enhancing and complementing its future success.
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Check out the 10th Video in my series about Walking In Red Deer!