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Big Hill Lodge Tri-Site development remains critical space for Cochrane's future

“We can preserve it and use it wisely,” Flowers said. ”It’s essential keeping it community-based— We can all use it and share it and make the best use of it.”
Town of Cochrane
Town of Cochrane. File Photo

COCHRANE— A motion from Councillor Susan Flowers at Monday's (March 8) council meeting is aiming to ensure momentum for the creation of a new Big Hill Lodge facility is not lost.

The Tri-Site on Fifth Avenue is one of the most beautiful properties in Cochrane and located in the heart of downtown, Flowers said, and there is a need to protect it and “make it a gem for the future.” The site is set to be the home of the new Big Hill Lodge.

Flowers' motion asked Council to direct Town administration to prepare a report on the downtown Fifth Avenue Town-owned land and return to council with a set of actions to keep the project moving forward. The report will be presented at the June 14 council meeting.

“The Tri-Site committee did so much work on public engagement and figuring out what would be best for the Fifth Avenue Site,” Flowers said. “But, now it’s been a couple of years with COVID and all the changes within the Town, a new CAO, the economy going down the tank so that it’s kind of been shelved. I don’t want to lose all the good work that was done by that group."

Flowers is anxious to see the report from administration, she said, and hopes to make plans over the summer so something can be in place for the Tri-Site before the fall and the election.

Her specific concern is ensuring the site is ready for the Rocky View Foundation, the organization preparing to build a new Big Hill Lodge. The Rocky View Foundation has a new design for the facility and is ready to begin developing when the economy begins to recover from the economic fallout of COVID-19. 

Flowers hopes by this time next year steps will be taken to map out what the site will look like so user groups can begin fundraising.

“We can preserve it and use it wisely,” Flowers said. "It’s essential keeping it community-based— We can all use it and share it and make the best use of it.”

Cochrane's 2021 Budget has earmarked $100,000 from operating reserves for a utility servicing study of the Tri-Site to help move development in the area. The Transit Hub and Innovation Centre, a critical facility at the Tri-Site, is set to begin construction in June at a cost of $4.85 million.

While it is critical to develop and plan for these projects, Flowers said, the site should be treated as a whole and Big Hill Lodge needs to be included in discussions.

“The Town needs to plan for the whole site and not just piecemeal it,” Flowers said. “There’s got to be something in place.”

Flowers added there is a need to be prepared for any grants that become available post-COVID so the Town can be ready to apply.

She noted 2021 is an election year and Town administration needs to create a plan for the next step at the site to ensure continuity for the area.

The development of the Tri-Site is an important landmark for the future of Cochrane, said Coun. Tara McFadden, and it meets the social and recreational needs of the community.

The Tri-Site and Horse Creek Sports Park are tied together when it comes to development, McFadden said, because a plan is needed for both.

“One of the exciting things about the Tri-Sites and in particular with the rodeo grounds site is that’s what being looked at for seniors housing and for the Rocky View Foundation— That’s a past-due need in our community,” McFadden said. “As a municipality, we need to work with to make sure we get that site ready so that we can move ahead.”

One of the commitments tied to the development of the Tri-Site has been to ensure user groups will have the same level of programming and space— This commitment means that for development to begin at the Fifth Avenue location a replacement ball diamond would need to be established within the town at the Horse Creek Sports Park.

“Anybody that’s active on that site they're not going to lose anything— They are tied and we need to be strategic and deliberate about it,” McFadden said. “To my mind, that’s one of the things that we’re really going to advocate for the Horse Creek to come on as quickly as possible is a matching diamond for them.”

The plans for the Horse Creek site and the Tri-Site began with the current council but it will take more than one council to see the projects through to completion.

She noted that it is important to get a template in place for these projects so when a new council comes on in the fall they can move forward with the available information.

“So, few projects are ever something that just one council can take credit for or carry through the end zone,” McFadden said.  “What I’ve heard from residents is that parks and recreation and seniors housing and arts and culture, the people of Cochrane we want it all. We want to have a complete community."