Centre Square Plaza

Ok – I know I’m a little late to comment on the presentation of Centre Square Plaza to the Regina Planning Commission (I was forcing myself to take some down time last month).  But, I figure a little commentary is better late then never, right? Right!.

For those who may not have heard, Centre Square Plaza is the condo development set to occupy the SW corner of 15th Avenue and Broad Street. Along with condos, the space will likely also include some retail or office spaces in the lower levels. For more details, see the LP coverage here and here.

Overall I’m happy this project is coming forward – that corner has been vacant for a good, long while and it’s time it was put to use. And while condos are no substitute for affordable housing, more housing close to downtown is good news for the downtown plan, and the city, over time. Further, incorporating some retail or commercial space could make the building more useful to the community as a whole and has the potential to continue increasing pedestrian traffic in the area. Which leads me to my only real beef with the project: the ground level space that is shown in the renderings (above image). I hope for everyone’s sake that this concept is just a place holder for a more engaging ground level design – one that is actually at ground level.

I get that bumping the retail up above street level may seem like an interesting idea to the developers and designers, but in reality it disconnects pedestrians from the space which is the exact opposite of what is desired in the end. To quote the developer in this story: “the design is intended to create a pedestrian-friendly environment”; “the intent is to have a very dynamic street presence”. Note to everyone involved: dynamic, pedestrian-friendly spaces need to be approached (and designed) from the perspective of the pedestrian.

With this in mind (and just for the fun of it), imagine yourself walking past this place on the sidewalk: You won’t see an interesting retail display that has been created or people sitting in a coffee shop enjoying themselves – things that do indeed created a ‘dynamic street presence’ and attract pedestrians. What you will see is stairs and a few bushes – it’s isolating and makes people feel vulnerable and unsafe. Unfortunately planning with a design rather than people in mind often leads to these alienating effects which is not good for pedestrians or for business. It isn’t enough to use ‘pedestrian-friendly’ as a buzz-word – you’ve got to have follow-through.

James Howard Kunstler, author of “The Geography of Nowhere” and main guest on the Kunstlercast, gave a great TED talk where he touches on, among other things, the importance of creating good pedestrian spaces.  The whole talk is great, but at 10:30 he talks about this particular folly of planning. His commentary is brief but it’s a nice little illustration of what the reality of this particular space could end up becoming if it indeed is developed with this iteration of design. I say we deserve better and that the developers should really re-think this one!

** above photo taken from the LP story here

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Centre Square Plaza

10 thoughts on “Centre Square Plaza

  1. wourliem says:

    “Which leads me to my only real beef with the project: the ground level space that is shown in the renderings (above image). I hope for everyone’s sake that this concept is just a placeholder for a more engaging ground level design – one that is actually at ground level.”

    I agree with this interpretation of the renderings. I think some separation is required on Broad Street, probably a low wall/fence; sparse and clear would be best. You’ll find such barriers at Atlantis Coffee, Avord Tower or the patio in front of O’Hanlon’s in summer. I can see why the designers want separation by elevation and setback but I don’t think this invites people in. High windows and stairways aren’t conducive to presenting commercial but very good for residential.

    I do have some concerns with the viability of that area for commercial uses. Kitty-corner from this proposed building, a coffee shop didn’t last very long a few years ago. There are no other businesses immediately around it. The strip malls a block north are car oriented not pedestrian oriented and run along the 14th avenue axis which at Lorne has commercial, the park at Hamilton, commercial on four corners at Broad and the end point of the hospital two blocks East. 15th doesn’t have this commercial rhythm, an art gallery and restaurant on Smith, a secondary entrance to the hospital and then a small collection of shops a few blocks from Winnipeg Street, probably supported by two nearby high schools.

    I’m not sure what could be successful at this spot. Office space might be the best first use until the area opens up.

    1. Martin – I think your right in that commercial may be tricky here at first but, like you say, it could work overtime. As someone whose spent most of my adult life living in Centre Square or right by the General Hospital there is a great need for walkable amenities that aren’t just within the downtown. I think it will really depend what the commercial space is that will determine if it survives and how it relates to the other uses present. It sounded like there may be some office space in this development, so a lunch spot or cafe might just work because you’d have a customer base to support it during the day. This could be one reason the previous coffee shop did not survive long (though I’ve also been told that the owners were not welcoming for customers to sit and enjoy, but would push you on your way pretty quickly… though that is purely hearsay).

  2. Brandi says:

    The coffee shop that was across the street was not a very “inviting” place. The interior was cold, and extremely noisy. I stopped there on occasion to pick up something to go, but I only stayed there twice, and I remember it being difficult to carry on a conversation. It did seem fairly
    busy most of the times I was there (usually in the evenings).

    As for your comments about the ground level design, they have changed that and it seems to work much better now.

    http://www.regina.ca/AssetFactory.aspx?did=6181

    The owner of the apartment building next door isn’t thrilled with this building. Most of his arguments make no sense, though. His arguments might make more sense if this were about a condo conversion, but they don’t really seem to apply to a new build. If anything, this building could spur development of rental apartments, because the owner of the apartment building threatens (??) to add 7 storeys to his building if this condo is approved!

    1. Thanks for the update Brandi – that newer design is such an improvement! It really is remarkable what a difference small changes can make. I hope to take a look at the opposition info you sent soon!

  3. What a ghastly building. When the heck will they stop this kind of crap all the rest of us absolutely hate? (By all the rest of us, I mean those of us who are neither architects nor government bureaucrats nor wealthy developers.)

  4. The website is up for this new development ( http://www.centresquareplace.com/ )and they have provided a link to the RUE posting on the project on the condo site. The new concept drawings have changed so that the entrances to the building and proposed commercial space are at ground level. Not sure, but wouldn’t it be great if the RUE posting influenced this decision. I sure hope so!

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