Regina Urban Revitalization Initiative

Monday night saw City Council adopt the first steps of the Regina Urban Revitalization initiative (click here for Report CR11-65) the development process for 53 acres of inner city land at Taylor Field and the CPR yard.  The approval saw councillors and the Mayor support the project, address the “generational opportunity” ahead of them and council’s responsibility to guide revitalization.

The Mayor added a warning to the “conspiracy theorists” about speculating on private partners and questioning the transparency of the process.  Mayor Fiacco warned against those who might mislead the public, bristling in his speech at imagined notions of duplicity and unfairness.  Ward 9 Councillor Hincks added “nay-sayers” do not have a vision for the city, implying detractors have nothing to add to the process. Perhaps the words of warning developed as a response to the lone delegation Jim Elliott, who questioned the amount of funding made available to get the project started.

One of the six measures is $500, 000 dollars from the General Fund Reserve to “provide the financial resources necessary to initiate the plan.” (CR 11-65).  The other sections include  City Manager Glen Davies setting up a group within his office to engage stakeholders while he negotiates the purchase of CP lands. Deloitte would be contacted to provide planning and implementation.

One concern Mr. Elliott raised, not found specifically in the recommendations before council, was transparency and openness. Mr. Elliott, in fact, was lucky to present at all as he explained: the Executive Committee meeting, where the recommendations were adopted, took place behind closed doors Wednesday, May 25 and with the report presented to the public at a press conference on  Friday.  The deadline for submissions to City Council, however, was Thursday May 26.

It can be difficult to send a brief you must read as written to Council about a report you haven’t yet seen.  Happily, the City Clerks office was flexible.

Most comments from councillors were broadly supportive and didn’t divert from a positive tone.  Councilors Fougere and Clipsham spoke re: what if the city didn’t get involved?  The prospect is that the CP lands could be sold  privately and developers would then go through the planning process with little control, direction or vision from the City and its population.  That is if the land were sold; Councilor Fougere added the notion of an empty parcel South of Dewdney Avenue, still owned by the CPR.

The above hypotheticals aren’t very appealing. Keeping the process directed by the City makes sense, but what does the city want to do?

The plan is to take the stadium report from last year, retain it and expand the scope to include development of commercial and residential properties on both the CP lands and the City owned land where Taylor Field sits.  In many ways the plan accepts some of the concern raised during the Stadium debate last year on funding choices.  This project should have something for everyone.

In the final speech, Mayor Fiacco stressed how open this process would be: that everyone would get their say and that it was a process, the exact outcomes would be shaped by the stakeholders, investors, City and citizens together.

He alternated between this inclusive talk and protecting the names of his private sector partners who, he assures us will be the major funders.  The negotiations between CPR and investors may not public.  Councilor Clipsham reminded council in his comments about the CPR’s non disclosure agreement with the Province last year, how similar stipulations hurt transparency.

The Mayor was adamant no one builds ‘domed stadiums’ anymore, this would be a multi-purpose entertainment facility.  He said it at least twice.  He seemed to remove ‘stadium’ from the lexicon of the project.

The fact Regina already has several multipurpose entertainment facilities doesn’t seem to faze our Mayor.  Really the only entertainment the Centre of the Arts, Regina Public Library or say the University of Regina Wascana Campus cannot hold is the 30-40 000 person stadium experience.  The reason Taylor Field exists is the Roughriders.  Any facility with 30 000+ seats and a football specific playing surface is for the Roughriders first and foremost.

The Mayor seemed to be setting out the rules of the game in his comments Monday.  Everyone would be involved in shaping the project, as long as shaping the project included destroying Taylor Field and building a new football stadium/entertainment facility on the CP lands.  There would be public consultation yet there would have to necessarily be private conversations with private interests, who are paying for everything.

For more see Murray Mandryk’s (and he’s not nay-saying) piece in the May 31 edition of the Leader Post.  He asks a few important questions like, how much tax incentives will drive private sector investment?

Regina Urban Revitalization Initiative

5 thoughts on “Regina Urban Revitalization Initiative

  1. N says:

    I recently stumbled across your blog, and I’m finding it very interesting. Continue the great work!

    I do have to disagree with your statement in the middle though. Namely the following: “Really the only entertainment the Centre of the Arts, Regina Public Library or say the University of Regina Wascana Campus cannot hold is the 30-40 000 person stadium experience. ”

    We really don’t have any indoor facilities capable of handling anything greater than 7-8,000 people. The Brandt Centre is our largest (larger than your 3 examples), and it can only hold the above amount. So really, in my opinion, we are missing something for the 8,000+ range, which is quite large when you think about it. That’s why major concerts usually try and hold 2 at the Brandt Centre (Elton John) when in places like Saskatoon, they only need to hold 1. So if they can find a way to build an indoor complex that can be used for the 30,000+ the Riders need, but can be reconfigured to allow for the 10,000-25,000 experiences, it will definitely fill in the gaps we currently have.

    It’s defnitely an exciting time to be in Regina though.

    1. Martin Gourlie says:

      Hey N,

      Thanks for the comment and sorry for the slow response.

      I agree my statement doesn’t include the indoor large-scale concert venue for the type of show that comes to the ACC, Saddledome, Madison Square Garden or Saskatoon. The new facility, as you say, should also be flexible with different configurations which will allow for the 10 000-25 000 sized events.

      I am, however, unconvinced how much of a market there is for the larger concerts in Regina.

      The only concert I’ve ever been to in Saskatoon’s rink was the Arcade Fire last year. That show was played to half a stadium with most of the upper deck closed off. I imagine that half of the stadium would have been as full as the latest Agradome/Brandt Centre concerts I’ve seen Neil Young and Bob Dylan.

      The capability to host large concerts all year is a bonus of the planned facility, rather than a main reason to build it. Between May and October, Taylor Field can handle 40 000 or less (Areosmith show, which was cancelled, was half stadium). There was little discussion last year of how this might create competition between Regina and Saskatoon for concerts. The Red Hot Chili Peppers are a sell out in Saskatoon be able to play both, and if so why not just play 40 000 in Regina? So Saskatoon losses out.

      I also wonder how many bands are feasible for that size of audience? Katy Perry will play in front of 15-20 000 at the Saddledome with the size of city and regional population; she has two dates at the ACC in Toronto.

      With the city missing out on U2 for some reason, I have my doubts that if we build it they will come.

      I am more interested in hearing about other entertainment/conference spaces that could be part of this new project.

      1. N says:

        Yes, I agree that it shouldn’t be the main reason to build the complex, but at the same time, why not build it with such a use in mind? The Brandt centre, I have heard, is unable to host many concert events due to the roof being too low, so even if an 8,000 capacity concert could do alright, we can’t host it because our facility just isn’t good enough.

        Saskatoon and Regina are very close population-wise (when you take into account surrounding area), so if Saskatoon can support those concerts, I don’t see why Regina wouldn’t be able to. And even if a few concerts were to stop in Regina instead of Saskatoon, I don’t see why we can’t have a bit of trade-off. Saskatoon has been enjoying the benefits of having the province’s only large indoor complex for years. It just seems very discouraging always seeing “so and so has announced a concert”, and the announcement never being for Regina.

        Furthermore, both are growing cities, so if we don’t plan for the future, we could really end up missing out. I don’t think we will all of a sudden become a major concert destination, but if we can get maybe 5-10 more shows a year, I think it could really do great things for the city.

        Plus if the complex is built where planned (I don’t really see any other location being an option at this point), it is very close to all the downtown hotels, so it makes it easy for people from outside the city to spend the night and take in a show.

        Yes, I may be “dreaming big” (something that Saskatchewan, since the Great Depression, hasn’t really done much of), but there is a lot more optimism out there now, and it’s kind of contagious.

  2. Martin Gourlie says:

    Thanks again N for the dialogue,

    Concert planning is an important piece for a new entertainment facility because it is one of the few other event types that might be able to reach capacity. Concerts certainly need to be thought of but so should other event types, like a multipurpose room for banquets, conventions and smaller concerts of 500-1000 people. In fact, if the report is to be believed, the sporting options for field sports at the very highest level events, like professional baseball or rugby, are not accomidated.

    I wasn’t aware of the Brandt Centre having staging issues, but it does make sense for certain tours, Katy Perry or Justin Bieber might be examples, where they’re normally in larger venues with their rigs. That is a limitation that a new stadium could reverse (much higher ceiling) and will help Regina compete with Saskatoon.

    The Saskatchewan market is just that, the entire province and certain groups need the capacity of both major centers and regions to play Saskatoon‘s rink. The cities aren’t too far apart and many people will make the drive

    As for dreaming big, this is certainly in that category. Probably the most difficult aspect of my opposition to the first project was how aspirational it was; I didn’t find any pleasure jumping all over a big dream. There have been other big projects in the province after the 30s; Health Care in the 50s and the University of Saskatchewan, Regina Campus later the U of R in the 60s to name two different kinds of big dreams.

    I am more open to the new project because it’s bigger; it doesn’t just stamp a stadium down and leave the rest for later. I will agree that with enough flexibility the stadium area will be busy, mixed-use space, regardless of it being game day. There are still many details to come for this hopeful project to become, on the ground, a great project.

  3. […] less and less interest, over the last three years (see my posts: The Stadium (March 21, 2010), Regina Urban Revitalization Initiative (June 1, 2011) and Stadium (December 23, 2011)).  From the beginning I was against the idea of a […]

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