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?