13th Avenue Safeway Feedback

There’s been a lot of buzz regarding the application to rezone and expand the Safeway on 13th Avenue over the last week or so. Lots of relevant points have been brought up by people in the community, with a good turnout at the public come and go session last week, and it looks as though the developers are listening to concerns and will be going back to the drawing board to see what they can do. It is important for citizens to provide feedback on projects in their city and be involved in the process. Some have even started a facebook group in support of preserving the ‘Marina’ style facade.

The City is accepting citizen feedback until Aug 26 (1 week from now), so go here and read the proposal, then take the time to email the project team and your City Coucillor with your thoughts on this development.  You’ll see some of my correspondence with the City below – they want to hear from you!

I took a short break from packing and preparing moving documents to put together a few thoughts as well:

_____________________________________________________________________

Good morning Mr. Meikle, Councillor Clipsham, and representatives for this development,

I am writing to provide feedback on the proposed expansion and reconfiguration of the Safeway store on 13th avenue in Regina’s Cathedral neighbourhood.

Using the format outlined in the comment sheet provided, my position on this development is that ‘I would accept the proposal if many features were different’. I do believe that residents living in Regina’s central neighbourhoods deserve better grocery service and on those grounds I do not oppose the expansion of the existing Safeway store, nor the relocation of 4 homes to do it. However, the proposed design for the building seems so out of step with the neighbourhood that I cannot support it in its current state.

We’ve seen from the design requirements included in the downtown plan that large blank walls create an unsafe environment with dead zones that inhibit pedestrian activity. Simply putting murals on these walls is not good enough. Including windows and entrances along Retallack and Robinson Streets or window glazing (at a bare minimum) would help to minimize these hostile impacts.

Further this design is extremely car oriented with parking allotments that exceed the requirements and no clear commitment for providing bike facilities. It may sound ideal to streamline traffic flow through the parking lot by reconfiguring the entrances and exits, however this can also lead to increased speeds through parking lots, again making it less safe for pedestrians and cyclists. The Cathedral neighbourhood has a high number of people who walk or bike to get to their destination – planning and designing a building while disregarding these characteristics shows a lack of research and due diligence needed for developments in our city.

I understand that Safeway has a template they wish to follow however they, as well as many large retailers, can and do easily adapt their models to match their needs with the needs of the communities they inhabit. It is not unheard of to modify a design or layout to better suit the local market. For Safeway, examples in Vancouver and Oakland, California have proven that they are a company willing to work with the local community to find desirable outcomes for both parties. Regina residents deserve the same cooperative approach while being engaged throughout this process. Citizens want the grocery store in their neighbourhood, but they should not have to sacrifice the scale and character of their community to have that.

Modifying the design of this proposed expansion is not impossible and should not be seen as an impediment to progress or to better service provision in the community. The current store design and scale fit well with the surrounding streets, businesses, and aesthetic of the Cathedral neighbourhood. Plunking down a building template with a massing and design better suited for suburban shopping centres seems like a shortcut and as though the developers and designers have not done their due diligence to research the neighbourhood or be context sensitive to the citizens of the neighbourhood.

In the larger context of the city, it is important to continue setting development standards in all of our neighbourhoods where building massing and streetscape design are more pedestrian friendly. Simply rezoning the area without a review of the larger implications of that change will only lead to more ad-hoc development that creates disjointed neighbourhoods. I know these issues are important to City Council and Administration as evidenced by the vision and design standards set out in the Downtown Plan and through the current work with the Official Community Plan (Design Regina).

This is a prime opportunity to put these standards and the vision of Regina as a ‘vibrant, inclusive, attractive, sustainable community’ to the test. As the 2020 vision states, sustainability is where ‘People forge a balance between the economic, social, environmental and cultural dimensions of their decisions’. Here, the need for store expansion (the economic dimension) needs to be balanced with the desires and needs of the community (social, environmental, and cultural dimensions) to maintain a scale of structure that is characteristic to the neighbourhood and fits well with the surrounding streetscape. It is essential to continue engaging the community in this process and I trust that the city can work with developers and citizens to achieve and balance these goals.

If this proposed expansion were redesigned to create more active streetscapes and store frontage (perhaps incorporating the existing Marina facade), with safer pedestrian environments (no large blank walls, windows that create a safe space, reduced traffic speeds and parking allotments), and bike facilities, I would whole-heartedly support this application.

Sincerely,

-Laura Pfeifer

Regina Urban Ecology

UPDATE

I’ve received responses from both Mr. Meikle and Councillor Clipsham. They seem keen to know what the community has to say – share your thoughts!

***

Hello Laura:

Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

If you wish, we can identify you as an interested party. As such, you will be notified by the City Clerk’s office when the proposal is to be brought forward for consideration by the Regina Planning Commission (RPC), including the date, time and location of that meeting, and you will be provided with a copy of the Administration’s report. If you wish to be notified, please provide me with your mailing address and a phone number at which you can be contacted during the day.

Anyone can attend RPC meetings and make representation to commission members, without having to provide advance notice.

If you have any questions regarding the above, please let me know.

Thanks again for your contribution to this process. Regards,

-Don Meikle

***

Laura – I too appreciate receiving your thoughtful comments, and believe it should be possible to create an exterior design that accentuates the uniqueness of the neighbourhood.

As for the Robinson and Retallack St facades, I’ve asked them to consider panels for murals as well as enhanced LED lighting, but windows are a good suggestion too.

Enjoy your studies!

Fred

***

Councillor Clipsham,

Thank you for your response – I am glad to know that you are active in this process as well. I truly believe that many interests can be served if this expansion is done right with continued commitment to engage the community in the process.

I’d love to see the existing Marina frontage incorporated into an expansion and I think it is very possible if the will is there. As you know the scale and style of the existing Safeway really does work well with the surrounding neighbourhood and I feel it is important to seriously look into the option of retention, not just replacement. The result of retrofitting and enhancing what we have (making the existing space or an addition to the back end of the store more energy efficient) could be spectacular.

Thank you for being responsive to citizen interests and for voicing these issues to the design and development team.

Cheers,

-Laura

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13th Avenue Safeway Feedback

4 thoughts on “13th Avenue Safeway Feedback

  1. Kim Statler says:

    This is so thoughtfully written. Thanks for sharing this Laura. I hope you don’t mind if I post this on the facebook group. I think you have summed up what many, including me, are trying to say.

  2. Aerin says:

    Laura, what a great letter! Thoughtful, well informed, good tone — wow, that could be a template for how to write an effective letter to government officials. Excellent work! I always enjoy reading your blog.

    1. Thanks for the kind words ladies! I had sent it around to a few folks to get feedback and make sure I hadn’t missed anything important – which is all to say that your kind words should be directed at the community as a whole. :)

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