Hyperlocal Q&A with Paul Dechene
Paul Dechene is one of 12 bloggers who'll be telling his neighbourhood's stories on Hyperlocal - Canada Writes' interactive story map, launching April 3rd. Paul lives in Regina's Cathedral Village.
Tell us about yourself.
My family and I moved to Regina in 2007 and thanks to some very good advice, we decided to settle in Cathedral Village, an older residential neighbourhood just west of downtown. It was a good move. We’ve decided to live car-free and the Cathedral neighbourhood offers all the amenities we could hope for within a short walking distance. There’s a grocery store just two blocks from our front door. We’re also close to museums, art galleries, restaurants, butchers, schools and bus stops. I don’t know if there’s anywhere in Regina that would have worked out quite so well for us.
Tell us about your neighbourhood.
Every year, Cathedral puts on the Cathedral Village Arts Festival in late May. It’s a week of music, theatre and comedy put on in various halls and churches around the neighbourhood. The acts are predominately local and all the shows are free. The CVAF just celebrated its 21st anniversary. I think this event is part of the reason Cathedral gets branded as Regina’s “artsy” neighbourhood, a term I’ve heard used as a compliment and an insult, depending on where in Regina it’s being used.
The houses around here are generally the wooden one- and two- storey type favoured on the prairies at the dawn of the 20th century. There are more shakes and shingles than brick and stone work. Enclosed front porches are common and everything is closely packed together.
At one time, I’m told, Cathedral was considered one of Regina’s rougher neighbourhoods. Crime was common and everything was falling to ruin. To turn things around back in the 70s, the city took advantage of federal social development money and used it to invest in, among other things, social housing and a neighbourhood centre. It seems to have worked as nowadays Cathedral is one of the most vibrant and interesting places to live in Regina.
What are some of your favourite neighbourhood destinations?
It’s funny, just a few blocks to the southwest of me is Wascana Park, the so-called Jewel in the Heart of Regina. Acres of walking and biking trails. A lake for kayaking. The legislature building. Playgrounds, pools. It’s idyllic.
But the best neighbourhood destination that springs to mind for me is the Cathedral Neighbourhood Centre. I’m on the board of our community association and so I’ve probably spent more hours in there than anywhere else. The centre is where all the various community potlucks are held. It’s where the Arts Fest is organized and it’s a site for election debates, recreation programs, Halloween parties, you name it. I’ve set up and put away the folding chairs in there so many times I’ve given them all pet names. The building’s just a hideous slab of bricks built with that community development money back in the Trudeau era, but I I can’t believe I’m admitting this I kind of love it. It’s the hub of Cathedral.
How is your neighbourhood changing?
It’s getting better. Mostly. They tell us that Regina is booming—“They” being the mayor, the premier, the head of the Chamber of Commerce. And maybe they’re right. When we moved here, there were too many empty shop fronts and there really weren’t any good places to eat. Now several of Regina’s best restaurants are within a short walk from where I live and new places are opening all the time. When you go out shopping, things just seem more lively and optimistic.
On the downside, living here is getting more expensive. Six years ago, you could still buy a house in this neighbourhood for under $200,000. Now, house prices rival Calgary and Toronto. Rents are also skyrocketing. We just heard renters in an apartment block around the corner from us are seeing their rents go up 77 percent in the next six months. And with Regina’s vacancy rate being the lowest in the country, they’re going to have a very hard time finding an affordable alternative.
Paul Dechene has lived in Alberta, Ontario, BC, and New Brunswick then somehow managed to settle in the last place he expected: Regina, Saskatchewan. It's a lot more fun than you think. By day, he's a stay-at-home dad. At night, he sneaks off to cover city hall for the local alt-newspaper, Prairie Dog.