Saskatchewan

CNIB looking for new space in Regina now that building project in Wascana Park likely over

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) is looking for a new space to build its headquarters in Regina now that its building redevelopment project in Wascana Park has likely come to an end.

Brandt Properties Ltd. has filed a lawsuit against the provincial government over the project

Brandt and CNIB partnered to demolish CNIB's former building and build a new four-storey 77,000-square-foot building, but it has been rife with delays and controversy. (CBC)

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) is looking for a new space to build its headquarters in Regina now that its building redevelopment project in Wascana Park has likely come to an end.

Brandt Properties Ltd. and CNIB partnered in 2014 to demolish the former building and construct a new four-storey, 77,000-square-foot building, but the project has been surrounded by delays, controversy, public backlash and some city councillors demanding greater transparency. 

Brandt has now filed a lawsuit against the provincial government and Provincial Capital Commission (PCC) over the project.

In a statement of claim filed on Feb. 23, Brandt is accusing the province and PCC of causing loss by unlawful means, inducing breach of contract and negligence — among other things.

Accusations made in a statement of claim have not been proven in court.

An emailed statement from Brandt CEO Shaun Semple said taking legal action was a last resort and "at this point, the project is over."

"This is incredibly disappointing to us, but more importantly, for CNIB and other charitable organizations in our community. When the weather permits, we will be remediating the site."

CNIB has since confirmed to CBC News that it's now looking for a new site.

"Unfortunately, this important community project has left CNIB in the place where we found ourselves nine years ago, seeking a new affordable and accessible space to serve our community," said a statement from Christall Beaudry, vice president of Western Canada for CNIB.

The statement also said that "CNIB's involvement with the Wascana Park project is and has always been about the community we serve and our mission to change what it is to be blind in Regina. Our goal with this project was to create an accessible building and make the park more inclusive and accessible for people living with vision loss."

The provincial government declined to comment on specifics of the lawsuit.

However, on Tuesday, Minister in Charge of the Provincial Capital Commission Don McMorris said "it's probably never a positive when a company is suing a government. I mean that's pretty basic."

He also said the project "had the green light to continue on. Brandt decided to move in this direction and because it's before the courts we'll just leave it at that."

Regina resident Jim Gallagher, who has been opposed to the project from the beginning, is relieved the project is likely not going to happen.

Gallagher said the project should never have happened in the first place because it violated Wascana Centre's growth and development plans, along with city bylaws.

"It was just wrong on every front, except the intention of trying to provide the CNIB a place," Gallagher said.

"It's been a waste of people's time, money and effort on a lot of fronts. It's caused division within the city among people, and it never should have proceeded past its first stages back in 2014."

Gallagher said public consultations to review the master plan of the park, which happen every seven years, are occurring this year. He urged Regina residents to get involved regardless of how they feel about the Brandt project.

"That plan is absolutely essential to guiding the park, to keeping the park on the right track to provide the citizens of not only Regina, but the province, for what the park was intended to be," he said.

"Now is the time to become involved and make sure that this park does remain as they have referred to it for years and years — the jewel of the city."

With files from Adam Hunter

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