Office building in Wascana Park worries downtown Regina group

Officials from Regina Downtown are expressing concerns about a proposed office development outside of the main downtown area. A financial institution hopes to build an office in Wascana Park.

Conexus Credit Union hopes to build in Wascana Park

Regina City Council agreed to donate 1.1 hectares of park land that will be used for a 80,000-square-foot Conexus credit union office building. In exchange, Conexus will donate $8.25 million to the U of R for upgrades to its College Avenue campus. (Google Maps)
The buildings on College Avenue are almost 100 years old and need work before they fall into an irreversible state of disrepair, according to a 2011 Master Plan of the U of R. (CBC)
Officials from Regina Downtown are expressing concern about a proposed office development outside of the main downtown area. A financial institution hopes to build an office in Wascana Park, just south of downtown.

The Regina Downtown Business Improvement District is among several delegations that will be presenting its views to city council Monday, about a proposal by a financial institution to build a head office in the large city park.

Wascana Park is a major green space in the city and has strict guidelines on the types of buildings allowed. CBC Saskatchewan is located on the grounds in the area, along with the Royal Saskatchewan Museum and the CNIB.

Conexus Credit Union has been working with the Wascana Centre Authority, the University of Regina and the city on plans to build an office in a spot of the park that has trees and a large lawn.

The University of Regina has been promoting the development as a way to secure funds to renovate its aging College Avenue Campus building. Conexus has promised to donate around $8 million to the renovation effort.

According to the U of R, the full restoration of its buildings – which would involve tearing down two portions of the College Avenue complex – is estimated to cost $60 to $70 million.

Downtown Regina, in its submission to council, noted the city has a policy that promotes office space within the downtown zone.

"We fear the inclusion of a commercial office development at this location will set a precedent for further commercial office development within the Wascana Centre Authority property," Downtown Regina's executive director Judith Veresuk said in her presentation. "We urge the city to continue to adhere to the office development policy."

City council is being asked to give the University of Regina a portion of land to support an office development that would aid a renovation of buildings on College Avenue. (City of Regina)
The topic is on city council's agenda because the university is asking the city of Regina to transfer formal ownership of some land in Wascana Park to the U of R.

While the park is a large space in the city, the actual land ownership is a mix of university and government.

The College Avenue Campus, including Darke Hall, is on university land. The site for the proposed Conexus office, west of Darke Hall, is on city property.

Wascana Centre Authority involved

The Wascana Centre Authority recently approved the demolition of two portions of the College Avenue building: the Gallery and the Conservatory.

According to a presentation by Bernadette McIntyre, CEO of the Wascana Centre Authority, the Conexus development would lead to a loss of green space and some trees, but she noted the authority has the ability to relocate trees.

Conexus has proposed an 80,000 square foot office building that would be attached to Darke Hall by an atrium.

According to the city, the market value of the land involved in the transfer (2.6 acres) is approximately $3.9 million. The city is recommending council approve the transfer of the land to the U of R for $1. City officials acknowledged that the proposal does not fit with their official downtown office policy, but noted there were other benefits that make the plan worthwhile.

City council starts its meeting at 5:30 p.m. CST Monday.