Regina approves land donation for Conexus office in Wascana Centre
80,000-square-foot building planned for site next to U of R College Avenue campus
The City of Regina has approved a controversial land transfer that will see a new Conexus Credit Union headquarters and office space built on Wascana Centre land.
It's contrary to the city's policy of keeping its big office buildings downtown, but the deal has been described as too good an opportunity to pass up, one that will finally light a fire under a long-delayed revitalization of the University of Regina's College Avenue campus.
The deal was struck Monday, when city council voted in favour of giving a 1.1-hectare parcel of city-owned land in Wascana Centre to the U of R for development purposes.
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The university is planning to lease the land, located west of Darke Hall on the College Avenue campus, to the credit union to build its 80,000-square-foot head office.
Currently the land has trees and a lawn.
In return, Conexus has promised to donate around $8.25 million to the College Avenue campus renewal project.
The U of R has been raising money for years as part of a plan to renew the crumbling main buildings on College Avenue.
Debate at city hall
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.
Mayor Michael Fougere said he's "profoundly supportive of this project in so many ways."
"Now is the time when the stars are aligned. Everybody is ready to move forward," Fougere told council.
Coun. Shawn Fraser voiced concern in the meeting over the donation amount, and also over the fact that Conexus will not pay rent over its long-term lease term.
In addition, the Regina Downtown Business Improvement District spoke opposed to the development, saying it could set a precedent for more office space developments within Wascana Centre. (Wascana Centre includes Wascana Park, which is between College Avenue and Wascana Lake.)
U of R president Vianne Timmons said now that the city's given approval for the land transfer, the university is going to be moving quickly on its College Avenue revitalization.
"This has been a long haul. This has been eight years since I came. This has been a project we wanted to see done," Timmons said.
"We're just thrilled that it's finally going to happen."
Once the long-term lease — of which the details are still being configured — is up on the new Conexus building, both the land and the building will be returned to the university.