'It's like sacred land': Regina group protesting new Conexus head office in Wascana Park

A Regina group opposed to businesses being built in Wascana Park is taking its protest to the Conexus annual general meeting.

Organizer says forefathers would be 'turning in their graves' if they knew about commercialization in park

Lorraine Weidner is organizing a protest in Regina to try and convince Conexus Credit Union to pull out of its plans to build a new head office on Wascana Park land. (Micki Cowan/CBC)

A Regina group opposed to businesses being built in Wascana Park is taking its protest to the Conexus annual general meeting. 

Conexus plans to build a new 80,000 square foot head office on College Avenue on leased Wascana Park land. 

The group No Business in the Park will be handing out leaflets outside the meeting at the Conexus Arts Centre, in the hopes of convincing members to rethink the development.

"If the forefathers of this beautiful park knew what was happening, they would be turning in their graves. Because they made it definite that the park was not to be for business," said protest co-organizer Lorraine Weidner. 

Weidner said it's not just about Conexus. The group wants all further business developments in the park to stop. It's worried about a loss of public green space and trees. 

"This is a park. It's like sacred land. It's for people. Many people use this as their back yard," she said. 

The new Conexus head office would be located near the University of Regina's College Avenue campus. (City of Regina)

Conexus still needs approval on the final project design, which will be presented to the Provincial Capital Commission this spring.

The PCC took over management of the park last year, and is now also in charge of overseeing development. 

Richard Murray, chairperson of the PCC board, said businesses have always been allowed in the park, and pointed to buildings for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 

"That's always been possible. That's always been part of the process... That process has always been guided by the master plan," Murray said.  

In return for the lease of the land, Conexus promised to donate $8.25 million to the University of Regina's College Avenue campus for repairs and renovations. 

Darke Hall's atrium and lobby will be shared with the new Conexus building. (CBC)

Eric Dillon, CEO of Conexus, said it was a creative way to help the university and save Darke Hall, while still finding a good space for a new Conexus headquarters.  

"We saw this as a real opportunity for us to, you know, solve a business problem, but at the same time solve it in a way that almost makes a generational difference to our community," Dillon said. 

He said the argument about commercialization in the park is valid, and that " I would agree with it 99 per cent of the time," but said he believes the Conexus headquarters is the exception. 

We're probably the best partner that the community could have.- Eric Dillon, Conexus CEO

Dillon said the company feared that if they didn't step up, the potential to have Darke Hall as a world class performing arts centre would be lost. 

"If all those things could be solved with a partner in our community, our view at Conexus is that as a local cooperative that's accountable to community, with a strong track-record of doing the right thing, we're probably the best partner that the community could have for a project like that," he said.