City promises 'range of housing' as $34M in funding announced for Regina's Railyard Renewal Project

A $500-million residential development project planned for a former Regina railyard may still be years away from producing an actual neighbourhood, but on Friday, it got surge of cash.

City, province and fed each promised $11.2M for residential development project on Friday

Three tiers of government promised $33.6 million for the Regina Railyard Renewal project on Friday. The 8.1-hectare (17.5-acre) area currently sits vacant in central Regina. (Alec Salloum/CBC Saskatchewan)

A $500-million residential development project planned for a former Regina railyard may still be years away from producing an actual neighbourhood, but on Friday, it got a surge of cash.

A total of $33.6 million in funding was announced for the Railyard Renewal Project from the city, provincial and federal governments.

The 8.1-hectare (17.5-acre) railyard off Dewdney Avenue has long been vacant, with redevelopment announced in 2015. 

The money announced Friday will be earmarked to improve Dewdney Avenue and to clean up the site of the future residential neighbourhood.

The city purchased the former Canadian Pacific Rail Yards land in 2012, with the plan for the intermodal yards to be relocated to the Global Transportation Hub on the outskirts of the city. Since then, the city's website says, rail tracks and intermodal infrastructure have been removed.

In 2012, the city struck a deal to buy 8.1 hectares of land north of the downtown from Canadian Pacific Railway. (City of Regina)

Part of the money announced Friday will also go toward widening existing sidewalks and creating new sidewalks on the south side of the avenue.

A pedestrian bridge is also planned, linking the downtown to the Warehouse District by an elevated walkway.

"This way the walkway would actually provide a way for pedestrians to easily flow between the two areas," said Regina said Mayor Michael Fougere. "That will definitely happen as part of the construction in the future."

Fougere said the bridge will be a big part of making the neighbourhood viable. 

It remains to be seen what the neighbourhood will actually look like, but the mayor promises the city will listen to the community's desires.

"What's possible? What could we have here? I mean, it could be anything from a hockey rink to baseball diamonds to restaurants to libraries," said Fougere.

"The idea is that council is not going to dictate themselves what it will be. It's the community that says what they want."

City Coun. Bob Hawkins said housing will be crucial the new development and to revitalizing Regina's downtown.

North Central is often called a "food desert," given the area's relative lack of grocery stores and access to healthy food.

Given that there are no grocery stores in the area, Hawkins said city council is considering a large covered farmers market in the railway neighbourhood.

"We want a diversity of housing. So I think you can expect to see, as the plans roll out, affordable housing. I think you can see a whole range of housing," said Hawkins.

According to the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, in 2017, Regina had a glut of condos on the market and an apartment vacancy rate of seven per cent — one of the highest rates in Canada.

But Hawkins says the current chill in the housing market and overabundance of rentals is only a temporary issue.

"There's not going to be a vacancy rate for much longer. We're planning for a city of 300,000 people and we're going to need housing for those people, and we're going to need a lot of that housing to be downtown."

Since 2016, Regina has led Canada in population growth and is now estimated to have a population of 253,200.

Fougere said there will be some early activity on the renewal project next year and 2020 development should start by 2020, though the project is expected to take 15 to 20 years to complete.

With files from Stephanie Taylor

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