Saskatoon

Big proposed changes to Saskatoon's River Landing Parcel Y development

Saskatoon-based development company Victory Majors is asking that the Parcel Y development now be built in phases, rather than as one large project.

Victory Majors asking for 'phased' development, ability to subdivide and sell off land

The original Parcel Y development plan, as envisioned by Lake Placid Developments. (Lake Placid Developments)

An ambitious hotel-condo-office building project on Saskatoon's riverbank may turn out to be much different than originally planned.

Saskatoon-based developer Victory Majors wants city council's approval to sell more than 49 per cent of the project to Greystone Managed Investments Inc., a Regina-based firm with a portfolio of $32 billion. 

The developer is also asking council to allow the project to be built in phases, which "may include one or more office phases with ancillary commercial spaces, a hotel phase and a residential phase", according to a report going to Monday's council meeting for approval.

Victory Majors is also asking that it only be required to complete excavation for the first phase of the underground parking structure, instead of parking for the whole project. And it wants the leeway to subdivide and sell or transfer some of Parcel Y "to complete any approved development without further City approval."

Victory Majors president John Nasser conceded the change opens the way for development that may ultimately exclude one or more elements of the hotel-condo-office complex as originally conceived, "but that's not our intent, our intent is to have the same components".

Asked why he wants the ability to deviate from the plan, Nasser responded: "It's just good to have the flexibility in the project, instead of always having to come back to council every time market demand changes."

The Parcel Y project has hit numerous snags over the years. Original developer Lake Placid Developments initially proposed an ambitious plan for the site back in 2007.

The plan for the building included a hotel, residential condo tower, and two office and retail buildings surrounding a public plaza and a pool. It was intended to be the property tax-generating jewel in the crown of Saskatoon's ambitious riverfront redevelopment, River Landing, which has seen millions of dollars of public money invested in the construction of public amenities, including the new art gallery.

Since then, the lot, which is seen by many as the city's most valuable piece of real estate, has sat empty.

In 2010, Victory Majors paid the city $5.2 million to purchase the site. At the time, the project cost was an estimated $200 million. The company founder — and Nasser's father, Kay Nasser — said he would stick to the project's original design, and was confident he could raise the money needed to complete it. However, the project continued to stall as the Nasser's worked on design changes.

"In all fairness, it is probably a 300-plus million-dollar project, and there's not too many that are being built like that in Saskatchewan with private dollars," Nasser said. "So it's fairly challenging, but we're fairly confident we can get something going. We just have to roll with what the market it demanding."

The city would still be in charge of developing the site, and would have approval on site architecture and other criteria set out in the South Downtown Local Area Design Plan.

City administration is recommending that council approve the plan.

The issue goes before council at its next meeting on Monday.

If approval is granted, Nasser said he still can't say how soon shovels could hit the ground.

"A number of criteria would have to fall in place before we made that decision," he explained. Those include pre-leases and pre-sales.

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