Downtown grocery store plan doesn't include city's proposed land-bridge
'It's not viable,' developer says of idea of landbridge and underground parkade
Questions loom after a recent pitch to build a grocery store and other retail and living space in Saskatoon's city yards property.
Chief among them is whether there would be room in the project for a land-bridge, previously mentioned by the the City of Saskatoon, meant to connect both sides of the city.
The answer is no, according to the company behind the grocery store proposal.
Under the city's North Downtown Master Plan, released in 2014, a land-bridge would stretch westward over the CP rail line starting at 26th Street.
Hundreds of underground parking stalls could also be involved.
"Charging for parking in this location — it's not viable," Jeff Drexel, the president of Vancouver-based Arbutus Properties, recently told city councillors.
"The trouble we have is there isn't a parking shortage in the city," said Drexel. Instead, Arbutus is proposing a smaller pedestrian bridge without parking stalls.
Saskatoon resident Peggy Sarjeant said it would be a shame to see all the prior planning for the area go out the window.
"What happened to that plan?" she asked councillors. "The city spent a considerable amount of time, money and energy developing it and the public spent a considerable amount of time attending engagement sessions so they could have a voice. Was this all for naught?"
Arbutus sought council's permission to directly negotiate the sale of the city yards property for fair market value. Councillors can't actually do that, though.
The company wants to buy the entire property but develop it in phases, starting with a grocery store.
But other groups have expressed an interest in the area.
Brad Zurevinski, the general manager of Saskatoon's largest residential development company, Dream Development, had requested to speak to councillors but proved a no-show.
In an earlier letter to councillors, Zurevinski asked for "a fair and equitable opportunity for all groups with interest in developing these lands and others within the city."
Soccer stadium also pitched
Meanwhile, soccer player-turned investor Joe Belan has proposed that an arena be built in the area to host a Saskatchewan franchise for the Canadian Premier League.
The site has also been suggested as a potential location for a replacement for the aging SaskTel Centre, though it is not at the top of the list of preferred relocation sites, according to Sasktel Centre CEO Will Lofdahl.
The city is currently mulling how to respond to Arbutus' request and is expected to report back within the next couple months.
More than one councillor called the company's proposal "exciting" but acknowledged the many questions hovering around it.
Councillor Ann Iwanchuk pointed out that the city has yet to relocate its city yards to another area, making redevelopment of the current city yards site impossible at the moment.