Saskatoon city council to decide on traffic upgrades for proposed grocery store in Midtown Plaza

A real estate company is asking the city to support its goal of developing a full-service grocery store in downtown Saskatoon.

Developer wants full traffic lights at intersection of Auditorium Avenue and Idylwyld Drive

Arbutus Properties is asking the city for support in the development of a Pitchfork Market + Kitchen store in the Midtown Plaza. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

A real estate company is asking the city to support its goal of developing a full-service grocery store in downtown Saskatoon.

The Vancouver-based real estate developer Arbutus Properties wants to open a second Pitchfork Market + Kitchen store in the city. There is already one located in southeast Saskatoon. 

Murray Totland, director of planning with Arbutus Properties, spoke at a meeting of the city's standing policy committee on transportation on Monday, asking about a tax abatement for the potential space in Midtown Plaza as well as an upgrade to put full traffic signals at the intersection of Auditorium Avenue and Idylwyld Drive to provide easier access to the proposed store.

"We're really excited about bringing this project forward," said Totland.

"Pitchfork really is intended to take us back to that era [of neighbourhood grocery stores]."

In addition to in-person and online shopping, the proposed Pitchfork Market + Kitchen store at Midtown Plaza would run a licensed restaurant and prepared meals for take-out, said Totland.

Tax abatement already in place for mall

Since a property tax abatement was already approved for the owners of the Midtown Plaza in 2018, no further abatement can be provided to tenants under the current policies, according to the decision report accompanying Monday's meeting.

"When we made this request, we were really unaware of … the current tax abatement with Midtown Plaza," said Totland.

"We're going to need to put a pause on that perhaps and go back to Midtown and have some further discussions with them and just how that's going to impact our store."

The request for the intersection upgrade, however, remains critical to the company and its goal to open a grocery store in downtown Saskatoon, said Totland.

Arbutus Properties estimates around 80 per cent of its customers would be driving to the business, said Totland.

Upgrading the Auditorium Avenue/Idylwyld Drive intersection — which would serve as the primary access to the grocery story —  to have full traffic signals would make the trip safer for people, he said. Currently the intersection only has a pedestrian signal and stop sign control in place.

"Ease of access/egress from this intersection is critical to finalizing our plans and frankly, the ultimate success of this grocery store," said Totland in a letter to the city manager.

"We understand that this safety upgrade is already planned as part of the Imagine Idylwyld project work, so our request is really one of an acceleration of those plans."

An aerial photograph of the intersection of of Idylwyld Drive and Auditorium Avenue that the developer wants to see upgraded to full traffic lights. Currently only pedestrian signals are in place. (Submitted by City of Saskatoon)

City council to have final vote

All committee members voted in favour of moving the administration's recommendations to city council for final decision making.

Recommendations include installing the full traffic signals at Auditorium Avenue and Idylwyld Drive, removing the median on Idylwyld Drive between Auditorium Avenue and 22nd Street, and installing a traffic island at the intersection of 21st Street and Idylwyld Drive.

The report recommends that the city complete these changes once the grocery store reaches a certain build-out point. The work is expected to cost $220,000, the report says.

"I'm very happy to see this project moving forward and coming to council," said Coun. Randy Donauer on Monday.

"It will provide an amenity in downtown Saskatoon that, quite honestly, has been missing the entire time I've been on council."

Arbutus Properties is hoping to open the downtown grocery store as early as December 2022, said Totland. However, he expects early 2023 to be a more realistic timeline. 

The new grocery store will set up shop in a space in the mall originally planned for a Mountain Equipment Co-op location. The store was partially developed but never opened.

"This is great news," said Coun. Bev Dubois.

"We do need a grocery store downtown. We hear that all the time, all of us here that, you know, even though it's not specifically in our ward."

With files from David Shield


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