Saskatoon

2020 is shaping up to be the year of the downtown for Saskatoon

Decisions on where to locate a new arena and central library are expected this year.

Decisions on new arena and library expected in new year

The East Tower at River Landing (in the background) is complete while work on the Nutrien Tower (foreground) is ahead of schedule, according to the project developer. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

Downtown planning in Saskatoon is about to go into overdrive. 

A number of projects are set to be decided on in 2020, including the selection of sites for a new arena and a new Saskatoon Public Library central branch.

"One of the key things we need to do in addition to having great restaurants and some of the vibrancy that we're seeing to attract the companies to create the jobs is a thriving downtown," Mayor Charlie Clark said in a recent interview.

Clark said there are more than 1,000 residential units planned for development in the city centre. 

"One of the things we've done over the course of this term that I'm proud of is we've really turned a corner on the conversation of getting people living downtown," he said. 

Library and arena 

The library project is headed by the board of directors for the Saskatoon Public Library (SPL), though city council approved some key borrowing for the project last month.

The board has been looking at a few undisclosed sites in the downtown core.

"We won't be announcing the candidate sites, only the one that is selected," said Janna Sampson, an SPL spokesperson, via email in late November.

Sampson said the board is hopeful it can announce the site in the next six months. Building a new library at the current Francis Morrison Central location is not an option, the board has already said.

Meanwhile, the city is also looking at sites for a new arena to replace SaskTel Centre. The facility may be paired with a new convention centre and is meant to be located within a new downtown entertainment district.

"Once preferred sites [for the arena] have been selected, the city will undertake consultation with stakeholders and the community for feedback on the proposed options," a city report stated last May.

The city will then report back to city council on site options and the results of the public engagement for a decision.

Lesley Anderson, the city's director of planning, confirmed Tuesday the goal is to choose a site in the new year.

"The final decision always rests with city council," she said. 

River Landing update

New development at River Landing continues. The East Tower (the one with the Royal Bank of Canada branding) is complete. 

Professional services firm Ernst Young plans to move into the building in mid-January, with other tenants to follow "in various stages in 2020," said Blair Sinclair, an executive vice president with Triovest, one of the companies involved in the development. Sixty per cent of the 13-floor building is leased, he added. 

Kitty-corner to the East Tower, the Nutrien Tower — the new Saskatoon office for the fertilizer giant — is slated to be complete in the fall of 2021, Sinclair said. 

"Nutrien has now expanded to nine floors [out of the 18-floor building]," Sinclair said. "[That's] a true sign of their continued confidence in the Saskatchewan economy."

Key transportation decisions already made

City council made some key decisions in 2019 about the downtown transportation network. 

Portions of First Avenue and Broadway Avenue were selected as the routes for the downtown and Nutana nodes of the bus-rapid-transit system, which is expected to launch in 2025.

Council also approved Third Avenue, 19th Street and 25th Street as the locations for future bike lanes. More public consultation was planned for that project. 

City council has selected the streets for a new downtown bike network, but more public consultation is planned. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Ottawa, originally from Cornwall, Ont.

Story tips? Email me at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca or DM me @gqinott on Twitter.

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