Strengthening our Downtown: the Heart of our City
During a 2018 workshop on the future of the downtown, Peter Nippi, an elder from Kiniston Saulteaux First Nation, shared with the group of community and business leaders that the Saulteax word for heart is ohtayna. He told us the downtown is the heart of the city, and that in order for the whole city to be strong, the heart needs to be strong, just like with our own hearts and bodies.
Saskatoon has a beautiful downtown. The scale, streets, river, shops, restaurants, historic buildings, and the walkability, all create a great atmosphere.
The downtown flows into neighbouring Nutana and Riversdale, also vibrant entertainment and business districts.
But there are also many gravel parking lots, office vacancy has been increasing, safety concerns have grown, and the vast majority of development in recent decades has occurred on the edges of the city, instead of in the heart.
In my first term as Mayor we took a number of steps to support the revitalization of the downtown core. These included:
Mayor's Rountable on Infill
Establishment of the Mayor’s Roundtable on Infill – resulting in significant changes that streamline the development processes for downtown projects.
Approval of close to 1,000 new units of residential housing in the City Center area.
River Landing project
Approval and support for both Phase II and III of the River Landing project, with targeted completion for 2021.
Revitalization of Midtown
Support for the revitalization of Midtown, strengthening its anchor role as the premier shopping center for the province.
Downtown Entertainment District
Beginning a site-location process for a new Downtown Entertainment District
New Central Library
Support for the New Central Library location and using $67 million of the City’s debt limit as part of its borrowing plan.
Remai Modern and Nutrien Wonderhub
Opening of the Remai Modern and the Nutrien Wonderhub Children’s museum, two new anchor destinations.
Downtown Stimulus Strategy
Development of a new Downtown Stimulus Strategy guided by Larry Beasley & Associates in collaboration with community and business partners.
Development of a Downtown Guide with community partners to highlight what makes our downtown unique.
Focused efforts on community safety including a coordinated downtown policing strategy and the establishment of the Saweyhitotan Downtown Safety Pilot Project.
As Mayor, I want to show the world what Saskatoon has to offer – our world class facilities, events, and businesses in the heart of our city.
There is no question that COVID-19 has created challenges and uncertainties for the downtown. With fewer people working in offices, staying at hotels, eating at downtown restaurants, hosting festivals and events, so much of what makes the downtown come alive, has been reduced. My priority is to create a downtown where people want to live, work, and gather. Already, our downtown is becoming more vibrant and filled with action as people start gathering and travelling again. This is key for our whole city to flourish, now and into the future.
The key actions I will be focusing on this term will be:
Downtown Entertainment District
The establishment of a future site for the Downtown Entertainment District that brings together an arena, convention center, and a vibrant hub of activity including dining, shopping and other attractions. Work with all level of governments and community partners to explore all options to finance such a development so that it does not rely on property taxes.
Bus Rapid Transit
Get construction going on the Bus Rapid Transit system, including moving the existing Transit Terminal to a new transit corridor on First Avenue.
Work with the Tech Industry, Post Secondary Sector and Provincial Government to support the development of a Tech Hub in the downtown.
Cut the red tape
Continue collaboration with industry partners to cut red tape and streamline development processes for the downtown.
Strengthen Saskatoon Land’s role
Strengthen Saskatoon Land’s role as a strategic player in driving innovation in downtown developments through partnerships.