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Saskatoon City Council to discuss downtown event centre project

A design of the district might be available by summer.

SASKATOON — Proponents of the Downtown Event and Entertainment District in Saskatoon are hopeful that the statement and guiding principles outlined in their report will gain approval from City Council members.

The Council will meet on Wednesday, March 29, at 9:30 a.m. at the City Hall’s Council Chamber to discuss the proposed Downtown Event and Entertainment District and determine whether or not to approve the report.

City Technical Services Director Dan Willems stated that the project is part of a larger vision to create a thriving business and entertainment area in Saskatoon’s Downtown, accessible to everyone.

“This is a journey toward revitalizing downtown. A new event centre is just one aspect of the larger vision of creating an animated public area of thriving business and entertainment in Saskatoon’s Downtown, which is accessible to everyone,” said Willems.

“The guiding principles [Wednesday] are modified and would be what I’d expect, or we get direction from the [City] Council to go solicit other input that would slow the process down a bit, which just means our schedule gets stretched out.”

He said that the report had already gone through the Governance and Priorities Committee, which recommended an amendment to include one voting member from the province on the advisory group and the project governance be approved during their meeting last week.

“We will see how the vote goes [Wednesday]. Right now, everything is lining up. As I mentioned, we are working hard to bring back the preliminary funding strategy and conceptual designs this summer,” said Willems.

“Our target is to bring back the conceptual design budget estimate and funding strategy for [the City] Council’s approval by the end of the year. From that point, like the funding strategy, it will likely involve approvals and grants from the government [provincial and federal].”

Willems added that the plan for the project was comprehensive and aimed to revitalize Saskatoon’s downtown district. He noted that a future Bus Rapid System would make the planned event and entertainment district downtown accessible for those who would take public transport rather than driving. There are also approximately 12,000 parking spaces for motorists.

Willems said they kept the city’s 2022-2025 Strategic Plan, City Centre Plan, Imagine Idylwyld and the Official Community Plan in mind so the area will be developed sustainably and focused on Indigenous placemaking.

“By offering residents and visitors a gathering place for entertainment and events, with various restaurants, venues, shopping and nightlife, Saskatoon’s Downtown will become an economic driver for the city and the province,” said Willems.

City Planning and Development Director Lesley Anderson said that the vision for the district was to create a safe, vibrant and welcoming downtown district for all people, creating a strong economy and strengthening the community to attract people to live, work and play.

“We have developed our vision statement and eight guiding principles that will be the bedrock for moving forward. There will be many opportunities for targeted and broad engagement for all residents and visitors to provide feedback on the project, as well as targeted engagement with stakeholders, rights holders and partners,” said Anderson.

The guiding principles for the project include reconciliation by honouring Indigenous Peoples, histories, languages and culture; a distinctive identity through placemaking/placekeeping; architectural and public realm design excellence; reliable and efficient transportation options; downtown density with a focus on housing; leadership in sustainability and resiliency; a robust and diverse economy; and a healthy and safe community.

Once approved, the vision statement and guiding principles will be referenced in future reports related to the District Plan and how the guiding principles have influenced that work. The administration will continue to prepare district Plan-related reports to the Governance and Priorities Committee and City Council at significant milestones throughout the District Plan process.

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