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Warehouse district, North Central a main focus at Regina council

Regina City Hall Update - Change to allow medium office development in Warehouse District, as well as enhanced efforts to revitalize North Central, were among the items that passed Wednesday.
The scene at Regina’s city council meeting on Feb. 14.

REGINA - Here are highlights from Wednesday’s council meeting at Regina City Hall:

The city’s Warehouse District was the focus for a change coming to the office development policy in the city. 

Council gave its approval to amending its current office development policy. The change would consider medium office development in the warehouse district, and consider flexibility for unique circumstances, not contemplated by the office development policy through a contract zone.

Council members heard from delegations including Leasa Gibbons, CEO of the Regina Warehouse Business Improvement District. She spoke in favor of the removal of what she described as the “zoning donut”, noting the current restrictions have cost the Warehouse District projects.

“The Warehouse District supports the removal of the zoning donut that currently restricts medium office in the core of our district. While it’s hard to capture the number of projects that we’ve lost due to this restriction, we do know of several that have actively approached buildings within that donut only to have to move on to somewhere else when they were unable to meet the requirements of light industrial.”

One issue she pointed to was that light industrial had largely moved out to the industrial area, and she pointed to the need to find new tenants to keep these historic buildings occupied and in use.

Council voted in favor, but one concern how this break for the Warehouse District would impact other areas of the city that are struggling to find tenants like the downtown. Mayor Sandra Masters did not see a major issue there.

“We know that a really active and vibrant warehouse district is as important for downtown as downtown is for the warehouse district, they’re kind of intimately connected. And when you have a product that is unique, it is intended to have investment to happen in it…

If there are small and medium sized offices that want to go in and invest in those properties, we don’t want to get in that way because those buildings will deteriorate to the point where they may not be salvageable.”

Finally, efforts to revitalize the North Central neighbourhood was on the agenda, aimed at helping that community turn around from the numerous socio-economic and other issues that have plagued the neighbourhood over the past number of years, including dilapidated buildings and issues around safety.

Council heard from delegations, one of which consisted of representatives from the youth advisory group that calls itself North Central Strong. This is a task force consisting of graduates of Scott Collegiate and the Growing Young Movers program that has been advising the Mayor and administration on how to revitalize North Central.

The initial resolution at the meeting had called for council to empower the youth with the North Central revitalization task force to continue their initiative, and to empower them to guide and lead community engagement and report back to council regarding their progress. The motion also directed administration to appoint a coordinator to measure and report on the work performed by city departments within North Central, and also direct the mayor and task force to seek out funding, and our partnership from other levels of government.

But the final resolution that passed at Council turned out to be far more extensive with several more commitments added on to address housing, the demolition of unsafe properties, working collaboratively with Regina Police Service, and utilizing youth-led community engagement on an ongoing basis, among others.

“I think what council agreed to do was empower North Central Strong youth group, and the Mayors Task Force to continue the work that has been underway,” said Mayor Masters. “It has empowered us to go to the other levels of government its unanimous council support to continue to advocate for different funding programs or even ideas that haven’t been thought of yet. It in power of the used to meet with communities continue their work.

“And it provides a lead from the City, that understanding that the interconnectedness of the work — the work the city does amongst its many departments is actually connected through that community, and so really about understanding the work in the investment that the city will be making.”

It was a unanimous vote at council, and the hope is that this will be the impetus for council to take more action on North Central in the future.

“It’s wonderful to agree on intention at a path forward, but what the community needs is to act. And so coming back and reminding council every time we ask for resources will be ‘hey, we all agreed this was really important.’”

Finally, council gave its stamp of approval to the amendments to the Housing Incentives Policy that had previously been approved at Ececutive Committee. 

The changes allow conditional funding commitments earlier in the project development, as well as increase flexibility in the reporting of affordable units to reduce vacancies and decrease administrative complexity, among others. This passed unanimously at council on Wednesday.