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Catalyst committee report is ready to be presented

Major report to Regina council is complete, which outlines priorities for major transformative projects in coming years for the city.

REGINA - The massive report of Regina’s Catalyst Committee has finally been tabled at City Hall.

The 16-member committee had been getting feedback and preparing their report over the past number of months.

The report is now finished and set to be discussed at length on Wednesday at Executive Committee, with that meeting set to go through some 700 pages of material related to the report and associated information materials. After that is done, it is likely to go to city council for further discussion the following week.

Catalyst Committee co-chairs Councillor Bob Hawkins and REAL District CEO Tim Reid met with reporters Tuesday at City Hall to go through the highlights of the committee's conclusions. Key among the 21 recommendations being presented to Executive Committee this week is the sequencing being proposed for the catalyst projects. 

The first priority calls for a connected non-vehicle or trail system that joins the various districts in the downtown core. This was a priority that Reid and Hawkins say emerged as the consultations took place and the report was being developed.

Hawkins explained Tuesday that the Catalyst Committee was particularly looking at four areas of land as potential sites for the major projects: the REAL district, Taylor Field, the Yards, and Downtown. 

"The question is how do we join these together. The answer was, well we already have a trail system, it needs a little work, it needs some connecting pieces built in, and we said let's look at that. And so that's what we did. We feel there is a terrific opportunity here in this trail system."

This includes opportunities for environmental points of interests, such as solar canopy benches, solar warming huts, solar trail lighting, interpretative markers and also opportunities for Indigenous interpretative markers as well. There were possibilities for outdoor fitness and biking as well. 

"The entire committee felt that this was a new addition, but one that needed to be top of mind for everybody," said Reid. The city centre core "has an opportunity to connect in a marvellous way. We need to take advantage of that."

The second priority calls for a new Aquatic Centre to be constructed at the current site of the Lawson Aquatic Centre site. The Yards site located on the rail yards north of downtown between Dewdney Ave. and Casino Regina (the former VIA Rail station building) is considered a secondary location, should environmental conditions or reclamations of the Lawson site prove compromised.

The third priority is for a new Central Library within the downtown core, with preference given to its existing location. 

The fourth and final priority is for a multipurpose Events Centre within the downtown core, with a specific location to be determined after a reevaluation of possible locations. For project evaluation and financing, the plan is for Community and Social Impact Regina to develop the key measurement criteria regarding the Events Centre. 

At Tuesday’s news conference there was considerable discussion about the process used to determine and evaluate which projects were catalyst projects and which were not.

Hawkins said there were two lenses that the committee used to determine what is eligible to be a catalyst project. The first is funding requirements. 

Considerations include the ability to source alternate funding from external sources outside the City of Regina, including federal and provincial governments, private investment and philanthropic campaigns.

“We can’t afford to build all the projects by ourselves,” said Hawkins. If projects had strong external support upwards over 50 per cent, “those are projects that we have to look at very seriously.”

After clearing that hurdle, the next consideration is whether the project meets the criteria of a catalyst project by considering it in relation to four priority pillars. According to the committee, catalyst projects should act as an economic generator in terms of creating jobs; as an activation or visitation generator in terms of driving visitors and traffic; be operationally sustainable; and be a social and wellbeing support.

According to the recommendation coming before Executive Committee on Wednesday, each catalyst project identified must be evaluated against the decision-making matrix, must establish clear economic impact targets and whenever possible secure a commitment to private investment prior to its advancement, consider the city’s Sustainability 2050 targets, fully engage with Indigenous communities, undertake an environmental study, identify capital funding sources, and be developed to a point of being shovel ready should external funding become available.

In addition to the projects already mentioned, also being considered is a Multi-Purpose Outdoor Event Centre consisting of a synthetic baseball and soccer facility. Compared to the other projects this is considerably smaller, said Reid, and more seasonal in use. 

The recommendation coming to Executive Committee proposes that the completed feasibility study for the proposed Synthetic Baseball and Soccer Facility should be considered before any specific decision relative to the project is advanced. It is also proposed the outdoor event centre “be considered within the traditional recreational capital planning framework due to the seasonal nature of its space” and “should combine baseball and soccer and be considered within the Taylor Field Lands or elsewhere but not at the Yards Site.”

According to a summary of the costs presented to reporters, the estimates for the Aquatic Centre are $172 million, the Events Centre $156 million, the Central Library $125 million and multipurpose Outdoor Events Centre $22.5 million.

None of the projects have funding currently in place, Reid said. But he did say the Aquatic Centre is in the process of an application for federal funding and "it is our position that that will be supported federally and provincially." 

Inflation is also a factor the Catalyst Committee is taking into account, with the estimated costs expected to go up.

"We should anticipate the average cost of the facilities being considered will have an escalation of somewhere between 32 and 38 per cent," said Reid. By 2030 it's expected the cost would escalate 62 percent, and in ten years by 80 per cent.

The Catalyst Committee report follows a consultation process that took place during the fall. There were eight public information sessions held during the week of Oct 17-20, 2022 at Mosaic Stadium, where presentations were made of each of the proposed projects. A community survey also ran between Oct. 17 and Nov. 10. Responses from that survey showed considerable interest in the aquatic centre, followed by the library.