REGINA - Regina city council has voted in favour of approving the recommendations for all four catalyst projects.
The four projects that were recommended were the non-vehicular trail system that would connect the various projects; the second was the replacement for the Lawson Aquatic Center which was separately approved at the last council meeting, third was a new Central Library downtown to replace the existing one, and the fourth was a new Multipurpose Events Centre.
"It's easy to find a thousand reasons not to do something, but sometimes you just have to be courageous and build into the future, and that's what we're doing today,” said Councillor Bob Hawkins at the meeting. Hawkins had been co-chair of the Catalyst Committee along with REAL District CEO Tim Reid.
The approval had not been without controversy. Council met over a period of two days discussing the catalyst projects and recommendations.
On Wednesday they heard from over 30 delegations at City Hall, who offered a range of opinions from residents and interested groups both for and against the recommendations.
Some of the opposition centred on the location of a downtown Events Centre, while others questioned why catalyst projects should be a priority when there were competing ones such as houselessness and other issues. There was also opposition expressed to demolishing the existing central library.
On the flip side, proponents in favor of the Events Centre touted the potential benefits of a downtown location in addressing the current issues seen there.
The Wednesday council meeting ended up lasting several hours, not ending until around 10 p.m. that night. It wasn’t until Thursday morning that council was able to get down to business in discussing the recommendations from the Catalyst Committee report.
Both the walking trail and the new central library passed easily by 11-0 and 10-1 votes, respectively. The most controversial project was the proposed Events Centre, and in particular the recommendation that it go in the downtown.
A phone survey by Forum Research had been commissioned in the previous weeks on the issue with a sample size of 1,000 people. According to the results of that survey, 46.5 per cent of respondents either somewhat or strongly disagreed that a new downtown multipurpose events Center, was an important priority for the city of Regina. Meanwhile, 64.4 per cent indicated a new indoor multipurpose Events Center, is needed in Regina apart from my location. When asked which of the following statements best describe your opinion regarding the new event centre 34.6 per cent said it was needed, but does not belong downtown. 30.3 per cent said it was not needed, and 29.8 per cent said it was needed and belong to downtown.
Those lukewarm responses were in part what prompted an amendment to the recommendation for priority four. It was moved the term “downtown core” be amended to read “greater downtown area,” which broadens the definition to also include the yards. There had also been talk of including REAL District as well, but council ultimately voted 7-4 to remove REAL from the “greater downtown” definition.
In the end, the amended motion for Priority 4 being the Events Centre in the “greater downtown” ended up carrying 8-3.