author: ethan williams | contributor
Commercial enterprise to come to Wascana
For years, Wascana Park has been a spot for culture, arts, and sport in Regina. But now the park will also become home to a commercial office development.
In late August, Conexus proposed an 80,000 sq. ft. facility that would be built on a piece of land beside the existing College Avenue Campus of the University of Regina, which is considering a renovation of its own. The new tower would link to a newly refurbished Darke Hall, once completed. The Wascana Centre Authority and the City of Regina have approved the plans.
Eric Dillon is the CEO of Conexus, and says that the $60-64 million office tower development, funded entirely by Conexus, will not just be home to their company.
“We’re also planning 15,000 square feet of our space to be used as a business incubator for our business partner groups, such as the Saskatchewan Young Professionals, and the Chamber of Commerce. It will help these organizations come up with new ideas and grow.”
When asked why they chose the Wascana site, Dillion says it was a mix of things.
“We wanted to be a part of the revitalization of College Avenue Campus, and we felt Conexus could help the University achieve its goals. We also have lots of partners in the community that we work with, such as the Food Bank and the Chamber of Commerce, and we’ve always had partnerships with different organizations over our eighty-year history, so it made sense to pick this unique spot in Wascana Park. As well, Conexus already sponsors locations within Wascana Centre, such as the Conexus Boathouse and the Conexus Arts Centre.”
Dillon went on to say that it was important to note that the site they are building on was previously marked as a development space by the Wascana Centre Authority in their master plans.
The University also agrees that this venture would be profitable for their College Avenue space. VP of Administration Dave Button says the economic growth will greatly improve the University’s aging space; especially considering it is behind in building code standards.
“[The effect] is nothing but positive. Part of our goal is accessibility. To achieve that, you need to have a large theatre lobby space [in Darke Hall] for events, and you need elevators.”
Button cites the growing population at that location as one of the other reasons for redevelopment.
“There’s more than 7,000 students every year that participate in activities there. You have certificate programs, English as a Second Language, Lifelong Learning, and the Conservatory.”
He also mentioned that residents concerned about possible disruption to the park’s flow should be aware that a map from the City, detailing the land arrangement, shows most of the road and adjacent land being occupied by the development.
Button says that map was only for planning purposes, and that the project will only occupy the east side of Wascana Drive.
“I’ve been on the Wascana Centre Board for years, so [protecting the park] has been first in my mind. We wouldn’t be going ahead with the project if we thought it was going to detract from the park itself. We’re trying to preserve heritage values.”
Meantime, on the Conexus Front, Dillon says they are also addressing those exact same issues.
“That’s a fair conversation to have, but I can assure [people] that as a financial corporation, we will be responsible stewards to our community. We have been for the last eighty years.”
He also inferred what would happen if the development didn’t go ahead as planned.
“We may look back, if we don’t complete it, many years from now and wonder why we didn’t add something to that space. Then people would begin to wonder about how we would go about building something there, and how we would get the money. It’s unlikely that the government would be willing to help, so what’s the alternative?”
Conexus and the U of R aren’t the only two groups looking to expand their potential in the park. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind [CNIB], which has offices in the park off of Broad Street, has spoken to local media in the city lately saying they are considering their future in Wascana, which may include expansion.
For now, the focus is on the revitalization and development at the College Avenue Campus site. The project is in the early stages, so it is difficult to tell when the project will be completed. However, the north end of Wascana Park will likely have a slightly different feel a few years down the road.