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Railyards Next Target for Gentrification

author: ethan williams | staff writer

The railyards are due for development/Jaecy Bells

Plans include green spaces, residential areas, and retail outlets

Drive down Dewdney Avenue along the strip between Albert and Broad Streets and look to the north. Old warehouses have been turned into trendy new bars and businesses, and at night, especially on weekends, it is a busy street. Look to the other side, however, and you’ll find an empty, barren wasteland.

This endless abyss is what remains of the old Canadian Pacific (CP) rail yards. Once the home of a bustling rail-car loading yard, and almost the home of a multi-million-dollar stadium and entertainment complex, which was ultimately scrapped, it is now the central focus of development for the Regina Revitalization Initiative (RRI), an organization that has been formed to rejuvenate and gentrify no-longer-used areas of the city. Its past projects have included the new Mosaic Stadium development, and the old Mosaic Stadium neighbourhood development site.

So, what is going to happen to this empty piece of land? Although no one from RRI returned our request for an interview, the Carillon was able to obtain some information through the organization’s website, specifically information from an open house the organization held at the end of May last year.

Dubbed a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the heart of Regina,” the development of the site includes two phases. The first is a smaller, 17.5 acre plot of land in the northeast corner of the site. Here, RRI proposes three separate concepts for development. It is worth noting that all three concepts are generally similar, with residential, retail, and office development listed in the plans.

Concept A focusses heavily on residential development. According to RRI, approximately 2,000 people could live in the space, and the development would include a multi-purpose market building, which would include a large, open space with aisles of vendors and food stands. Concept B is a balance of residential and retail. According to RRI, these spaces would be a “fashion-oriented retail destination” and would also include a bit of office space and a hotel. Finally, Concept C is a balance of residential and civic buildings. RRI says this plan includes “a new cultural destination and institutional uses framing a civic square, completed by a mixed-use neighbourhood.”

The Secondary Plan area, which is the area located outside the three concept proposals, will be mixed use, and some of it has already been developed. Located along the west side of the rail yards, this area has been repurposed to include Regina Centre Crossing, a new Keg Steakhouse and Bar, as well as a new hotel in the past few years. The remainder of the rail yard site, which includes a strip of land south of both concept areas, cannot be developed because rail tracks are still present there.

RRI says that they consulted groups within the city for what they call a “Made in Regina” plan. Groups such as City Council, the City Project Team, Downtown and Warehouse Business Improvement Districts, and their biggest customer: the general public, were all consulted. Previous public consultations saw various themes emerge that people wanted to see in the new neighbourhood including “vibrant,” “well-constructed,” “livable,” and “green.”

Each of the concepts presented also had attached charts which showed which features were high or low priority for residents. Concept A had high support for buildings with “active ground floors” (which could likely include businesses and shops on the main levels), neighbourhood parks, an open pedestrian bridge linking downtown with the rest of the neighbourhood, as well as a treed berm along the rail corridor separating the two areas to beautify a usually industrial site. Concept A saw lower support for things such as townhouses and surface parking.

Concept B saw similar themes, but people who looked at this site want the pedestrian bridge to be enclosed, and would like to see retail and entertainment destinations. Lower support was found for establishments such as cinemas and hotels. Finally, Concept C saw high support for squares and parks, as well as underground parking, perfect for Regina climate. Lower support was found for “institutional buildings” and hotels, as well as major cultural venues.

According to the RRI presentation, “The draft policy directions are aligned with the vision for the Railyard site but also provide flexibility so that development can respond to economic and market realities.” In essence, the draft is not set in stone, and can be changed to meet the needs of what the economy in the province is like at the time of construction.

The presentation also noted that on mixed-use blocks, there could be a variety of venues available for the public to use. These include apartments, restaurants, grocery stores, and hotels among a few things. Building heights would not be as high as structures located downtown, but would be anywhere between one and six stories in the primary concept area, and between two and eight stories in the secondary area.

A final part the presentation looked at was the development of Dewdney Avenue itself, being the largest thoroughfare in the neighbourhood. As of now, the north side of the street has a sidewalk for patrons of businesses in the Warehouse District. However, the south side is unfinished, with dirt and gravel being the only thing people can walk on. A new and improved Dewdney Avenue would feature, on both sides of the street, sidewalks, new bike lanes, a buffer area for the development of trees for beautification purposes, and would keep Dewdney at four lanes, with the two lanes closest to the edges of the road also serving as an off-peak parking lane. RRI says this plan would give even access to pedestrians on each side of the street, with 25 per cent of the entire road way being used on each side for pedestrians and people, and 50 per cent of the entire roadway for vehicle traffic.

According to the RRI website, this public consultation was the final phase in preparing plans for the development of the neighbourhood before construction. More information regarding the development can be found at reginarevitalization.ca.

About Ethan Williams

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