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City developing strategy to turn old gas stations into housing, offices

WATCH ABOVE: The city examines options for cleaning up and developing unused parcels of land formerly occupied by gas stations

REGINA – You’ve likely walked or driven past them – plots of land in the heart of Regina that are sitting empty.

Many of them former gas stations, saddled with a less than flattering name: brownfields.

But what if they could be re-developed?

“They can actually help us achieve complete neighbourhoods which is one of our community objectives,” said Shanie Leugner, Regina’s acting director of planning.

18 locations in total, which would be classified as infill development – or the opposite of urban sprawl.

A map of brownfield sites around Regina.
A map of brownfield sites around Regina.

The challenge is remediation. After years of potential ground contamination, the lots would need to meet strict environmental standards laid out by the province.

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It’s a costly process. One city-owned site was remediated at a cost of more than $80,000.

So land owners may need a bit of a push.

“If the property is owned by the private sector, it’s hard to [encourage]¬†them to convert this over to meaningful property,” Mayor Michael Fougere said.

“The idea of a tax deferral over a short period of time would be a simple incentive,” said Ward 8 councillor Mike O’Donnell. “We do that for other reasons. It would be a simple way to go.”

Motivation could come from the market. Linely Schaefer, a commercial real estate broker, is managing a remediated brownfield property on Victoria Avenue East where the land alone could be worth $400,000.

“Regina’s prices have now got to a point (where), per-square foot, it is economically viable for remediation to take place because of cost recovery,” Schaefer said.

The site used to be a service station. Soon, it will be office space in prime territory where demand is growing.

“They’re not making any more land in these areas,” Schaefer said. “There are some fantastic sites that would get bought up in a heartbeat.”

Eight other brownfield sites have been remediated, from a residential development at 2700 Elphinstone Street to recreational at Mount Pleasant Park.

What’s to be determined is how much more incentive is needed and what the city is willing – or able – to offer.

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