As the trees come down Regina group protests new Conexus head office
It may have been a quiet Saturday at the construction site in Wascana Park, but those voicing their concerns are still protesting the development of a 7,400-square-metre Conexus Credit Union head office building.
“Wascana Park is the heart and soul of Regina,” said Anna Gardikiotis, a member of the group No Business in the Park. “The park was never intended for commercial purposes. It was intended for specific recreation, culture, preservation, advancement of education, those sorts of things.”
Now one hectare of land is being cleared including around 100 trees, to make room for the credit union’s new head office.
This comes after Conexus donated $8.25 million to the University of Regina to help fund renovations to its College Avenue Campus, which includes Darke Hall. In exchange, the credit union is being granted a 90-year lease.
“By collocating the head office project with Darke Hall, it’s our ability to renew and rejuvenate that building and that shared space and be able to really invest into that property,” Conexus chief transformation officer Annette Revet said.
But since Wednesday, when the trees started coming down, the group called No Business in the Park has been protesting the development.
“When the table is set by our politicians and leaders to allow [the development], that’s why parks need to be protected in the first place. They should never be politicized,” Gardikiotis said.
“Arguably, there hasn’t been great dialogue on it. It’s very difficult to wrap your head around how the park is managed, who the partners are. It’s complicated for the average person.”
Some, however, feel with cuts to government funding, Conexus is making the best out of a bad situation.
“Unfortunately governments of all stripes, of all levels, are cutting back on spending on public resources, and expecting the private sector or the co-op sector to pick up the slack,” said Lorne Scott, member of Friends of Wascana Marsh.
“If Conexus had not stepped up, we were certainly in danger of losing Darke Hall and portions of Wascana Campus. We’ve decided to take the high road [and] we’ve met with Conexus officials and said that we want the footprint to be as small as possible.”
The company says for every tree it’s not able to relocate, three trees will be replanted in its place. Still, some say allowing commercial development in the park sets a bad precedent.
“I just don’t see it as a win-win for both sides as clean as it may be portrayed. And not over the long term certainly,” Gardikiotis added.
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.