September 4, 2018 8:50 pm
Updated: September 5, 2018 7:13 am

Saskatoon exploring phased redevelopment of city yards and north downtown

WATCH ABOVE: Saskatoon is now shifting its focus to create a concrete master plan to redevelop the city yards, as well as the north end of downtown.

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The City of Saskatoon is looking at expediting phased redevelopment of the city yards industrial area and the north end of downtown.

The decision comes after a report from administration said it wouldn’t be in the best interest of the city to move forward on a proposal to sell the site to Vancouver-based Arbutus Properties.

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“Spending time to update the master plan is not in their best interest right now,” Arbutus Properties CEO Jeff Drexel said. “I think they might want to continue down the path of looking at the feasibility of moving the city yards.”

READ MORE: Developer looking to buy and re-develop Saskatoon city yards industrial area

The city was approached back in March by Arbutus with a proposal to purchase 22 acres of land in the city yards area. Arbutus’ plan included a development with a mix of residential apartments, condos, retail and office space, as well as a full-sized grocery store – something the city has been looking at for some time. No cost for the project has been identified.

But an administration report to the city’s standing policy committee on finance said the proposal isn’t feasible. The main issue noted by administration is that the city yards area is still used by the city, with five separate departments operating out of 16 permanent buildings, eight cover-all buildings, and five crew trailers.

The report says there are around 650 permanent staff and 100 summer staff based out of the area, with no plans in place to relocate the yards. The city also houses over 400 vehicles and large pieces of equipment on site.

“We’ll be looking at the potential phased approach to the development of the area taking into consideration the creation and approval of a funded yards relocation project, and approval of a concept plan for the area,” Saskatoon’s CFO Kerry Tarasoff said in council chambers.

READ MORE: Current population not sufficient to support downtown grocery store: report

Until then, the land isn’t up for sale. But it’s believed no matter who owns the land, it will take between 25 and 30 years to redevelop the industrial area.

The city is now shifting its focus to create a concrete master plan to redevelop the city yards, as well as the north end of downtown. The plan would include financing and relocation of city operations in the industrial area.

“How do we make it easier to do development in the downtown? So for that reason, we have to come up with the right process of procurement,” Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark said. “But let’s not wait 25 years.”

A draft North Downtown Master Plan was completed in 2014 but never greenlit or endorsed by council.  It outlines a high-density neighborhood in the city yards area, with a mix of townhouses, medium and high-rise residential development, as well as mixed-use, commercial, and community development.

A report is due back at the beginning of 2019 that outlines the cost, and options to expedite the redevelopment of the area.

While Arbutus is hopeful the city will continue to explore their proposal, there is concern over the timeline. But Drexel said Arbutus will keep its eye on the project.

“We’re encouraged, so we’ll let the process happen and see where it lies and see where it is at the end of the day,” Drexel said. “But we can’t wait forever but we’ll see if we can do our best to make it work in our time frame.”

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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