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Downtown Saskatoon turning corner as 2020 approaches: Charlie Clark

Downtown Saskatoon turning corner as 2020 approaches: Charlie Clark
WATCH: Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark says the city’s downtown is changing for the better.

On the eve of a new decade, Mayor Charlie Clark thinks downtown Saskatoon is on the cusp of something great.

In his year-end interview with Global News, Clark talked about significant decisions from Saskatoon city council that could begin to reverse a trend where the area sees less development compared to other neighbourhoods in the city.

READ MORE: Saskatoon city council votes for new central library

“There’s been a lot of talk for a decade about having more residential [units] downtown and it not happening,” Clark said.
He referenced Baydo Development Corporation’s plans for two 23-storey towers with roughly 360 rental units as being “the first new rental [project] in a generation” downtown.

During November’s budget talks, council voted to put $67.5 million toward a new central library. It also dedicated $100,000 for a business case study into a downtown arena and convention centre. Whether the project should be a mega-facility or separate buildings, Clark said, should be left up to planning experts.

The overall goal should be to have a library, downtown entertainment district, bus rapid transit system and redeveloped Midtown Plaza that complement each other, according to the mayor.

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There needs to be a balance between large projects and affordability, said Clark, who reiterated that a property tax increases of 3.7 per cent in 2020 is the lowest percentage point hike in a decade.

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Owners of any Saskatoon home with an assessed value of $371,000 will pay an additional $60.95 per year in 2020 and $66.83 per year in 2021.

Without “modest investments” in things like parks, and partnerships with groups like the Gordie Howe Sports Complex and the Nutrien Wonderhub, Clark said families wouldn’t choose to live in Saskatoon.

Coming off a year in which Saskatoon reached an all-time high for homicides, Clark’s year-end interview covered public safety and what 35 community organizations call “the rising drug-related health and safety crisis.”

“This year, I’ve seen an unprecedented level of agreement and cooperation between community agencies, the police and many community partners,” Clark said.

AIDS Saskatoon’s supervised consumption site is expected to open in spring 2020. Clark said he’s glad to see Saskatoon police cooperating with its organizers, but he was concerned with a letter from Christine Tell, the province’s corrections and policing minister.

READ MORE: Sask. government won’t give extra money for consumption site policing

Tell said the province wouldn’t fund police for the site, as it puts money toward “areas that are of mutual provincial priority and not strictly a local concern.”

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Clark disagrees.

“I see this, absolutely, as a provincial concern because addictions are under the jurisdiction of health,” Clark said.

The mayor said the city has stepped up by providing police with money for eight officers to patrol the area around the site in the Pleasant Hill neighbourhood.

“We need every level of government to step up, to make sure this has the best outcome for the community,” he said.

The upcoming year will see Saskatoon voters go to the polls in a civic election. Clark said he will make an announcement “about his plans into the future,” but said his focus right now is on his current term as mayor.