The Regina Planning Commission voted unanimously this week to recommend the city allow the renovation and repurposing of the Municipal Justice Building (MJB).
If council approves the rezoning of the property this Wednesday, the door will officially be open to turn the 90-year-old structure into a community centre featuring recreational space, classrooms, offices, meeting rooms and a kitchen.
“The Heritage neighbourhood has been without a community centre forever,” Heritage Community Association executive director Shayna Stock said.
“It’s really exciting. I think that in time it will become a hub for community activity in the Heritage neigbourhood.”
The 11th Avenue building was built in 1930 to house Regina’s police force at the time. It stood over the infamous Regina Riot of 1935, before being converted into courthouses in the 1970s.
While it has spent decades listed on Regina’s heritage inventory, it has been vacant in recent years.
Heritage Regina has written to the city advocating for the MJB to be designated a Municipal Heritage Property, which would spare it from destruction and qualify it for a tax exemption that would offset rehabilitation costs.
Then last year, as plans to expand the Regina Police Service headquarters got underway, plans to revitalize the space took a step forward.
“In their discussions around the redevelopment or expansion of the RPS headquarters, they found an opportunity in the MJB to create a community centre for Heritage,” said Stock.
Initially, the HCA expressed concerns that some community members might not be comfortable gathering in a space also used by police.
But Stock says the renovation plans, which were drawn up a local group of architects and devote only the third floor of the building to the Regina Police Service, strike a good balance.
“Even though it’s shared the space will be very separate,” Stock said.
The cost of renovating the city-owned building will be covered by funds received through the government of Saskatchewan’s Municipal Economic Enhancement Program.
While a renovation timeline has not been published, all MEEP funding must be used by March 31, 2022.
On Jan. 13 city council voted to give the MJB heritage status. A bylaw will now be written up that will officially declare the building a heritage property.
“I think it’s uplifting to see the city take this more seriously than it has, perhaps, in the past,” said Councillor Andrew Stevens, whose ward included the Heritage neighborhood until a boundary change last year.
“I think this is gonna be an incredible investment in that neighborhood.”
There has been a push from residents in recent years to see the city protect more of its historic structures.
Stevens said he hopes the repurposing of the MJB will serve as an example of the potential of preserving heritage.
“I think we need some new community spaces brought online. But we’ve advanced a partnership framework that will allow us to find partners in the community that would facilitate opening community spaces without us having to build something brand new.”