Saskatoon property developer Ken Achs says the city’s downtown core is dying and will continue to die unless action is taken by council to make changes.
He said three steps need to be undertaken by city council to address the issue: moving the bus mall, pressuring the province to move the welfare office and dealing with The Lighthouse.
Achs has advocated for years for the bus mall to be moved.
“I know that there has been a lot of work put in by the city, by the administration, by governments, with studies and looking at all the various options for the downtown core,” Achs told the city’s planning, development and community services committee on Monday.
“My issue is that during all of this studying … over the past decade, the core has just turned into a terrible place.”
Achs said it is time to stop studying and look at solutions.
“I know that you had numerous complaints from various people for various issues resulting from these businesses that are operating down there,” he said.
“It’s been studied long enough. There needs to be some action.”
The issue over the bus mall should disappear in the future as the city moves forwards with its bus-rapid-transit plan, Mayor Charlie Clark told Achs during the meeting.
However, Clark said solving The Lighthouse issue requires work to ensure better services for the people using the facility.
He said Saskatoon is facing a crisis with homelessness, mental health and addictions and that is adding to growing tension in the downtown core, along with Riversdale and business improvement areas.
“We are actively identifying with the province and service providers alternate locations to the downtown core to try and provide these services,” he said.
“I would say this is a matter not of years, but of months to be able to identify and start putting the pieces in place for a better system of services. And we need again a community-based approach that we’re all working together towards that solution.”
There is no “magic” solution” in dealing with The Lighthouse, said city manager Jeff Jorgenson.
“Those big issues that are facing Saskatoon, whether it’s homelessness or drug addiction, those are issues that every municipality is struggling (with),” Jorgenson told the committee.
“Pretty much universally across North America, (it) is not a municipal-owned issue. It is actually, in Canada, typically a provincial-federal issue.”
Achs acknowledged that there are many sides to The Lighthouse issue and that there is no single solution, but the first steps must be taken to address the issues.
He said he is ready to work with the city to find solutions.
“I would have probably a different perspective than some of the perspectives that have been put forward,” he told the committee.
“And I’m not even saying they’re correct. I’m just saying there are different and maybe it’ll spawn some thoughts and the motivation to look in different areas or do things differently than have been done up ‘til now.”