Saskatoon’s former Continental Hotel demolished

Click to play video: 'The former Continental Hotel has been demolished in Saskatoon'
The former Continental Hotel has been demolished in Saskatoon
WATCH: With the former Continental Hotel being demolished, Global News got the reaction from the property owner and developers and what it means for the downtown core moving forward – May 1, 2022

The Saskatoon fire department (SFD) gave the order to demolish the former Continental Hotel last week. Crews knocked the building down shortly thereafter.

The initial order was given back in February after an inspection of the building inside and out and recommendations that the cost to fix the building would be worth more than its total worth.

The fire department adds that as of April 26, the building was still standing and posed an imminent risk and public safety concerns.

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Buzz over proposed grocery store in downtown Saskatoon

The building was built in the early 1900s.

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SFD assistant chief Yvonne Raymer says it’s their duty to ensure public safety.

“The building is beyond repair. It is currently at risk of a partial or full collapse, which is a significant safety risk. The cost to restore its structural integrity exceeds the replacement cost of the structure, which means demolition is the final and only reasonable course of action,” Raymer said.

The fire department says it has a long history with the building dating back to 2002:

  • 2002 – The fire inspector at the time identified that the interior of the building was dismantled and there were significant structural concerns.
  • 2015 – An engineering inspection reported repairs would put the building into a temporary state of “stable condition,” but a permanent plan was deemed necessary.
  • 2016 – The SFD did not receive a permanent rehabilitation plan. With no plan in place, SFD was obligated to issue an order in October 2016 requiring another structural assessment with a permanent plan for the structure.
  • 2018 – A second engineering assessment occurred in January 2018 confirming the building required repairs to keep the structure stable in the short-term but required a reassessment every three months to monitor its stability. SFD received no further engineering assessments from the owner.
  • 2020 – On Jan. 17, SFD issued a demolition order and after that date worked with the property owner and Building Standards to allow the owner a demolition permit.

“I have been in the building in February of 2022. It was gutted to the wood; there was nothing historical in the building, just wood. There is no historical designation on the building,” said Raymer.

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“The property owner is in charge of clearing out the lot after the demolition.”

Multiple failed attempts by the property owner to address the safety issues also led to the decision.

The property owner, Mark Bobyn, says when he purchased the property back in 2008, he had the intention to restore it as a historical site.

“I had the intention of restoring it and turning it into a boutique hotel,” said Bobyn.

Bobyn says they did have pieces of significance in the building during inspections by engineers and Raymer earlier this year.

Bobyn adds the option to build something else in its place won’t happen as it doesn’t make sense financially.

Downtown Saskatoon Business approval district executive director Brent Penner says the street is a prime location in the downtown core and is so close to the river.

“In the medium to long term, that whole block along 20th street has some significant building potential,” said Penner.

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Penner adds it’s important to nurture the downtown of any city to keep it healthy and vibrant.

“As downtowns go (so) do the cities. Downtowns play a role in the brand of the city. It’s important, it’s the heart of the city,” Penner told Global News.

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.”

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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.

— with files from Dave Giles

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