The City of Saskatoon has hired a Vancouver design firm to plan an environmentally progressive, walkable neighbourhood for up to 12,000 people on the edge of Saskatoon’s downtown. Perkins and Will [with local firm Group2 Architecture] was chosen from four shortlisted companies to design plans for a north downtown neighbourhood in the area that currently houses the city storage yards and the new police headquarters.
The company beat out four shortlisted Canadian firms and 13 total companies, including one from China, that put their credentials forward to create the master plan.
The Vancouver firm will be paid $315,000 after council awarded the contract on Monday.
Group2 Architecture in Saskatoon will team with Perkins and Will on the plans.
The team will hold public consultation sessions during the next year — both citywide and with nearby neighbourhoods — to determine what type of neighbourhood residents want to see. Jeanna South, a project manager with the city, said the work will lay “the bones” for the site, including population targets, the economic model, road layout, environmental targets, architectural guidelines and the area’s overarching identity
here won’t be single-family housing, just townhouses, condos and apartments, South said. The north downtown will also have offices and retail, all served by transit and bike paths. The idea is to have a walkable community connected to the downtown.
One of the big questions is just how many people the area can or should house.
City planners currently estimate 5,000 to 7,000 people, but city manager Murray Totland said Monday he’s hoping for 10,000 to 12,000 people, a number that was supported by Mayor Don Atchison.
“We need to talk about the larger number at the front end to find out what the infrastructure costs are,” Atchison said.
South said the consultant will weigh the area’s density with the effect of the development on neighbouring communities.
“They will be looking at how we interface with not just the downtown and (adjacent SIAST, Kelsey campus), but Caswell Hill and City Park,” South said. “We’re cognizant that (those neighbourhoods) do have a single-family character. That’s balanced by a higher level goal to see more density in the city centre.”
Perkins and Will helped with Victoria, B. C.’s Dockside Green and is developing the master plan for Edmonton’s former downtown airport lands, which will be home to 30,000 residents in an innovative inner-city neighbourhood. The Edmonton project has been described as “unique in Canadian history.” It includes geothermal district energy plans, on-site sewage treatment, mini street-level farms and garbage chutes that connect to an underground vacuum collection system, eliminating the need for garbage trucks.
“That’s a project with a lot of parallels to the north downtown,” South said. “The airport is being moved out of the centre of their city and Perkins and Will are making a proposal for new urban fabric within that area. There’s a big piece of infrastructure that is being moved out and a new neighbourhood taking shape in the downtown.”
The challenges are ample. To allow the redevelopment to proceed at all, the city has to secure funding and finalize plans to move the city yards to the proposed civic operations centre near Montgomery Place.
The downtown currently houses 2,500 people, so attracting a further 10,000-plus to live in the redeveloped neighbourhood won’t be easy with highrise apartment projects also planned for River Landing in the south downtown. The project will also be competing against new suburban developments.
Alongside the north downtown master plan, FVB Energy Inc. will complete a $100,000 study looking at a district heating and energy system for the area. The 240 acres of north downtown land is bordered by First Avenue and Idylwyld Drive and 24th Street and 33rd Street.
The goal is to make the project profitable for the city, South said.
“The economic sustainability is as important as the environmental sustainability,” South said. “We want this project to be self-sustaining.”
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