In December 2018 the governments of Canada and Saskatchewan announced they’re putting more than $33.6-million into Regina’s Railyard Renewal Project.
The goal of the project is to take the empty site of a 17.5-acre freight car marshalling yard and turn it into a new mixed residential and commercial neighbourhood in the centre of the Saskatchewan capital.
The funding will go to cleaning up the site, installing utility infrastructure and developing public spaces.
The Railyard Renewal Project is the second part of the three-phase Regina Revitalization Initiative (RVI), the largest urban revitalization project in the city’s history.
The first phase, completed in 2017, was the construction of Mosaic Stadium, the home of the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The third and final phase of the RVI is the long-term redevelopment of the site of Taylor Field. The former Roughriders stadium was demolished to make room for Mosaic Stadium, making approximately 20 acres available for development.
Mayor Michael Fougere said the city has been soliciting opinions from its residents on how the former railyards should be developed.
“Over the past four years, Regina has been leading a participatory process that provided many opportunities for the public and stakeholders to share their aspirations for the site,” said Fougere. “The resulting vision is for a mixed-use neighbourhood with new opportunities to live, work and play in the city centre.”
Fougere said the plan will be flexible so it can accommodate a variety of private investment and development opportunities and respond to changes in market conditions as they arise.
The project’s first item of business will be to spiff up the site and get it ready for private sector investment.
“This work includes new underground infrastructure, public parks and a renewed Dewdney Avenue, with wide boulevards, sidewalks, bike lanes and signalized intersections,” said Fougere.
Proposals for redevelopment of the area also include a new pedestrian bridge on the southern portion of the railyard site that would cross the remaining train tracks to connect Regina’s Warehouse District, immediately to the north of the railyards, with the city’s downtown.
“A pedestrian bridge would improve connectivity of the railyard site and enhance pedestrian and non-vehicular movements between it and downtown,” said Fougere.
“It would help (reduce the impact of) the remaining train tracks as a barrier between the Warehouse District and downtown and make it possible for people to live on the railyard site and walk downtown in approximately 10 minutes.”
Part of the redevelopment plan includes making Dewdney Avenue, which borders the former railyards on the north, more friendly to pedestrians.
“The transformation of Dewdney Avenue is key to realizing the project,” said Fougere.
Dewdney Avenue is currently a busy arterial street that is used by the industries in the area.
Transitioning to a friendlier pedestrian environment that supports active transportation (walking, cycling, etc.) on Dewdney may include any number of features, said Fougere.
They include new or enhanced boulevards on both sides of the road to accommodate wider sidewalks, patios, vegetation, street furniture, public art, bus shelters, bike lanes, and new signalized crossings.
Visible work on the renewal of Dewdney Avenue will begin in 2020 and is expected to be complete in 2025.
“A full build-out of the railyard site is anticipated to take over a decade and will ultimately depend on market conditions,” said Fougere.
The downtown railyards became available for redevelopment when Regina bought the land from Canadian Pacific Railway.
The rail company transferred its inter-modal operations to the Global Transportation Hub (GTH), an1,800-acre complex on the western outskirts of Regina that is larger than the old downtown yard, and adjacent to the Trans-Canada Highway.
Kelly Brossart, GTH director of communications and marketing, said the facility is the only autonomous, self-governing inland port authority in Canada.
“We don’t subdivide land into pre-determined lots,” said Brossart. “Instead, we work with each client to create a solution for their unique supply chain vision and needs.”
A dozen companies have signed up with GTH, but getting more has been a tough sell, said Brossart.
“A sluggish industrial development market has impacted sales activity and delayed some projects,” she said.
Market conditions across much of the prairies, not just in Regina, have been on the soft side of late.
“Real estate markets are tough now, because of conditions in the energy sector,” said Gord Archibald, chief executive officer of the Association of Regina Realtors Inc.
“There is an excess of supply and builders are pulling back. There isn’t much in the way of new construction that is needed now.”