City of Regina approves 15-year vision for Evraz Place, plans for commercial development

A grand new vision for Regina’s Evraz Place will see more commercial development, and a move to a district model, by 2035.

The City of Regina’s priorities and planning committee approved a proposal Wednesday put forward by the Regina Exhibition Association Limited (REAL).

The non-profit group manages the property on behalf of the city and operates with an entrepreneurial spirit.

In October 2018, REAL’s board of directors formed a futures committee, made up of community leaders and board members, to seek feedback from the public on what was needed at Evraz Place.

“That’s one of the things we’ve seen a lot of places have — something to do besides the actual events that are held here.”

More than a year later, REAL CEO Tim Reid spoke to the approved vision for Evraz Place.

“By no means do we think this plan, which is a 15-year strategic vision for the site, is 100-per cent accurate and more importantly, we believe it should change often,” said REAL CEO Tim Reid.

While the vision is largely abstract, REAL asked the city for permission to move ahead in seeking out commercial development, with a goal to create a district model as seen in cities like Ottawa or Columbus, Ohio.

“We have to be respectful of the fact that our market size is unique,” Reid told council.

Reid noted, pointedly, that REAL’s current financial model isn’t sustainable.

The non-profit earns between $500,000 to $1 million a year, which is immediately reinvested into its properties.

But with an annual provincial government grant of $2.6 million ending March 2027, as well as deferred maintenance costs over the next decade, the need for new revenue streams was crucial.

The 15-year plan doesn’t dive into development details, but Reid said there are several signed letters of intent that will be made public in the coming weeks.

“What I can say is that they’re very complementary to what we have today,” he said. “I don’t think they’ll be a surprise to anyone.”

Reid noted there are at least three developments that could feasibly be underway by spring 2021, creating short-term construction employment.

REAL discussion about new arena, other amenities. 

There were also several initial ideas included in the council presentation, including a note about a new arena. Reid said the REAL board has to deliver a very clear plan around what the need is for a new arena by December 2020.

“Ultimately, we have a 42-year-old amenity that is aging. We have to either put significant capital monies into it, to modernize it, or to at least maintain it,” said Reid.

“Arenas are always a great catalyst amenity, whether they’re mid-sized or full-sized. That’s a discussion that frankly the owners, city council, needs us as their operators to give them the best advice and then they can provide direction on behalf of the city.”

Reid noted that a new arena doesn’t necessarily have to be built on the Evraz Place site, and that by moving it elsewhere the city could make considerable revenue on paid parking.

“The challenge we have with our site is that it’s not easy to pay for parking, because we have so much recreational traffic,” said Reid.

“Most people are not going to pay to take their kid to hockey practice or soccer practice and we support that.”

The proposal, which was formed through two years of work engaging the public and partners, also looked at ways to value-add the facility while people are already on site.

“What we’ve recognized is that when people are there, they’re looking to do as much as they possibly can,” Reid said, using the example of parents dropping off kids at hockey practice.

“We’ve had a lot of feedback around, could we put a fitness centre in here? Could we expand our indoor soccer pitch to outdoors?”

The REAL plan also outlines how the creation of a more connective district, which would include a look at transportation opportunities, would have positive impacts for Regina’s North Central neighbourhood.

Reid said REAL is now moving ahead on doing its due diligence, including feasibility studies, on specific development proposals. Those will all have to receive appropriate approvals before moving ahead.

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