Monday, October 23, 2006

Saskatoon South Downtown: Chronology of a sham

Saskatoon Technical Collegiate (1931)
Architect: Frank Percy Martin (1882-1931)


‘Coun. Don Atchison, who opposed the original deal with Princeton, hopes the city does not again restrict itself to a single vision for the south downtown.

“I think the reason why nothing has happened in south downtown Saskatoon is the politicians…They have their own idea of what should be built down there, as opposed to leaving it to the private sector,” he said.’

(September 21, 2002, StarPhoenix New plan for south downtown)


‘A $25-million project that would convert the Gathercole Centre into a naturally heated mineral spa and hotel with 200-plus rooms is being considered by city councillors and favoured by a majority of them, The StarPhoenix has learned.

“If a vote was taken today, it would pass,” said a source close to city hall, speaking on condition of anonymity.

It is expected the south downtown resort – tentatively called the Blairmore Spa after the subterranean geological formation which contains the water – would preserve most of the 72-year-old building.

The proposal was recently put forth by a group of about six investors during a closed-door meeting with council at the end of September.

At least two councillors would be expected to oppose the plan if it came to a vote. Kate Waygood and Lenore Swystun favour the creation of a public gathering place which beneifits non-profit groups.

Other councillors have a problem with that concept because non-profit groups would not be expected to pay rent. Coun. Don Atchison said earlier this week he opposes the idea.

“If anyone goes in there, they should have to pay property taxes and incur most of the costs themselves,” he said. “I’m just not prepared to turn it over to groups that cannot pay us back in some way.”’

(October 25, 2002, StarPhoenix Spa for downtown)


‘The proponents of a mineral spa in Saskatoon’s south downtown have come forward to identify themselves and shed more light on the $25-million project suggested for the vacant Gathercole Centre.

The Blairmore goup is made up of people from a variety of industries: Mike Stensrud (construction), Betty Anne Latrace-Henderson and Brian Henderson (hoteliers), Bob Anderson (general management and business), Roman Bergerman (architecture), Craig Zawada (legal) and Dave Kelly (project engineering).

Members did their best to keep from being identified because they didn’t want to appear to be circumventing the fair process followed by city council.

The group decided this week it should go public and offer more details of its plan out of concern that the idea could be stolen.

“We very much understand and respect that members of council have a responsibility to ensure fairness, openness and that they are accountable to the taxpayers in Saskatoon. Our group expected and supports the RFP call that the city is putting out,” said Stensrud.

“The group is disappointed the concept became public knowledge prematurely but we cannot undo what has been done. In an effort to ethically copyright our proposal, we believe we must now release the rendering model.”

The group has already met privately with council on Sept. 30 to present its idea, which has reportedly stirred excitement among councillors.

“If a vote was taken today, it would pass,” a city hall source told The StarPhoenix last week.’

(October 30, 2002, StarPhoenix Spa backers step up)


‘City Coun. Don Atchison is furious some colleagues and civic administrators are involved with certain groups’ proposals for developing south downtown, insisting it taints the appearance of fairness.

“Civic administration has no business being tangled up in any way, shape or form with any proposal. I have grave problems with that,” he said. “The fact is, city administration will be adjudicating the proposals and council will be making the decisions.

“You can’t be aiding and abetting one group and make an impartial decision. It’s all skewed after that.”

Atchison believes even facilitating is wrong.

“They may not be involved with the (EOI) adjudication but they talk to each other at City Hall and I worry some project may get an unfair bias. And the private sector won’t believe they got a fair shake.”

One of those projects already revealed is the Blairmore Resort Hotel and Spa, a $25-million hotel development that would tap into natural aquifers beneath the property.

Atchison was approached by that group but refused to help.

“It sounds like a very nice project but I have to step back.”’

(February 14, 2003, StarPhoenix No place for city staff in Gathercole debate: Atchison)


‘The first goal of the Blairmore Spa and Resort Hotel Group is to save and restore the historic Gathercole Building (Option A). The Blairmore Spa and Resort Group recognizes that the heritage premium ($5.17 million) may be a cost the taxpayers of Saskatoon do not wish to incur. Therefore, the Group wishes to present Option B.

Option B is a proposal that would involve the construction of what would essentially be a new building housing a 200-room hotel and spa. However, the new development would incorporate and preserve significant architectural features from the existing Gathercole building. It is envisioned that current features of the Gathercole building, such as the grand east entrance, certain unique brickwork, and archways indicative of a Roman spa, could be integrated into the new design.

The footprint of the new structure will be approximately the same as the current Gathercole building and be situated southeast of the current Gathercole’s location. Locating on this site provides the added benefit of keeping the Legion building intact.

It is well known that Persephone Theatre, Saskatoon’s premier theatre company, is seeking land on which to construct a new facility. If Option B is accepted, the Blairmore Group would approach Persephone Theatre to discuss locating their new facility on the site west of the Blairmore Spa and Resort Hotel.’

(March 14, 2003, Blairmore Spa and Resort Hotel Group, Expressions of Interest)

Blairmore Group – Option "A" (March 2003)

Blairmore Group – Option "B" (March 2003)


‘The City of Saskatoon is trying to find a new home for the Royal Canadian Legion on 19th Street so the present site can be included in the redevelopment of south downtown.

“We recognize the legion is in a strategic part, or semi-strategic part, of the Gathercole site. We have had chats with them over the last year but nothing’s been concluded,” said city manager Phil Richards.

“However, we are keeping it in the back of our minds finding an alternate location for them that would suit their requirements.”

The legion sits adjacent to the Gathercole building at the north end of the riverbank property.

“Clearly, as the remainder of the site is developing, the legion would still be sitting there and I think that’s a concern for the legion and a concern for us,” said Richards.

“The more of the site we can control, the more options there are for us,” added Stan Peakman, manager of special projects for the city who is handling expressions of interest (EOI) for the Gathercole site.’

(March 26, 2003, StarPhoenix City looks for new location for downtown legion branch)


South Downtown – Expressions of Interest – Administrative Analysis (May 20, 2003)

'On February 17, 1997, the City executed an agreement in which Princeton (Developments) exchanged cash and its north industrial lands for Block 146. As part of the agreement, Princeton was to acquire the School Board lands, and construct a building on Block 146 to complete the agreement. The City acquired the School Board lands and, thereafter, concluded an agreement with Princeton. Unfortunately, Princeton was unable to construct the required building on Block 146, and, accordingly, the sale of the School Board lands could not proceed, and therefore, as of July 1, 2002, the City has owned and controlled the Gathercole site.

When it became apparent in 2001 that Princeton was going to be unable to fulfill its requirements under the above agreement, City Council as a start to the redevelopment of the site, retained Stantec Consulting to evaluate the feasibility and cost of retaining and remodelling all or part of the Gathercole Building. When this study was complete, City Council approved issuing Expressions of Interest, for the development of all or part of the School Board site. These expressions closed on March 14, 2003, and this report evaluates these proposals.'


‘It appears that most Saskatoon residents believe that Council’s choice will be one, and only one, of the proposals. That perception is tearing at our community. Given the number of contentious issues facing Saskatoon residents, the last thing we need is an additional point of discord. We need only to reflect on the issue of the location of SaskPlace, for example, to realize just how many years these deep divisions in our community can last. It is for these reasons that the Blairmore group offers the following evolution of the Blairmore “B” proposal as a way to break the apparent impasse.

We suggest the Gathercole structure be removed, and 2 new structures be built on the site. On the East end, our group will construct the new Mineral Water spa with private funding, and on the West end the City would build a publicly funded and owned facility as it sees fit.

If the Gathercole building was removed, a new 82,000 sq. ft. public facility could be constructed for $4-5 million less, affording an underground solution to the parking problem, and a relocation solution to Legion issue.’

(June 12, 2003, letter to City Council from Mike Stensrud, President, Blairmore Group)

Blairmore Group – Alternate Option "B" (June 2003)

It is interesting to note the similarities between this design and the one City Council chose on December 8, 2003.


‘A majority of Saskatoon residents want the 73-year-old Gathercole building preserved and incorporated into the redevelopment of south downtown, according to a survey conducted for The StarPhoenix and Global Television.

The Sigma Analytics poll, considered accurate within plus or minus 4.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, revealed more than half (55.5 per cent) of the respondents want the former school saved.’

(June 13, 2003, StarPhoenix Keep the Gathercole: poll)


‘Mr. Mike Stensrud, Miner’s Construction, spoke on behalf of the Blairmore Group and expressed the opinion that the Blairmore Option B proposal is the most economically viable proposal for the site, and would be in keeping with Moriyama’s vision of having a view from 2nd Avenue South to the river.’

(June 16, 2003, Minutes of the Special Meeting of City Council)


‘South downtown figured prominently in the platform announcements of both Don Atchison and Peter Zakreski at the first mayoral candidates forum Wednesday at the Saskatoon Club.
Atchison promised to attract $15 million to $30 million in private development of south downtown within two years. That would include a proposed mineral spa and 1,500 condominiums.’

(September 25, 2003, StarPhoenix Mayoral candidates woo voters)


Atchison maintains his vision for the Gathercole has always been for the land to be developed privately.

“My vision is there to be a mineral water spa with condominiums surrounding it,” says Atchison. “The public land could be used for live theatre or whatever the case might be.”’

(October 16 – October 29, 2003, Planet S What’s Next For Gathercole?)


Civic Election

(October 22, 2003)


‘Big-dreaming businessman Don Atchison has earned his chance to be “the people’s mayor,” snuffing Jim Maddin’s tenure after one term and setting the stage for three years of trying to deliver on ambitious promises.

Atchison promises a more open, business-friendly city hall that thinks big.

It will now be up to Atchison to deliver in a big way, after promising to attract $15-million to $30-million in private investment to the Gathercole site within two years and set a goal of attracting 10,000 more residents downtown within eight years through condo development and a partnership with University of Saskatchewan.

“We’re going to revitalize south downtown. We’ll get started on that almost immediately,” Atchison said.’

(October 23, 2003, StarPhoenix Atch rides the wave)


‘Mayor Don Atchison hopes to begin south downtown rejuvenation by giving developers freedom to demolish the Gathercole building, but his new council appears to lean toward saving at least part of the landmark.

The previous council under former mayor Jim Maddin received 11 expressions of interest for the site. The city was asked to subsidize the proposals by a range of $642,000 to $13.5 million.

A 2002 city report estimates it would cost taxpayers between $7.5 million and $11.8 million just to get the building into shape for leasing.

“The federal government’s not participating at this time and I don’t know where we’re going to get the $12 million,” Atchison said.

In election campaign questionnaires published in The StarPhoenix, a majority of council members said they want to save the Gathercole building at least in part.

Six councilors, Terry Alm, Glen Penner, Maurice Neault, Gordon Wyant, Myles Heidt and Owen Fortosky said they prefer saiving at least part of the building. Atchison and councilors Elaine Hnatyshyn and Bev Dubois suggest knocking it down.

Coun. Donna Birkmaier said she didn’t have enough information to take a position.

Coun. Tiffany Paulson said Thursday she’s open to keeping it, provided the private sector produces an economically viable plan that doesn’t require big city subsidies.

Council meets today informally at Wanuskewin to discuss goals for the next three years.’

(October 31, 2003, StarPhoenix Demolish Gathercole, mayor says)


The Saskatoon Heritage Society is dismayed at recent suggestions to demolish the Gathercole Building. We were under the impression that City Council was seriously considering its adaptive reuse.

The historic fabric of our city provides the key to its soul and we continue to erase it at our peril.

The Gathercole Building and its site have an important place in Saskatoon’s history. The South Downtown was the city’s original city centre close to the railyards; residences, including the home of James Clinkskill, Saskatoon’s first mayor, lined the river bank and Chinese homes and businesses lined 19th Street. The building of the Technical Collegiate, designed by Frank Martin, a prominent Saskatoon architect, became one the city’s first major redevelopment projects. Well-known artist, Ernest Lindner, held the position of Art Director at the Collegiate from 1936 to 1962.

The building stands as an impressive landmark. Several earlier plans for the area have called for its preservation. Architects for the “South Downtown Urban Design Study” (1982) called it “a remarkably fine example of its time and place. Its conservation will serve to maintain tangible evidence of an important aspect of Saskatoon’s history and tradition”.

The Gathercole Building is an asset to the city, which we can build upon. We have a chance to make it the focal point of the South Downtown, where it will contribute to that “sense of place” which makes Saskatoon the city that it is. This should not be a “business” versus “heritage” issue. We all win when we work together to create a culturally rich environment, which is attractive to visitors, investors and, of course, ourselves.

We, therefore, urge you to reaffirm your commitment to pursuing the adaptive reuse of the Gathercole Building.’

(November 24, 2003, letter to City Council from Peggy Sarjeant, President, Saskatoon Heritage Society)


‘City council considers the $12-million question of whether to keep or demolish the Gathercole building behind closed doors this morning, with Mayor Don Atchison hoping to move toward a conclusion to decades of debate.

“I hope we can make some decisions on where we stand on the Gathercole building itself,” said Atchison, when asked what he hopes council will accomplish in the meeting, which takes place at the Western Development Museum. “Keep it, demolish it, save part of it, whatever. But (form) some type of consensus.”

Atchison said later that he’s hoping for at least “a consensus on knowledge and information (new councilors) may not have yet.”

Controversy is another likely result of debating privately an issue of intense public interest.’

(November 25, 2003, StarPhoenix Council to decide fate of Gathercole)


‘The south downtown attraction the city hopes to create will be accessible by two extended roadways, if council agrees Monday to stretch Spadina Crescent and Second Avenue South through the site.

Council will vote on the extensions at its special meeting on the Gathercole site, according to the agenda it determined in a closed-door meeting this week. Accepting the extensions would decide the fate of at least the west wing of the Gathercole building, which would have to be removed to make room for the extended roadways. Depending on debate and public input, council will then vote either on demolishing the Gathercole or preserving only the east wing.

“The Gathercole building has to go,” said Mayor Don Atchison.’

(November 28, 2003, StarPhoenix Council to vote on road extensions at Gathercole site)


‘To date there has been much speculation regarding the development of the South Downtown. The Legion has not at any time been approached regarding this development. Because of this, we assume the Legion building is not part of the downtown plans.

We would like the Mayor and Council to know we do not plan on moving from our present location or selling the property. At present, we have a viable branch with over 300 members. The building is significant not only to our membership but also as a historical Saskatchewan building. It was built by First World War I Vets in 1929, a memorial to their fallen comrades. Since that time, it has housed an active Legion membership through W.W. II and the Korean conflict. Our current membership consists of Vets, active service members, as well as new members. It is one of the few existing original Legion buildings in Saskatchewan still occupied by a Legion branch.Although we are not interested in the sale or demolition of our building, we would like to work closely with our future neighbors.’

(December 1, 2003, letter to City Council from John Sargeant, Chairman, Building Review Committee, Branch #63, Royal Canadian Legion)


‘The fate of Saskatoon’s Gathercole building is turning into a full-blown controversy now that there is a proposal to tear down the building.

To some people, the decades-old technical collegiate has meaning as a heritage building, while others think it’s an unremarkable old highschool building.

The Gathercole sits of prime downtown land overlooking the river, and a community group does not want the building destroyed; however, Mayor Don Atchison says the building is as good as gone.

“I see the Gathercole as a building that’s going to have to go, and that we’re going to have to put different structures there that will have some mass to them – that we can have people living near the river’s edge as well. That will be…instantaneously successful.”’

(December 3, 2003, CBC News Atchison says Gathercole has got to go)


'I am a member of the Board of Directors of Persephone Theatre. As members of Council will be aware, Persephone Theatre is keenly interested in building a new theatre facility in the south downtown. Our President, Linda Frank, expects to be in attendance at the December 8, 2003 meeting of Council concerning the Gathercole site. Please add Persephone Theatre to the speakers list for that meeting.'

(December 3, 2003, letter to City Council from David Gerecke, Board of Director, Persephone Theatre)


‘Do you think the Gathercole building should be demolished? Yes – 36.6% No – 63.4%’

(December 4, 2003, CJWW News Poll)


‘The Saskatchewan Architectural Heritage Society (SAHS) wishes to register its concern about – and strong opposition to – any move to demolish the Gathercole Building in downtown Saskatoon.

“A community’s values and social fabric are measured on a variety of issues, one of them being its attention to preserving its history,” said Al Rosseker, Provincial Director of SAHS, a non-profit provincial organization. “Heritage Canada notes that in the past generation, Canada has lost 22 per cent of its historic building stock, a staggering attrition rate that continues to make itself felt in communities across the country.”

“We certainly realize how tight budgets can be, but it is our contention that adaptive reuses of such historic structures like the Gathercole provide solid educational and business growth potential that form foundation for a sense of community,” Rosseker said. “SAHS believes such heritage structures build culture and culture builds community.”

He pointed to Saskatoon’s Forestry Farm House as a prime example of a community rallying around an historic icon that can become an intergenerational touchstone.

“The Saskatchewan Architectural Heritage Society urges Saskatoon City Council to look at every opportunity for reusing the Gathercole Centre and saving this historic building for future generations.”'

(December 5, 2003, Saskatchewan Architectural Heritage Society – News Release)


'The Executive Committee, at its (closed-door) Gathercole Planning Session held on Tuesday, November 25, 2003, developed the following proposed resolutions for public input, debate and decisions at a special meeting of Council to be held on Monday, December 8, 2003 at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers.

Public access to the river is a key component of the Gathercole site, and the most important aspect of such public access is the riverfront “park” now under construction along the southernmost part of the property, which received $4 million in funding from the Provincial Government. The second most important aspect is the roadway access and the sightlines it produces.

Proposed Resolution #1: That the roadway access to the Gathercole site be the extensions of Second Avenue and Spadina Crescent shown on the attached map.

Implications: If this resolution passes, servicing of the Gathercole site can proceed, including the construction of the streets and streetscaping.

The proposed location of Second Avenue has implications for the Gathercole Building, as set out in Resolution #3 below.

It is proposed that either Resolution #3a or Resolution #3b would be passed by Council after public input and debate.

Proposed Resolution #3a: That the Gathercole Building be demolished.


Proposed Resolution #3b: That the East Wing of the Gathercole be first offered for sale for adaptive reuse on the condition that no City money, either capital or operating, will be made available in relation to the sale. If no buyer satisfactory to the City is found, then the whole Gathercole Building will be demolished.

Implications: 1) If Resolution #3a passes, the Administration would be instructed to remove the asbestos from the Building and proceed with demolition. They would also bring forward proposals as to how the City-owned lands south of 19th Street might be marketed or developed in the Fall of 2004 (after servicing and after review of the DCD1 guidelines).

2) If Resolution #3b passes, the Administration would be instructed to first bring forward a proposal as to how the East Wing would be offered for sale. This process would take place as soon as possible. In the meantime, the Administration would proceed with the demolition of the remainder of the building in order that the construction of Second Avenue and the servicing of the site can proceed.

Moved by Councillor Alm, Seconded by Councillor Hnatyshyn,

THAT the roadway access to the Gathercole site be the extensions of Second Avenue and Spadina Crescent shown on the map attached to Clause 2, Report No. 16-2003 of the Executive Committee.


Moved by Councillor Paulsen, Seconded by Councillor Neault

THAT the motion be amended to read as follows:

1) THAT the East Wing of the Gathercole be first offered for sale or lease for adaptive reuse on the condition that no City money, either capital or operating, will be made available in relation to the sale and that if no buyer/lessee satisfactory to the City is found by April 1, 2004, the whole Gathercole Building be demolished; and

2) that the Administration report in January regarding the process for sale or lease.



YEAS: Councillors Alm, Dubois, Heidt, Hnatyshyn, Neault, Paulsen, Penner, and Wyant - 8
NAYS: His Worship the Mayor, Councillors Birkmaier and Fortosky - 3'

(December 8, 2003, Special City Council Meeting)


Councillor Paulsen: My question to the administration is with respect to the proposed resolution that roadway access to the Gathercole site be extended. Can we delete the part that says ‘shown on the attached map’, which is in our package which shows…do we have to nail it down right to this map that’s in our package and just indicate that there does need to be access to the site and go from there?

City Manager Richards: Your Worship, if we don’t have the determination location we do not any timing for servicing, so we needed this and soon.

Councillor Paulsen: So, it’s this road or no road, is that what we’re saying here?

City Manager Richards: Essentially, in terms of timing it’s this road or a year.’

(December 8, 2003, Special City Council Meeting)

City of Saskatoon – Planning Department (November 2003)

On December 8, 2003, the public was led to believe that the above roadway design was the only option available. This appears to be false.

City of Saskatoon – Infrastructure Services (May 2003)

The above roadway design was included in City Council's May 20, 2003, agenda. This, or any other alternative, was not considered at City Council's December 8, 2003, special meeting.

"As part of the 2003 Capital Budget preparation, Infrastructure Services designed a preliminary servicing scheme for the Gathercole site, including all those lands adjacent (the area bounded by the Idylwyld Freeway in the west, Third Avenue in the east, 19th Street in the north and the River in the south). The roadway layout is shown (above)."


‘A proposal for a mineral spa and hotel on the Gathercole site might be back on the table when the city calls for offers next year.

Mike Stensrud, president of the Blairmore Group, said the bullish attitude of the new city council and its decision to demolish at least most of the Gathercole building are encouraging.

“We’re confident this new council is going to make some things happen down there.”

The group is waiting for the city to finalize its vision for the site, Stensrud said, before deciding whether to touch up its proposal.’

(December 18, 2003, StarPhoenix Gathercole spa, hotel proposal gathers steam)


‘Elsewhere downtown, a privately funded highrise apartment or condominium block will be under construction in the first half of the year, (Mayor Don) Atchison predicts, promising to “beat the bushes” personally to find a developer to do it.

“I’m hoping by June we’ll have a crane bringing up a new building,” he said, adding he doesn’t have a specific site or developer in mind. “I’ll ask my friends in construction how interested they are.”’

(January 3, 2004, StarPhoenix Atchison charts ‘feel good’ course for new year)


Atchison confirmed that he’s not interested in spending public money on the Gathercole site, as some have suggested.

“For the life of me, I can’t believe we would take federal, provincial or municipal dollars on a site where the private sector has been knocking at the door.”’

(January 16, 2004, StarPhoenix How federal cash will be spent focus of mayor, Goodale meeting)


‘The campaign to save Saskatoon’'s Gathercole building has been struck another blow. Heritage groups want to turn the building into a riverfront market in the city's south downtown, but Mayor Don Atchison has other ideas.

Atchison says he would rather see a new spa hotel and condos there, and that would mean the whole Gathercole building should come down to clear the way.’

(February 9, 2004, CBC News Gathercole faces complete demolition)


Your comments are valued! Not.

The following is from a January 23, 2004, City of Saskatoon news release:

“The City of Saskatoon has arranged for the following public meetings to review and discuss the existing development guidelines for the South Downtown:

Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Radisson Hotel - Florence Room
7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Thursday, February 12, 2004
Quality Hotel - Prince Albert Room
1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004
Radisson Hotel - Florence Room
7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Saturday, February 21, 2004
Quality Hotel - Prince Albert Room
1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Each meeting will be open to the general public and will consist of a presentation by Saunders Evans Architects Inc. followed by a question and answer period.

Representatives from the City of Saskatoon and the Meewasin Valley Authority will be in attendance to answer questions.”

On February 11, 2004, came this news release from the Mayor’s Office concerning a closed-door meeting it had held earlier that day at the Centennial Auditorium:


Members of City Council met today in a south downtown visioning and planning session with independent development consulting firm CitySpaces. Issues discussed included ways to strengthen Saskatoon’s downtown core.

His Worship Mayor Don Atchison said that members of City Council agreed that it was important to strengthen the entire south downtown and re-energize the Riversdale neighbourhood in order to maintain strong core neighbourhoods.

Members of City Council met today in a south downtown visioning and planning session with independent development consulting firm CitySpaces. Issues discussed included ways to strengthen Saskatoon’s downtown core.

His Worship Mayor Don Atchison said that members of City Council agreed that it was important to strengthen the entire south downtown and re-energize the Riversdale neighbourhood in order to maintain strong core neighbourhoods.

“The Gathercole and A.L. Cole sites should be linked by an extension of the south downtown riverfront development through the A.L. Cole site to Victoria Park” Atchison said. “The Gathercole and A.L. Cole sites should be ‘people places’ and activity destination points for residents and tourists alike. This should include a mixture of uses.”

Following the public review of the DCD1 guidelines which begins tonight, the City of Saskatoon and the Meewasin Valley Authority will hold additional public consultation in the form of open houses to explore specific site uses and, eventually, a Request for Proposal for the development of south downtown. This round of public consultation could begin as early as March.

CitySpaces also met with members of the Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee yesterday.


Contrary to Mayor Don Atchison’s news release the City and MVA did not hold any additional public consultations to explore site uses. These were pre-determined by the City and Meewasin Valley Authority in closed-door meetings. A one-page draft plan authored by CitySpaces consultant Gwyn Symmons outlining proposed site uses was obtained by The StarPhoenix and reported on March 4, 2004. The City released a more detailed draft plan on April 5, 2004. The public were invited to “comment” on the proposed plan at open houses held on April 27 & 28, 2004. The South Downtown Concept Plan was approved by City Council on June 21, 2004.

Although the public was told that the land uses were not written in stone they did not change from what was initially reported.

The following are excerpts from notes taken at the four public DCD1 review meetings that were later released by the City. The meetings were hosted by: Alan Wallace (City of Saskatoon), Justin Wotherspoon (Saunders Evans Architects) and John Gerstmar (Meewasin Valley Authority). My comments are in brackets.

Notes From the Public Consultation Forum of South Downtown Area and DCD1 Guidelines

*Please Note: questions or comments from gallery are shown in regular text, while the response provided is italicized.

Meeting #1 – Radisson Hotel – February 11, 2004 – 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Speakers – Alan Wallace, Justin Wotherspoon, John Gerstmar

Questions and Comments

Can the road extension at 2nd Ave. be straight or meandering? Yes, it can be either.

[At the December 8, 2003, city council meeting the public was led to believe that only one roadway extension design option was available and that was in a straight line. This was, of course, false. The City simply did not want to consider any other option.]

Does road linkage count as open space? No, that wouldn’t qualify.

[During its review of the DCD1 Guidelines the City broke its own Development Plan Bylaw when it counted road linkages as open space. This was reported to City Council and the Province but nothing was done about it.]

Following Council’s decision to leave Big Box developments largely unregulated, how can citizen’s opinions be heard? Public meetings like this, writing, e-mailing.

What about existing trees in area? They would need approval from MVA to clear trees.

Difference between access road and through road? Not council’s goal to create through road, but they do want vehicular access to site.

[Again, the public was misled. A through road is one that doesn’t have a dead end at one end, which is precisely what council wanted. The design that council considered on December 8, 2003, was taken from the 1990 Mayor’s Task Force on the South Downtown. It was a through road.]

Meeting #2 – Quality Hotel – February 12, 2004 – 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Speakers – Alan Wallace, Justin Wotherspoon, John Gerstmar

Questions and Comments

Is it standard to design roads, like the 2nd Avenue extension, before having a plan? Not usually, but this is a very unique and special site in many other ways as well.

It should be noted that these public meetings are actually above and beyond what is legally necessary to satisfy provincial rules for consultation, but we want to give the public a chance to contribute their thoughts and suggestions.

Meeting #3 – Radisson Hotel – February 17, 2004 – 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Speakers – Alan Wallace, Justin Wotherspoon, John Gerstmar

Questions and Comments

Is straight road extension of 2nd Avenue the reason for Gathercole demolition and would a meandering road save Gathercole? Council made its decision to demolish first, then decided to provide vehicle access.

[The public was again misled. The first decision council made at its December 8, 2003, meeting was: "THAT the roadway access to the Gathercole site be the extensions of Second Avenue and Spadina Crescent shown on the map attached to Clause 2, Report No. 16-2003 of the Executive Committee."

The decision to first extend the road necessitated the demolition of part of the Gathercole Building. Access was used as a pretext to demolish the building.]

Need plan first. City Council wants to establish a framework to allow plans to be developed.

Concerns over administration ignoring comments from gallery when reporting to Council. The comments submitted and collected will be attached to the report to Council.

People want more of a vision of what site would look like. Guidelines must come first.

Is vehicular access necessary? Likely for uses such as handicapped and special needs access. Vehicular access depends on the end use for the site.

Does Council have a pre-determined notion for the site? If they do, they should tell us.

[There is no doubt the plan was pre-determined. Prior to the October 2003 civic election Don Atchison said he wanted a spa hotel, condos and live theatre on the Gathercole site, which is exactly what the South Downtown Concept Plan called for.]

Meeting #4 – Quality Hotel – February 21, 2004 – 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Speakers – Alan Wallace, Justin Wotherspoon, John Gerstmar

Questions and Comments

Is Block 146 undeveloped because of DCD1 guidelines? We don’t believe it is the cause, as they had a building permit issued, but ran into funding problems. No Princeton representatives have ever come forward to ask for changes to the guidelines.

Was there a public review of the building permit given to Princeton? Yes, Council addressed it directly and approved.

Guidelines specifically state pedestrian linkage, so wouldn’t planned roadway violate guidelines? There is no plan approved for a roadway and pedestrian access could be a part of the linkage, but the guidelines don’t specifically exclude vehicular traffic.

Didn’t Council resolve that roadway access would be provided in a straight line? Council said there would be vehicular access, but hasn’t specified that the road will be straight. Resulting road will likely be designed to look quite different from 2nd Ave. and Spadina Crescent in their present form.

[Once again, the public was misled. The first decision council made at its December 8, 2003, meeting was: "THAT the roadway access to the Gathercole site be the extensions of Second Avenue and Spadina Crescent shown on the map attached to Clause 2, Report No. 16-2003 of the Executive Committee."

The “map” in question shows the road extension as being straight.]

Does riverbank park count towards 35% open space? Right now, it appears to, but changes will likely remove that possibility.

[The public was misled on this point as well. In the end both the City and Meewasin included the riverbank park as part of the areas 35% open space.]

Moriyama clearly stated that when issues arise whether to preserve or remove buildings, it is always best to preserve in the name of caution. Demolition is not something that can be written into guidelines.

Has MVA requested a road into Gathercole site? Moriyama plan didn’t show a road, but the Mayor’s Taskforce plan did show the extension. MVA did not request the road.

Lack of transparency and accountability for road extension. It was a Council decision.

Does MVA have authority to stop Gathercole demolition? MVA has authority over improvements $10,000 and up, but demolitions don’t qualify as improvements.

Why doesn’t MVA request that Council not demolish Gathercole? MVA has received legal advice to the effect that the Meewasin Act doesn’t clearly give MVA authority to stop demolitions.

[The Meewasin Valley Authority Act provides the Meewasin Valley Authority with bylaw making powers. In an January 23, 2004, email the MVA’s John Gerstmar confirmed to me that Meewasin has the authority to invoke Section 12(1)(n) of the Act that would allow, “for the protection, care and preservation of property.” The Act defines property as “real or personal property or any interest therein.” Real property includes land or a building or other structure attached to land. It appears the MVA could have passed a bylaw protecting the building and land, but it chose not to.]

Can MVA make a plea to save Gathercole on grounds of damaging environment, such as trees and grass? The road will require MVA approval.

[There is a reason why the City demolished the Gathercole Building before asking the MVA to approve its South Downtown Concept Plan first. The MVA’s mandate includes the protection of the natural and heritage resources of the Meewasin Valley. The Gathercole Building was considered a heritage resource and was listed as such in Meewasin’s Heritage Resources Manual. Had the City come to the MVA for approval of its plan while the Gathercole was still standing it would have placed the MVA in a situation of having to either uphold its mandate or abandon it. In the end the MVA still abandoned its mandate but did so by simply saying it had no power to stop the demolition. Not once did it make any kind of public statement asking that the building not be demolished.]

Could we have stronger heritage provisions? They could be added.

I have problems with having four City reps on the MVA board, plus the City gives funding, leading to a conflict of interest. The MVA has always strived for co-operation between the City, the University and the Province.

[This means back-room deals so each partner can get what it wants.]


‘The onetime site of the A.L. Cole power plant has shot up the city’s development priority list, following a closed-door meeting of city council.

During a five-hour huddle with the CitySpaces consulting firm, council received estimates of the market value of both that site and the Gathercole property, setting the stage for development of both simultaneously.

Council’s private meeting marked the second time south downtown debate moved behind closed doors.

On Nov. 25, council met about the Gathercole site at the Western Development Museum.'

(February 12, 2004, StarPhoenix Cole site ‘top of the list’ for development: Atchison)


‘The mastermind of Saskatoon’s riverbank development questions why the city has made key decisions about the Gathercole site’s future before it adopts an overall plan.

“It seems to me, you start with an overall master plan before you change the road,” said architect Raymond Moriyama, in an interview from Toronto.

Moriyama wrote a 100-year conceptual master plan for the South Saskatchewan riverbank in 1978. It’s a key part of Meewasin Valley Authority’s template for developing the valley.

A firm, detailed master plan should span “at least 20 years,” Moriyama said, include public input and cover more than just the Gathercole site.

“The bigger the context, the better it is…A road is a facilitator project (for other developments). You don’t start with a facilitator, a road, and then plan around it because the project might point out that the road is all wrong,” he said.

“It sounds like an easy way to gather in developers to do things around it. Looking at the future of Saskatoon as a city, it has to start with a bigger idea than building a road and getting developers.”

The city is simply following past south downtown blueprints, such as Moriyama’s and the 1990 Mayor’s Task Force report, said Mayor Don Atchison.

“His sequence of events, how he was interpreting doing it (has resulted in) 27 years of inaction,” Atchison said. “The sequence of events as we’re doing it, we’re having action in the first six months (since election).”

The city plans to demolish all or part of the Gathercole building this spring. That decision, too, should have come after the overall planning, Moriyama said.

“I think it would be wise for Saskatoon to look at the big picture. The Gathercole building is part of the area. Whether it fits or not has to be dictated by a bigger picture. You don’t just nitpick though.”’

(February 12, 2004, StarPhoenix Architect critical of south downtown plans)


'Moved by Councillor Penner, Seconded by Councillor Wyant,

1) THAT Council rescind the following resolution which was passed by City Council at its special meeting held on December 8, 2003: “that the East Wing of the Gathercole be first offered for sale or lease for adaptive reuse on the condition that no City money, either capital or operating, will be made available in relation to the sale and that if no buyer/lessee satisfactory to the City is found by April 1, 2004, the whole Gathercole Building be demolished”;

2) that the east wing of the Gathercole building be demolished at the same time as the west and south wings are being demolished; and

3) that the Board of Education be given the opportunity to retain the façade and decorative brick work if they so wish.

YEAS: His Worship the Mayor, Councillors Alm, Birkmaier, Dubois, Heidt, Hnatyshyn, Neault, Paulsen, Penner and Wyant - 10
NAYS: Councillor Fortosky - 1'

(February 23, 2004, City Council Meeting)


‘The south downtown riverfront will welcome visitors with a City of Lights theme, attracting residents and tourists with housing, a hotel, interpretive centre, performance theatre and restaurant, according to a first-draft development wish list.

The confidential draft, obtained by The StarPhoenix, charts a course for the Gathercole and A.L. Cole sites, intending to kick-start public discussion. City-hired consultant Gwyn Symmons of CitySpaces wrote the draft, based on independent in-camera meetings he held with city council and Meewasin Valley Authority officials.

Atchison and Meewasin officials received the draft from CitySpaces Monday. The city intends to continue refining it, with the consultant, until April 5, when council, Meewasin and the public get their first look at a revised plan.’

(March 4, 2004, StarPhoenix Theme set for south downtown riverfront)


Gathercole Building Historical Elements (Stantec Architecture Ltd., February 24, 2004)

At its special meeting of December 8, 2003, City Council resolved:

"that the Administration identify any historical artifacts in the Gathercole building which should be saved, including the facade, and that prospective developers of the property be encouraged to include same in their developments."

The report was requested by Barb Sprigings, Heritage Coordinator, Development Services Branch, Community Services Department, City of Saskatoon on January 12, 2004.

At its March 22, 2004, meeting City Council considered the following recommendations:

'Recommendation 3):
Does City Council wish to retain the patterned brick? The estimated cost of removing, cleaning and hauling the bricks off site, and including drawings and photographs, is $19,000 to $39,000.

Recommendation 4):
Does City Council wish to retain for future use the Indiana lime stone east entry facade? The estimated cost is $15,000 to $30,000 for labelling, removal, palletizing, and appropriate drawings and photographs.

Recommendation 5):
How much of the additional brick face does City Council wish to retain? The cost ranges from $38,000 to $76,000 for salvaging the bricks on the parapets, and from $120,000 to $240,000 for salvaging the remainder of the brick face.'

Council approved the removal, cleaning, palletizing and off-site storage of the exterior brickwork as follows:

– patterned brickwork from three exterior walls at an estimated cost of $19,000 to $39,000,

– Indiana Lime Stones from east facade of central tower at an estimated cost of $15,000 to $30,000, and

– face brick from Parapets at an estimated cost of $38,000 to $76,000.

The remaining common and brick face apparently ended up as landfill.

It should be noted that the City directed Stantec to "make recommendations on how the resolutions from the City Council meeting of July 15, 1991 could be implemented." Those resolutions were:

'consider salvaging and incorporating certain features of the building into a future development of the South Downtown area when and if all or part of the Gathercole Building is demolished. These features include:

– The patterned brick work on the east facade
– The central tower on the east facade, and
– The exterior bricks on the original building.'

The 1991 resolutions were a direct result of the Mayor's Task Force on Saskatoon's South Downtown which, if implemented as envisioned, required the demolition of the Gathercole Building. The option of keeping it was not up for discussion. The 1991 resolutions were written solely with demolition in mind. They were basically an outline for a salvage operation.

At its October 9, 2001, meeting City Council resolved that an independent adaptive re-use assessment of the Gathercole Building be completed at an estimated cost of $100,000.00 and that this be a capital project in the 2002 Capital Budget. Administration's report included a copy of the 1991 resolutions and offered an alternative strategy for Council's consideration:

'Since 1991 the City has updated its evaluation criteria and the Administration could re-evaluate the Gathercole Centre under the new criteria. Undoubtedly, the Gathercole Centre has heritage value. It is important to note, however, that the City's evaluation process is only intended to address heritage merit and does not address the need of the property owner to have a cost feasible use for the building.'

Council did not instruct Administration to re-evaluate the Gathercole Building. It is unclear whether the issue was even discussed.

The Gathercole Building was never re-evaluated using the City's updated criteria. Any discussion of the building's heritage value was always done in the context of demolition and salvage.

In January 2002, the City issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the adaptive re-use assessment of the Gathercole Building.

The RFP noted that the Gathercole Building "has significant heritage merit," and that "the key heritage characteristics is the exterior of the original building, in particular the south (riverbank) and east (3rd Avenue) facades with their symmetrical appearances and patterned brickwork."

In March 2002, Stantec Architecture Ltd. was chosen to do the project.

The RFP required two adaptive re-use scenarios: 1) the entire building be assessed; 2) the building be assessed with at least the west wing removed. Both of these scenarios required at least three development options: 1) Office and/or commercial uses; 2) Residential uses; 3) Combination of office and/or commercial uses and residential uses.

According to Stantec's final report: "Once local market research began to indicate that there was insufficient demand for residential, office or retail space to justify conversion of the entire Gathercole Building to those uses, the consulting team chose to develop three publicly financed mixed use options to accommodate organizations who expressed an interest in acquiring space and creating a permanent home for Saskatoon history, museuems, theatre, crafts, art education, and public market." This resulted in three options: 1) Retaining only the east wing of the Gathercole Building; 2) Keeping both the east and south wings; 3) Preserving the entire building.

During the preparation of the report the consultant met with the project's Steering Committee, which included city staff, four times to "receive directions and approval". Upon review of the first three options the Steering Committee requested two additional options.

Stantec's final report concluded that: "Conversion costs for the five options range from $7.5 million to nearly $11.8 million. One-time grants in this range would be required to cover these costs, if annual subsidization were not an option."

It should be noted that Option #3 ($11.8 million) cost estimates included design fees, roadways, parking, landscaping, servicing and 16% contingency. This was never mentioned in the media.

The RFP also stated: 'Retention of all or part of the Gathercole building must take into account the feasibility of economic re-use. Without an economically viable use, there is no long-term security for the structure. An independent adaptive re-use assessment is to be completed to assist the City in determining the feasibility of retaining all or part of the building. The re-use alternatives should be feasible without any City of Saskatoon funding other than forms of assistance already offered by existing City programs such as the Heritage Conservation Program.

It should be noted that none of the administrative reports or recommendations that City Council considered on October 9, 2001, stipulated that no City money could be used. It seems rather odd that administration would request adaptive re-use options that included museums, galleries and theatres and not expect some City funding would be required.

The local media and business community were opposed to any form of subsidization. It is interesting to note, however, that since the building's demolition nearly $24 million in public funds has been found for the site. This does not include the generous tax breaks and subsidies that the City is providing Remai Ventures, Persephone Theatre and even Galaxy Cinemas on Block 146, which some still consider 'south downtown'. The media and business community, of course, have changed their tune and are now saying that significant public investment is required to make the site work. For example, The StarPhoenix criticized the City saying it is willing to subsidize the Blairmore Leisure Centre ($1.3M/year) but not an important cultural element at River Landing.

According to the RFP the final report was to contain a list of "any features that should be retained." Rather than provide an independent opionion Stantec simply appended the City's 1991 salvage resolutions to the back of its report. Stantec's report did say, however, that "the structure has significant heritage merit, but has no heritage designation," and that "there is widespread support within the community for keeping the building."

The RFP stated that the final report must contain conclusions and recommendations. Stantec's report, however, contains nine conclusions but no recommendations.

Option #3 received by far most of the attention since it involved adaptively re-using the entire building. It was also the most expensive option.

Stantec's report listed three strengths for this option: 1) This option represented uses of the building that are supported by the widest array of stakeholders; 2) It creates a broad spectrum of activity options at the building and will draw locals and tourists alike; 3) Food is the focus of this option, which is consistent with successful markets elsewhere.

Option #3 also meant retaining the east and south wings which had the buildings most significant features. Stantec makes a point of mentioning this for Options #2, 4 & 5 but, for some reason, not this one.

Also missing is the positive environmental aspects of keeping the building. Page 6.3 of the Stantec report states that some beneficial effects of conserving built heritage may include "saving the resources and energy expended to construct the original building, reducing waste materials from demolished buildings, curbing urban sprawl and the high cost of new infrastructure."

Among the few weaknesses listed are that Option #3 "reduces the probability that 2nd Avenue can be extended through the site, thus limiting access. Access to the building is generally perceived to be one of the key deterrents for its potential re-use."

What appears to be forgotten is that the site was already accessible. The building was used for many years as the public school board's head office. Furthermore, all five of the options presented in Stantec's report include costs for roadway and parking upgrades.

Another alleged weakness for keeping the whole structure was that "views of the river from 19th Street continue to be blocked by the building."

This happens to be one of the biggest myths of the South Downtown. The fact is, due to the steep riverbank, the river could not be seen from 19th Street. Secondly, whatever gets built in the Gathercole Building's place will block the "view". In fact, CitySpaces consultant Gwyn Symmons said just that in the South Downtown Concept Plan 2004. Remai Ventures' proposed fourteen-storey spa hotel will no doubt prove this to be true.

City Council received Stantec's Adaptive Re-Use Assessment Gathercole Building Report (September 16, 2002) on October 21, 2002.

Adaptive Re-Use Assessment Gathercole Building Report
(Stantec Architecture Ltd. September 16, 2002)


‘Moved by Councillor Hnatyshyn, Seconded by Councillor Birkmaier,

THAT the Mayor contact each Veterans’ Association in the City, and request that they meet with him to discuss the possibility of creating a veterans museum within the existing downtown Legion building.


(April 5, 2004, City Council Minutes)


City of Saskatoon – Draft South Downtown Concept Plan (April 2004)

'At the meeting of April 5, 2004 Mr. Gwyn Symmons of CitySpaces Consulting Ltd. will be presenting a concept plan for the potential development of both the east and west sections of the South Downtown site.

This plan was developed with the assistance of Rob Crosby of Crosby Hanna & Associates and Derek Kindrachuk of Kindrachuk Agrey Architecture.

A steering committee comprised of representatives from the City, Meewasin Valley Authority, The Partnership and the Riversdale Business Improvement District provided advice to the consultants.

It is hoped that this concept plan will provide a basis for a final determination on overall site design. After the tabling with City Council, meetings will be held with various stakeholders to obtain their feedback. Formal open houses will be held at the Centennial Auditorium on Tuesday, April 27 and Wednesday, April 28 for public input.

From the feedback received, a final plan will be developed for submission to City Council and the Meewasin Valley Authority from which a Request for Proposal will be developed and issued.'

(April 5, 2004, City Council Minutes – F1) Concept Plan South Downtown)

The South Downtown Concept Plan Steering Committee consisted of:

Phil Richards, Stan Peakman and Lorne Sully – City of Saskatoon
Susan Lamb – Meewasin Valley Authority
Phyllis Lodoen – Riversdale Business Improvement District
Terry Scaddan – Downtown Business Improvement District, "The Partnership"

According to a July 20, 2004, email from the City Clerk's Office the South Downtown Concept Plan Steering Committee "met informally and did not keep minutes."

City of Saskatoon – South Downtown Public Input Form (April 2004)

The South Downtown Concept Plan was developed behind closed-doors by City Council. The land uses and roadway designs were determined without any meaningful public involvement. The only citizen engagement that took place was at two open houses held at the Centennial Auditorium on April 27 & 28, 2004, after major decisions had already been made. The public were invited to provide "feedback" on the proposed plan. The South Downtown Public Input Forms were designed to evoke a positive response.

On April 5, 2004, when the draft plan was released, Mayor Don Atchison and CitySpaces consultant Gwyn Symmons said the plan was not written in stone, yet city manager Phil Richards said the city hoped to issue a request for proposals for the hotel by year's end.

When the final plan was approved by City Council on June 21, 2004, the land uses and roadway designs remained exactly as they were presented on April 5, 2004. The open houses conducted in April were hypocritical.

The plan, first and foremost, was about getting a spa hotel built on the Gathercole site. This is what Mayor Don Atchison wanted. The process was designed to bring that about, and it succeeded.


‘On Monday, the city unveiled its working draft to Saskatoon. The plan is subject to change based on public input.

The debate now is whether the city is pitching the right proposal, the fourth plan for the area in three decades. The key is balance, (Gwyn) Symmons said, with enough housing to anchor the area but not dominate it.

A proposed hotel might prove controversial, he admits, but it will generate early morning and late evening activity like no other development use.

This year, the city hopes to demolish the Gathercole building and install underground services on the site, issuing a request for hotel proposals by year’s end, said city manager Phil Richards.

The plan now goes to public forums April 27 and 28 at Centennial Auditorium. Based on that feedback, council and Meewasin will consider adopting a final, revised plan in early June, which will guide a formal request for development proposals.’

(April 6, 2004, StarPhoenix Bold riverbank plan changes city’s face)


‘Unveiling of the city’s riverfront development plan has restoked interest in a $17.6-million plan to build a spring-fed mineral spa and 200-room hotel on the Gathercole site.

“We’re very interested in building a spa, no question,” said Mike Stensrud, president of the Blairmore Group.

The city’s plan, which is subject to change when the public provides feedback, envisions a hotel on the Gathercole site.

The city’s plan doesn’t detail what type of hotel it’s after. Mayor Don Atchison, however, said he’s intrigued by a spa concept.

“It has to be something different. I just don’t think a traditional hotel by itself is what we need. We need something to complement the other hotels.”

A year ago, the three biggest downtown hotels – the Radisson, Delta Bessbourough and Sheraton Cavalier – commissioned a feasibility study on demand downtown for another hotel.

“At this point, there is no demand for a hotel in south downtown,” said Sheraton general manager John Bevis. Downtown hotel room nights are currently booked about 70 per cent of the time, he said.
“If you add a fourth major (hotel) they’d all stay open. But it’s tough to make a go if it went down to 50 per cent occupancy.”

By the time the hotel opens, the demand could be there, Bevis acknowledged. The new hotel would have a less negative effect on its competitors if it went after the long-term stay market, rather than overnight bookings, he said.’

(April 7, 2004, StarPhoenix Spa interest still bubbling)


‘The City of Saskatoon is requesting that the Federal and Provincial Governments assist in enhancing the sustainability of downtown by reclaiming and developing the “brownfield” site called the A.L. Cole Site – literally the front yard of Saskatoon’s downtown.

The total financial requirement for the redevelopment of the A.L. Cole Site is $30.9 million – funded through $15 million from the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Program, $5 million from the Province, and $10.9 million from the City.

Without this initial Federal investment, absolutely no development will occur on site.

In conjunction with this project, the City will be developing the adjacent land, called the Gathercole site, entirely at the City’s expense.’

(April 13, 2004, City of Saskatoon South Downtown – Canada Strategic Infrastructure Program Submission)


‘I am writing to request your assistance in enhancing the sustainability of our downtown by reclaiming and developing the “brownfield” called the A.L. Cole site – literally the front yard of Saskatoon’s downtown.

The total financial requirement for the redevelopment of the A.L. Cole site is $30.9 million – funded through $15 million from the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Program, [severed] million from the City of Saskatoon.

Our goal is to reclaim the site and provide the necessary public amenities and appropriate linkages to downtown. We will then partner with the private sector for the development of residential units, a business incubator, a farmer’s market, live-work units, new retail space, and a restaurant. Without your initial investment, absolutely no development will occur on this site.

In conjunction with this project, the City will be developing the adjacent land, called the Gathercole site, at our own expense.’

(April 14, 2004, letter to Hon. Andy Scott, Minister of State (Infrastructure Canada) from Mayor Don Atchison)


‘About 50 people attended a community forum on south downtown development hosted by the Gathercole Initiative Group (GIG) at Frances Morrison Library Monday evening.

GIG member Lenore Swystun said that the meeting was her group’s answer to the city’s open-house meetings to be held Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

Swystun told the crowd that the city should have allowed for more public consultation when putting together their preliminary plan.

“A concept plan alone isn’t a bad thing, but what makes a concept plan workable is when it’s done with your citizens of Saskatoon as well as your decision makers,” she said.

Swystun and GIG vice-president Mark Bobyn reviewed their alternative vision for south downtown, which includes reusing the Gathercole building.’

(April 27, 2004, StarPhoenix Gathercole backers host community forum)


‘Persephone Theatre’s proposal for a performance theatre on the Gathercole site took centre stage before a city council audience anxious to create a new riverbank attraction.

The theatre group pitched a multi-million-dollar facility with a 450-seat main stage and flexible second stage that would fit audiences of between 90 and 200 patrons, along with a rehearsal hall and theatre school.

Persephone pledges to raise half of the funds it needs privately, announcing it has already secured a $1-million commitment from one private donor. It’s hoping the city, province and federal government will come up with the balance, which Perspephone didn’t disclose.

Council directed administration to discuss the proposal with Persephone and report back.

Persephone has saved $250,000 in its own reserves to support the project.

The theatre could open late next year.

It’s proven controversial in the theatre community, however.

Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, La Troupe du Jour and 25th Street Theatre have for several years studied the possibility of building a 150- to 200-seat theatre with a movable stage and seating, allowing it to custom-fit productions. It would also include rehearsal and office space.

“Our concern is that there’s already been a deal done (by the city) with Persephone,” said Tony Badger, who is co-ordinating the project for the three groups, in an interview.

Persephone’s plan had earlier generated criticism from Saskatchewan Jazz Festival president Spencer Early, who said the arts community needs a bigger theatre – seating 800-1,000 patrons.

[President Linda] Frank said Persephone hasn’t met privately with the city.

“We don’t have any more information than anyone else does,” Frank said. “We haven’t struck any closed-door deals. We’re proposing something that we think could meet (other theatre groups’) needs quite well.”

Badger still has reservations.

“You don’t put Safeway, Loblaws and Extra Foods together and expect them to work together just because they’re all grocery stores. Yes, we’re all theatre companies, but we have different needs.”

(May 4, 2004, StarPhoenix Persephone pitches dream theatre)


Atchison hopes to see new construction start this year – possible on a condo and hotel-spa project on the east side of the Gathercole site.

“Sounds like an acceptable thing to me. A tremendous way to start.”

(May 18, 2004, StarPhoenix Gathercole demolition hits road block)


City of Saskatoon – South Downtown Concept Plan 2004 (June 14, 2004)

The South Downtown Concept Plan 2004 was prepared by CitySpaces Consulting, Crosby Hanna & Associates and Kindrachuk Agrey Architecture for the City 0f Saskatoon.

City of Saskatoon – South Downtown Concept Plan Public Input Summary (June 2004)

'The City of Saskatoon invited public input on the preliminary concept plan. Open houses were held on April 27 and 28 from 4 - 9 p.m. and were attended by 507 Saskatoon residents.

The concept plan and public input forms were also available at City of Saskatoon leisure centres, City Hall, the Meewasin Valley Authority (MVA), and the three Business Improvement Districts. As well, the City developed a web page that allowed citizens to review the plan and provide input.

Three hundred and sixty-four comment sheets, plus individual presentations, were received.'


The only genuine south downtown public meeting to take place, in which the city participated, wasn’t a city function. Due to serious concerns over the lack of citizen engagement a group of core neighbourhood community associations and stakeholders took it upon themselves to organize a Town Hall Meeting at Princess Alexandra School on June 2, 2004. It was well attended and proved useful. In the end, however, the concerns raised by the community had little effect on the city’s pre-determined plans. The media did not report on the meeting, although StarPhoenix civic affairs columnist Gerry Klein did mention it in passing his column that day: Within a couple of weeks, the Gathercole building will come down (SP June 2, 2004)


‘A hotel should be encouraged on the parcel east of 2nd Avenue, which is an excellent location for such a development.

The plan shows a hotel use involving 20 storeys that might comprise 250 rooms. The development industry may respond to this site with different concepts, such as a “boutique” hotel or a hotel spa that has a lower number of rooms and is lower in height.

The development of this parcel will not permit views from 19th Street and a building edge along 19th is a key part of the plan. Retaining a view corridor completely down 3rd is not possible if the site is to be economically developed.

Housing may also be developed as part of this block, ideally along 2nd above street retail. The extent of housing will depend upon the scale of a hotel development.

A key part of the South Downtown Plan is the mixed-use development proposed for the west side of the 2nd Avenue extension.

On the north side of this parcel a live theatre use is proposed, with the frontage along 2nd Avenue being primarily retail on the ground floor.

On the south side of the block, and forming part of the overall building complex, there should be a public building with public space inside. This space should provide access to an interpretive centre, café, attraction (Joni Mitchell Centre has been suggested), public washrooms, access to the theatre and possibly access to the landmark feature, which would be located on the westerly portion of this site.’

(June 14, 2004, City of Saskatoon South Downtown Concept Plan 2004)

Cultural Block – City of Saskatoon South Downtown Concept Plan (June 2004)


‘City council endorsed a revised concept plan Monday for the 30-acre site stretching from Avenue C to Third Avenue South, hours after an excavator began tearing into the 73-year-old Gathercole building.

The plan closely mirrors the one presented at public open houses in April, featuring housing, restaurants, parks, a performance theatre and hotel.’

(June 22, 2004, StarPhoenix Council endorses concept plan for riverbank strip)

South Downtown: Parcel Plan, Areas, Proposed Densities and Development Potential
Appendix A – South Downtown Concept Plan 2004 (June 14, 2004)


Gathercole Building demolition Summer 2004 (Photo by Devin Hyde)


“One of the big concerns is that people are afraid we’re going to subsidize whatever the development is [on the spa hotel site]. My belief is that the private sector needs to pay for it and the only way you can do that is to have high density.” – Mayor Don Atchison

(July 31, 2004, StarPhoenix Development needs people power)


DCD1 Building Heights – City of Saskatoon, City Planning Branch (August 13, 2004)


‘Your Committee met recently (behind closed-doors) to discuss preliminary issues regarding the first site to be developed in the South Downtown, being the hotel site. It is recommended that a realtor be retained to assist in the marketing of the hotel site. The realtor would approach developers who might otherwise not consider bidding on a property in Saskatoon.

Your Committee supports the sale of the property, as opposed to leasing, provided that sale conditions, such as a time limitation for construction, are in place to prevent the immediate re-sale of the property.

Your Committee also discussed how the proposals would be evaluated -- by price only, with regulatory control of design, or with weighting for design and mix of uses. Your Committee has determined that weighting for design and mix will be included in the evaluation.

A further report will be submitted to City Council in due course regarding the conditions for sale of the property and the criteria for evaluating the bids.”

IT WAS RESOLVED: 1) that a realtor be retained to assist in the marketing of the hotel site in the South Downtown development; and 2) that the Administration be instructed to request Expressions of Interest for the selection of the realtor.’

(August 16, 2004, City Council Meeting – Report of the Executive Committee)


City of Saskatoon
Direct Control District No. 1 (DCD1) for The South Downtown (August 16, 2004)

City of Saskatoon – DCD1 Maximum Building Height


‘The opportunity to build a hotel-spa along with high-rise condominiums in the south downtown will be offered to investors across the continent.

City council has approved the idea of selecting a commercial real estate company with international marketing connections to sell the prime land opening up now that the demolition of the former Gathercole centre is nearly complete.

“We’re hoping to get a mineral water spa and hotel, not a traditional hotel,” Mayor Don Atchison said Monday.

Atchison says council is determined to get south downtown commercial development going without having to offer up tax concessions or subsidies.“I don't foresee that at all. I see this as an economically viable piece of property that should be standing on its own, ” he said. “That's the reason we're seeking investors outside the city.

We sure don’t want someone to say that it was a ‘done deal in advance’ if someone from Saskatoon was to build it.”

Atchison said the city will be better assured it can get top dollar for the property by inviting outside investors to bid.

“We’re trying to do a true due diligence here,” he said. “I think this is one of the most exciting riverbank properties left anywhere in North America.”

(August 17, 2004, StarPhoenix City to market south downtown hotel-spa plan)


DCD1 Setbacks – City of Saskatoon, City Planning Branch (August 17, 2004)

On August 6, 2004, the Meewasin Valley Authority Board considered applications by the City of Saskatoon for subdivision and water and sewer servicing of the Gathercole Site.

The minutes for the public portion of the meeting show that:

'Minister Prebble requested clarification of the 60m line on the displayed drawings. This line will not encroach on the proposed roadway or on the subdivision.'

According the city planning branch drawings, however, nearly the entire Spadina Crescent roadway extension encroaches on Meewasin's 60-meter riverbank zone. It appears the Meewasin board was misled.

Section 6.1.1 of Meewasin's Development Review Policy states: 'Only improvements which would protect the natural and heritage resources or enhance the leisure and educational use of the Meewasin Valley shall be allowed in the riverbank zone.'

It is difficult to imagine a high-volume roadway system enhancing leisure or educational use. No doubt the City will argue that the street will be closed on occasion for special events, therefore, it qualifies. It will be interesting to see, once the roadway extensions are open, just how many days or hours during the course of a year the roads will be closed.

On September 30, 2004, I wrote to city manager Phil Richards asking why the City told the MVA board there was no encroachment when City drawings showed otherwise. The correspondence was copied to Premier Lorne Calvert, Minister Peter Prebble, MVA CEO Susan Lamb and MVA Planning Resources Manager John Gerstmar. The city manager never responded. On October 1, 2004, the MVA board approved the South Downtown Concept Plan.


City of Saskatoon – South Downtown Local Area Design Plan (August 31, 2004)

'Saunders Evans Architects Inc. was commissioned in Spring 2004 to prepare this Design Plan for the City of Saskatoon and to recommend specific architectural controls for the areas collectively known as South Downtown.'


‘Mr. (Don) Atchison said the city is working toward development of a 20-storey mineral-water spa and hotel on the Gathercole site, along with an adjacent condominium complex. He said the city will eventually put the cleared land up for tender so private developers can compete the build the hotel and the condo project.

The eventual goal for the other side of the Gathercole site is to develop a live theatre and an interpretive centre.’

(August 24, 2004, The Globe and Mail Saskatoon forges on with renewal plan)


‘The City of Saskatoon may end up owning a proposed new downtown performance theatre.

A performance theatre, estimated to cost $6.5 million, is one of the anchor developments in the city’s south downtown concept plan.

“For overall management, a lease might make the most sense,” said city manager Phil Richards, calling it a “preliminary” conclusion. “Leasing can give you more control because you’re the ultimate owner.”

With several users and a need for public space, it might be logical to keep the site and any new building publicly owned and leased long-term to users, Richards said.

“We could lease and an individual (developer) could build,” Richards said. “Or it could be a lease and we build. Those are questions that need to be answered.”

City council hasn’t made a decision on whether to sell or lease the land. In either case, the users are expected to ask the city to contribute toward construction.

Landowners typically roll property taxes into lease payments.

Persephone Theatre has looked at both purchase and lease models for a 450-seat theatre with a smaller second stage, rehearsal hall and theatre school, said general manager Sheldon Born.

Persephone has hired Saunders Evans Architects to design the south downtown theatre while it works on a business plan. The architectural plans will also firm up costs.

The city has never officially chosen Persephone as the proponent for building the new theatre. It’s likely to follow a more informal process than the one being used to pick a hotel developer in the south downtown, Richards said.

Theatre groups are aware of the city’s development plans, he said, adding now is the time to submit proposals.’

(September 14, 2004, StarPhoenix City many lease downtown space to theatre groups)


‘Councillor Hnatyshyn made the following enquiry at the meeting of City Council on November 17, 2003:

“Would the Administration please report on why the Federal Government has tied Saskatoon’s share of infrastructure funding to arts and culture and why this funding cannot be used on city-owned land such as the Gathercole site.”

The City has applied for $15M under the Federal Government Strategic Infrastructure Program.

This Program, in general, is a cost-sharing program (up to 50% Federal funds) for major urban renewal or a sustainability project. The funds can be used for brownfield rehabilitation, urban renewal, tourism, infrastructure, and over-all urban development.

This grant is to be provided to projects that would not be undertaken without Federal funding.

Federal officials had indicated they believed that City Council was going to undertake the redevelopment of the Gathercole site, with or without this funding. Therefore, as the City was going to proceed with the project without Federal funding, the project was not eligible for an incremental grant.

The A. L. Cole site was eligible, as City Council has made it clear that without Federal funding, this project would not proceed.’

(September 20, 2004, City Manager Report, Minutes of the Regular Meeting of City Council)


‘Persephone Theatre proposed its own $6.5-7-million plan for a two-stage theatre, rehearsal hall and theatre school in May to enthusiastic city councillors.

During (president Linda) Frank’s return visit to City Hall Monday, she asked the city to commit land within the cultural block to Persephone, along with a $1-million capital contribution.

It will also ask the province and federal government to come up with a combined $2.5 million, leaving $3-3.5-million for a private capital campaign. Persephone has said it has a $1-million private donation – from a benefactor it hasn’t identified – with $250,000 of that already in the bank.’

(September 22, 2004, StarPhoenix City must weigh competing proposals for downtown theatre)


‘The City of Saskatoon recently put forward a project proposal for consideration under the CSIF. The purpose of the project is to enhance the sustainability of Saskatoon’s downtown by reclaiming and developing a brownfield called the A.L. Cole site. The city’s goal is to reclaim the site and provide the necessary public amenities and appropriate linkages to downtown.

The city also plans to develop the adjacent land called the Gathercole site. The city will cover the entire financing costs of this portion.’

(October 5, 2004, Infrastructure Canada – Meeting with Mayor Don Atchison and Mr. Phil Richards, City of Saskatoon)


City of Saskatoon – South Downtown Marketing Strategy (October 29, 2004)

'Tap Communications was contracted to develop a name, logo, and Marketing Strategy for Saskatoon's South Downtown.'

On September 7, 2004, City Administration advised City Council that it would be requesting proposals to obtain the services of a marketing consultant to develop a comprehensive marketing and branding strategy for the South Downtown re-development project during both construction and operational stages.

On November 1, 2004, City Council approved the marketing strategy and the name of 'River Landing' for the South Downtown redevelopment as developed by Tap Communications.


‘Another group will present its bid to build a performance theatre in the south downtown at tonight’s city council meeting.

Two-thirds of the Saskatoon theatre trio, Scene III, will try and convince councillors that their plan for a $5.5-million, 75- to 200-seat flexible performing space is one the city needs to consider.

La troupe du jour and Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan have signed onto the proposed plan. The third partner, 25th Street Theatre, “remains noncommital until adequate funding for an appropriate facility is secured,” according to the concept plan submitted to council.

In May, Persephone Theatre presented council with its plan for a $6.5-million two-stage theatre, rehearsal hall and theatre school. Persephone president Linda Frank said the city has been very receptive to their idea so far.’

(November 15, 2004, StarPhoenix Theatres to submit joint plan)


‘The City of Saskatoon requests Expressions of Interest (EOI) from qualified companies to purchase and develop a parcel of land known as Parcel Y, located in the River Landing redevelopment area.

The subject site is 0.98 hectares (2.43 acres) and forms part of the area that is covered by the South Downtown Concept Plan.

The Concept Plan calls for the subject site to be of mixed use, comprising of spa hotel, housing, retail and restaurant.

Note that it is Council’s expectation that a hotel spa and restaurant form part of this redevelopment.’

(November 15, 2004, City of Saskatoon Expressions of Interest for Parcel Y within River Landing Phase I)


‘A year of hype, controversy and planning surrounding River Landing has come down to a test of private-sector faith in the south downtown project.

The city is set to call for expressions of interest in building a mineral spa, restaurant and condominiums on the northeastern quarter of the Gathercole site – the first time it’s asked for a private-sector financial commitment in the redevelopment project.

“This is the first step to make sure that we are on the right page together,” said Mayor Don Atchison. “We believe we will have a healthy response and will have different groups to choose from.”’

(November 16, 2004, StarPhoenix City goes to private-sector well for spa project)


‘City council gave Persephone Theatre conditional approval in principle Monday to anchor a 1.76-acre land parcel designated for a cultural centre, east of the Senator Sid Buckwold Bridge and south of 19th Street. Persephone’s proposal, costing $6.5 million to $7 million, would include two stages, seating 450 in one and 90-200 in the other, more flexible venue.

The challenge for Persephone now turns to fundraising. It plans to launch a $3-million to $3.5-million private fundraising campaign between February and May that already has a $1-million headstart from an anonymous donor. The company will also look for $1 million from the city and $2.5 million combined from senior governments.

Persephone’s cost estimates are reliable, although they don’t include the cost of underground parking the theatre group would share with others, (president Linda) Frank said.’

(November 30, 2004, StarPhoenix Persephone gets tentative OK)


“I haven’t heard anything different that council wants to subsidize anyone on that particular location (spa hotel site) at all and I think I can speak for Council saying that everyone believes that it’s a for profit group that’s going to be building there and they’ll be supplying their own funding.”

(November 29, 2004, Mayor Don Atchison, City Council meeting)


6. Will the federal government play a role in the development or funding of the Gathercole project adjacent to this site?

No, the Gathercole site development project will be funded entirely by the City of Saskatoon. The federal government is not a funding partner in the Gathercole project.’

(December 10, 2004, Infrastructure Canada Questions and Answers – Government of Canada’s Contribution to the A.L. Cole Site Restoration Project)

Premier Lorne Calvert, the Honourable Ralph Goodale, and Mayor Don Atchison participate in a ribbon joining ceremony symbolizing the connection of River Landing Phase I and II. The Federal and Provincial Governments committed $13.7 million and $5 million respectively to redevelop Phase II. (December 10, 2004)


‘Finance Minister Ralph Goodale didn’t leave a reception Friday following his announcement of $13.7 million for River Landing without hearing about two other riverbank projects needing a hand from Ottawa.

Persephone Theatre president Linda Frank made sure to meet the man who controls the federal purse.

Persephone is seeking $2.5 million from the federal and provincial governments combined for its $6.5-million to $7-million theatre project.

Liberal party insider Doug Richardson, one of two non-elected Saskatonians to attend a dinner recently with U.S. President George W. Bush, likes Persephone’s chances.

“I told them, if you line up municipal money, provincial money and private-sector money, you have a good chance of convincing the federal government,” Richardson said.

The Mendel Art Gallery has been waiting since May for an answer to its application for a federal grant to help pay for an $18-million expansion. It’s looking for $4.55 million over the next two years from Ottawa.

“Minister Goodale said he’d personally look into it,” said Mendel director and CEO Terry Graff.’

(December 11, 2004, StarPhoenix Gotta get to Goodale)


‘Persephone Theatre’s $1-million benefactor, Ellen Remai, may also be downtown’s biggest champion.

The Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation made the anonymous contribution credited with helping launch the company’s driver for a new home downtown, Ellen Remai has confirmed to The StarPhoenix.

Remai, who is reluctant to talk about the donation, said she attached only one condition to it – build the theatre downtown.

“I felt that’s where they belonged, that’s where they should be and that’s what the city needs,” Remai said. “It gives south downtown a good kickstart. (Downtown) is definitely declining and it needs a boost.”

Persephone’s project, costing $6.5 million to $7 million, would include two stages, seating 450 in one and 90-200 in the other venue.

If the theatre gets final approval, Persephone would launch a private fundraising campaign by spring and ask the three levels of government for $3.5 million combined.’

(January 26, 2005, StarPhoenix Remai family behind $1M donation)


‘The city and Persephone Theatre are negotiating the construction of a $6.5-million, 450-seat theatre (with a second, smaller stage) for the River Landing site south of 19th Street and east of the Idylwyld Freeway.’

(February 8, 2005, StarPhoenix New Native theatre a possibility)


‘Four developers have stepped forward to build a mineral spa hotel at River Landing, but they’re as shy as they are ambitious.

As the city promised in the terms of its call for expressions of interest, the city is keeping identities and proposal details internal.

“It’s a qualifying round,” said Chris Dekker, the city’s manager for projects and intergovernmental affairs. The call for interest was “very targeted,” resulting only in applications from developers with serious intentions of building what the city wants, he said.’

(February 12, 2005, StarPhoenix Spa plan attracts four bids)


‘Heritage Canada's 2004 Annual Report Card Lists Five Worst Losses And Top 10 Most Endangered Places – Press Release

Ottawa, ON, February 21, 2005-The Heritage Canada Foundation has chosen Heritage Day to release its second annual report card - a listing of Canada's “Top Five” worst building losses and its “Top Ten” most endangered places of 2004. Topping the list of destroyed heritage is Saskatoon's 1931 Gathercole Building, which despite the exhaustive opposition from a citizen's group, was demolished by the City as part of the private sector's redevelopment of the waterfront site. The Gathercole Initiative Group had tried various routes to save the former Saskatoon Technical Collegiate, including its rehabilitation for use as a combined market and arts centre. Its last effort was to try to force a city-wide referendum, which did not succeed, and the historic landmark came down.

"Hopefully, by shining a national spotlight on our endangered places, we may be able to generate public and political support for their preservation. And in so doing, prevent them from being featured on any future worst loss lists," said Brian Anthony, the foundation's Executive Director, on the release of the 2004 Report Card.’

(February 21, 2005, Heritage Canada Foundation Press Release)


‘The field of developers competing to build a mineral spa hotel in River Landing may narrow to two by Monday.

The city received four local expressions of interest last month to build a spa hotel, condos and a restaurant south of the downtown Legion and west of Third Avenue South.

Behind closed doors Monday evening, city council informally decided to invite only two proponents to draft detailed proposals. It dropped two others whose applications didn’t satisfy the city’s financial disclosure demands, sources confirm.

Council made the decision recommended by city administration, which graded the applications.

But councillors weren’t completely comfortable with leaving themselves only two options to develop a cornerstone of the 30-acre riverfront redevelopment.

Councillors declined comment on specifics of the spa competition, which the city has kept internal.’

(March 2, 2005, StarPhoenix Council narrows spa options)


‘A city administrative committee is recommending city council invite Remai Ventures Inc. and VPMI Hotel Group to draft detailed proposals to build the spa in downtown River Landing.

Mayor Don Atchison said he’s comfortable choosing from only two proposals, since they met detailed criteria.’

(March 4, 2005, StarPhoenix City developers finalists for spa project)


City of Saskatoon – River Landing Interpretive Plan (April 14, 2005)

AldrichPears Associates Ltd. was commissioned to prepare an interpretive plan for River Landing for the City of Saskatoon and The Meewasin Valley Authority.

On September 7, 2004, City Council authorized the Administration to proceed to develop a Heritage Interpretive Concept Plan for the South Downtown.

On May 2, 2005, City Council received the River Landing Interpretive Plan as information.


‘River Landing is in line for a $10-million federal boost, with the federal Western Economic Diversification department pressing the city to spend its centennial funds on a downtown cultural centre.

"We believe that's the best candidate," WED director-general of operations David James said in an interview.

The cultural centre exemplifies the kind of project Ottawa had in mind for its centennial funding as it's a "landmark facility" that leaves a legacy for generations, James said.

"The cultural centre is our No. 1 choice. If in summer it looks like it's coming together, we'll take it forward but if it stalls we'll look at other options."

Spending the money on River Landing would face a few political obstacles, starting within the mayor's office.

Atchison virtually ruled out spending public money on the Gathercole site more than a year ago when it was embroiled in a fierce debate over demolishing the former technical collegiate.

"For the life of me, I can't believe we would take federal, provincial or municipal dollars on a site where the private sector has been knocking at the door," he is quoted as saying in the Jan. 16, 2004, StarPhoenix.

Atchison's stance is less black and white now.

"The money from the federal government that I could not see myself (committing to the site) was to upgrade the Gathercole building itself," he said Tuesday. "We have to get full value for that land. I don't think we should give that land away for free. I'm still interested in people bringing money to the table."

The possibility of the city spending public money on the site galls former GIG supporters because part of the city's rationale for demolishing the collegiate was that it would cost too much to restore it.’

(May 4, 2005, StarPhoenix Ottawa favours cultural centre – City urged to use $10 million on River Landing project)


‘Lack of faith by major lenders in the viability of a downtown mineral spa hotel has caused the City of Saskatoon’s development competition in River Landing to evaporate.

One of two firms chosen earlier by the city to draft detailed plans pulled out before Wednesday’s deadline, likely leaving Remai Ventures Inc. as the spa developer by default.

VPMI Hotel Group failed to convince lenders to finance its $12.5-million to $14-million plan for the first phase of its spa hotel.

The city marketed the River Landing spa opportunity nationwide earlier this year. Only four developers, including Remai Ventures and VPMI, submitted proposals.’

(May 26, 2005, StarPhoenix One spa bid remains)


‘Remai is asking for tax breaks that go beyond current incentive policies, said Lorne Sully, the city’s manager of planning. The city has tax incentives for downtown housing, but this proposal includes no residential component.

“This is a hotel,” Sully said. “It would not qualify in my opinion for the current package of incentives. This would be a new precedent, a new decision council would have to rule on.”

It’s unclear if the city has ever granted such long-term tax breaks to any type of development.’

(May 27, 2005, StarPhoenix Spa bid seeks tax deal)

Floor plan for Remai Ventures Inc. proposed River Landing Hotel and Spa (May 2005)


‘The Saskatoon Hotels Association vows to fight Remai Ventures Inc.’s request for 15 years of property tax breaks on its proposed River Landing mineral spa hotel.

Remai Ventures, the sole developer left in the running to build the project on what’s currently city-owned land, has asked the city to waive existing taxes over five years once the hotel opens and freeze them for seven years thereafter at $700,000.

“The only thing we’ve asked is that mayor and council not create an unlevel or uneven playing field,” said Andrew Turnbull, manager of the Delta Bessborough and president of the hotels association. “The concern is this level of reduced operating cost would create an environment in which the new hotel would be able to undercut the competition and potentially drive rates and profitability down in the marketplace for many, many years to come.”

The StarPhoenix and city assessors office calculate the incentives to be worth at least $1.9 million over 15 years, coincidentally more than what the company is offering to pay for the land ($1.6 million). Remai Ventures would actually pay $7.7 million in taxes during the same period even with the tax breaks.

Tax breaks could be tricky politically. Mayor Don Atchison has repeatedly ruled out using public money on the site.

He has also downplayed any need to give developers special tax breaks beyond what are available for downtown residential development.

“I see (south downtown) as an economically viable piece of property that should be standing on its own,” he said in the Aug. 17 StarPhoenix.

On Friday, Atchison said he’s willing to discuss tax breaks with Remai, but makes no promises.

“No harm can come from discussing things,” he said. “It doesn’t mean anybody’s getting anything at all.”

(May 28, 2005, StarPhoenix Hoteliers pan spa tax request)

Remai Ventures Inc. proposed River Landing Hotel and Spa (May 24, 2005)


Joni Mitchell, Meewasin Valley Authority and Tourism Saskatoon visitor centres are being proposed in a preliminary design of River Landing’s multimillion-dollar cultural centre.

The city’s architect and independent cost analyst has estimated the capital cost of the core building, which would house the three cultural centres, at $21.8 million – $15.5 million for the building and $6.3 million for underground parking. Persephone Theatre’s complex would cost an estimated $9.5 million.

Of the total funding including Persephone ($31.3 million), administration is looking at $10 million to come from the federal government, $5 million from the provincial government, $5 million from the city, $6.3 million from self-funded parking and $5 million from fundraising.

The city’s contribution will include $1 million currently held in reserve, with the remaining $4 million yet to be finalized.

Should federal and provincial funding fall through, city manager Phil Richards said the deal would collapse.’

(September 16, 2005, StarPhoenix Cultural centre concept unveiled)

Proposed River Landing "Destination Complex" (September 2005)


‘The city has dropped plans for most of the highly touted cultural centre at River Landing as it looks for a way to pay for a new VictoriaBridge.

"We have to start looking at our own priorities," said Saskatoon's city manager Phil Richards.

In a report to city councillors, Richards says Phase 1 of River Landing, which was to house Joni Mitchell, Meewasin Valley Authority (MVA) and Tourism Saskatoon visitor centres, should be postponed. He maintains a new Persephone Theatre and an underground parking garage be built on the 1.78 acres south of 19th Street and east of the Idylwyld Drive Freeway.

The market for a cultural centre, billed as a "destination complex" may not be sustainable in Saskatoon, says Richards, based on conversations he's had with consultant David Russell about the feasibility of the $31.3-million project.

For months, the city has been counting on $10 million from the federal government in recognition of the province's centennial to pay help pay for the River Landing cultural centre. Now, however, Richards believes $2.5 million ought to be earmarked for the new Persephone Theatre, with the remaining $7.5 million spent on a new Victoria Bridge.

The bridge was condemned earlier this week after engineers discovered major structural damage.’

(November 05, 2005, StarPhoenix Cultural centre on hold)


‘The $10 million of federal funds initially earmarked for a cultural centre in River Landing has been thrown up for grabs, federal Finance Minister Ralph Goodale announced Tuesday.

The City of Saskatoon dropped most of the plans for the centre, billed as a destination complex, after being unable to secure "extensive support and co-operation among a wide variety of stakeholders," Goodale noted during a news conference at the Delta Bessborough hotel.

"The government of Canada has concluded, as a matter of fairness, that it is necessary to identify all potential centennial projects in Saskatoon through an open and transparent and totally fair call for proposals to invite all projects to come forward for consideration," he said, as Mayor Don Atchison and city manager Phil Richards sat nearby.

"Federal officials based here in Saskatoon will review all of those proposals and recommend the best possible use for the available funds. I look forward to being in a position very soon to make the funding announcements for how the centennial will be appropriately marked."

The proposal guidelines will be posted on the Western Economic Diversification (WD) Canada website and through public notices in the media.'

(November 8, 2005, StarPhoenix Ottawa invites bids for share of federal cash)


‘Months after formal negotiations began, a proposal to build a hotel and mineral spa at River Landing is still sitting on the table -- but that doesn't mean the project is in jeopardy, says Mayor Don Atchison.

"I think (the negotiations) are just ongoing, and I guess people go on holidays and that. And the private sector, if they're going to be spending $30 or $40 million, I guess they want to make sure they've got everything lined up," Atchison said Thursday when questioned on the status of the hotel proposal.

Atchison said he's not directly involved in the negotiations, though he admitted he's met with Remai Ventures president Ellen Remai more than once to discuss the project.’

(November 18, 2005, StarPhoenix Hotel deal 'not dead')


‘Persephone will buy a parcel of land at the corner of Second Avenue and Saunders Place for $30 per square foot, or about $888,600.

Mayor Don Atchison said that’s the appraised value of the land, not a reduced price.

(president David) Gerecke said he expects the theatre will hold a press conference today to unveil preliminary sketches of the new building’s exterior, though he stressed the design phase of the $11-million project is still in its infancy.

The city has already committed $1 million toward the theatre’s new building, provided Persephone raises all of the necessary capital to build and furnish the new space, comes up with a self-sufficient business plan and offers the facility for use by other groups.

Council also gave final approval Wednesday to a five-year tax incentive under which the non-profit theatre will pay no taxes in its first year of operation in the new building, with discounts of 80, 60, 40 and 20 per cent in each of the following four years. The theatre will be exempt from property taxes during construction.

In addition to the city’s $1-million contribution, the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation has also given $1 million toward the project, and the theatre has asked the provincial government for another $2.5 million.

City councilors also agreed Wednesday to endorse Persephone’s bid for $2.5 million in federal centennial money earmarked for Saskatoon.

Persephone does not have any plans to build parking spaces on its site, (Gerecke) said.’

(December 8, 2005, StarPhoenix Curtain call for theatre)

Proposed Persephone Theatre (May 2006)


‘After extensive consultations with stakeholders, experts and community leaders, Persephone has made the decision to build a new facility to house its performances and operations. We are submitting this request to Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) for $2,500,000 for the construction of a new 450 seat theatre facility, with a second stage capacity of 200.

Persephone has engaged Wright Construction to act as construction manager.

We have engaged AODBT Architects (AODBT) and Peter Smith Architect Inc. to design our new facility.

On behalf of the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation, Ellen Remai has generously committed a $1,000,000 gift to the capital campaign.

We have now finalized an agreement to purchase land on the River Landing cultural block from the City of Saskatoon. The City has agreed to provide a $1,000,000 contribution to the capital cost of the project. Half of the $1,000,000 will be advanced on the closing of the land purchase and the remaining half will be advanced when the building shell is complete.

We have no debt, and have reserves of over $350,000 that were generated through operations.

WD’s investment will be a crucial factor in securing a major contribution from the Province of Saskatchewan. We have applied for $2.5 million in capital funding from the Province, and have been told that it is on track to be considered as part of the 2006 budget process.

Persephone’s Directors have approved an $11 million overall project budget.

Detailed budgets are not yet available, but a recent preliminary costing from our construction management firm, Wright Construction, indicates that this is an achievable budget for the needs of Persephone Theatre. The project budget as of December 5, 2005 is as follows:

Construction Costs $8,680,000.00
Consultants/Architects Fees $716,000.00
Equipment/rigging seating $715,400.00
Land Costs $888,600.00
TOTAL $11,000,000

Wright Construction and our architects have expressed some concern in very recent discussions about whether the current budget of $8,680,000.00 will be sufficient. This is a challenge that Persephone will be working very hard to address in the near future. In order to do so, we have to proceed with design work to determine where savings can be found. We anticipate that we will retain the services of consultants who specialize in finding construction savings, and there are some very qualified individuals available to us. As well, we will be giving consideration to whether there are aspects of our project that might be deferred without impairing the core elements of our facility. Because of these cost challenges, later in this Proposal we suggest that if it were possible to increase the Canada Celebrates Saskatchewan funding for Saskatoon beyond the current figure of $10 million, Persephone’s project would benefit greatly from an additional investment by WD.

With respect to the land cost, the City has consistently negotiated with Persephone on the basis that Persephone would have to pay appraised value for the land. For some time we understood their valuation to be $32.50 per square foot. The City had supplied us with a summary of the valuation establishing the $32.50, but we are unable to share it with third parties including WD.

On December 5, 2005 the City advised us that they had obtained a fresh appraisal that differentiates between the values of the north half and the south half of the River Landing cultural block. The north half was valued at $30 and the south half, being closer to the river, was valued at $36. Accordingly, the City reduced our cost to $30 per square foot, and that is the price reflected in our purchase agreement.

The current purchase price in our agreement with the City is $888,600. The final figure will likely be somewhat lower. We allowed for a buffer to the south and west of our anticipated building location, and we will return unused land to the City, reducing the overall purchase price.

For some time, our budget has allowed for a land cost of $700,000 or more. Before the City agreed to sell us the land, the discussions were based on a long-term lease. Persephone had asked to pay a lump-sum up front, rather than an ongoing rental. The most recent cost given to us for a 50 year lease (which we were concerned was too short a term) was $872,177, with a 99 year lease cost of $947,870. Thus, we are paying essentially the same amount to purchase the land as we would have paid to lease it, and this cost has been a part of our negotiations with the City for many months, dating back at least to spring 2005.

We were delighted to learn in recent days that the Meewasin Valley Authority and all of its partners have waived their rights to require the City to offer to sell them our property, thus clearing the way for our purchase to proceed.

As discussed above, in part because of heavy demand for construction services and materials, our costs have been rising (some estimates are as high as 1% per month). In October 2005, Persephone had to raise the project budget to $11 million from $9.4 million. We determined that these additional costs could be raised in our fundraising. We have already eliminated significant spaces from our design, including cutting our separate space for our theatre school and reducing our lobby area. Our Board has determined that, on the basis of our fundraising projections, it would not be prudent to raise the budget from $11 million. Therefore, since costs are still increasing, we are looking at having to make additional reductions unless additional funds are located.’

(December 9, 2005, Persephone Theatre Request for Proposals Submission to Western Economic Diversification Canada)

Parcel XX as shown on a Plan of Proposed Subdivision prepared by D.V. Franko SLS dated November 30, 2005.


‘The City of Saskatoon has worked out a tentative deal clearing the way for a hotel and spa complex at River Landing.

Under the terms of a sales agreement going before city council on Monday, Remai Ventures will buy a 2.43-acre parcel of land east of Second Avenue for $1.6 million, and receive a total of $3.1 million in tax incentives from the city over the course of the hotel's construction and its first four years of operation.

Remai Ventures expects to invest as much as $40 million in the development, which is expected to include more than 200 guest rooms, meeting and banquet space, a restaurant and lounge, retail space, underground parking and a mineral spa open to the public, not just hotel guests.

The hotel's final design and appearance are subject to separate approval processes by both the city and the Meewasin Valley Authority.

The tentative agreement stipulates that Remai Ventures must complete the building's foundation and underground parking by the end of 2008.

The purchase price for the land is significantly less than the city's original appraised value of $2.9 million, but Atchison and several city councillors note Remai was the only company interested in buying it, and the city is placing certain restrictions on the building's design to keep it in line with the overall vision for River Landing.

Remai Ventures had originally proposed a series of tax incentives spanning 15 years. After months of private negotiations, the company has scaled back those demands, agreeing to pay $756,351 a year in property taxes, but starting in its fifth year of operation, not counting any mill rate increases that may occur in the meantime.

Saskatoon Hotels Association president Andrew Turnbull said the deal comes as no surprise to his organization, which has already expressed concerns about how the complex would affect other hoteliers, none of whom have received tax incentives from the city.

"I think that those concerns remain today," Turnbull said after examining the tentative sale agreement.

"I think it's important to say that the Saskatoon Hotels Association is very supportive of the city and the mayor and council and the initiatives they're taking to see some new development take place in the downtown core. . . . I think the concern we have is the concept of a level playing field."

The new complex would compete head-to-head with other hotels in the city, many of which are already struggling with occupancy rates of around 60 per cent, Turnbull noted.

"They're good corporate citizens," Atchison said of Remai Ventures. "This is a tremendous amount of money, like this is $30 million to $40 million . . . that one person is investing. When you look at the enormity of this project that one person is doing, I think it's absolutely tremendous."’

(December 9, 2005, StarPhoenix City OKs hotel/spa land deal)


Plan of Survey – River Landing Parcel "Y" (April 2005)


‘It's official: Saskatoon is getting a new hotel and spa complex at River Landing.

City councillors voted Monday night to approve a sales agreement clearing the way for Remai Ventures to erect the new hotel on one of the last pieces of prime urban riverfront real estate in the country.

The result of the public vote came as little surprise given that the deal had already been approved last week at a closed-door meeting of council's executive committee, which consists of the mayor and all councillors.’

(December 13, 2005, StarPhoenix River Landing spa gets council OK)


‘A local developer's plans to build a luxury hotel and spa at River Landing could swallow up the historic Royal Canadian Legion hall on 19th Street East, The Star-Phoenix has learned.

Remai Ventures construction manager Curtis Zwack confirmed Tuesday the company has been speaking with Legion officials about purchasing the hall, which is the last remaining building on the future River Landing site, adjacent to property the company recently acquired from the city.

"We have been talking to the Legion, but we don't have any finalized agreement," Zwack said, adding the company will make an announcement when and if any deal is reached.

"At this point we haven't accepted an offer from Remai yet," said Dave Rousay, president of the Legion branch. "We have to talk to our whole general assembly and work out any details with them if they do want to buy our building."’

(December 21, 2005, StarPhoenix Remai looks at Legion)


‘Members of the downtown branch of the Royal Canadian Legion have already approved a proposal to sell their historic property to Remai Developments.

A majority of members voted in favour of the sale at a Dec. 14 meeting held at the hall on 19th Street East, according to a letter received recently by the Legion's Saskatchewan head office in Regina, provincial executive director Brent Burns told the StarPhoenix Wednesday.

That information contradicts the words of the downtown Legion's president, Dave Rousay, in an interview Tuesday. Rousay said the branch had to discuss the proposal with its general assembly to work out the details before making a decision to sell the building.

The Legion branch still has to provide details of the sale, along with its plans for moving to a new location, before the provincial office can give approval to the plan, Burns said.

A branch member who did not want to be identified by name called The StarPhoenix Wednesday to say the Dec. 14 meeting was hastily called and was only attended by about 50 people out of a total membership list of about 300.

The meeting was told Remai Developments was offering $1 million for the property and wanted an answer by noon the following day, and Legion officials had already hired a lawyer who was in attendance, the branch member said. The latest property tax assessment for the building valued it at just over $250,000.

"This is really terrible. There's something really dirty about it," the member said.
Rousay could not be reached for comment Wednesday.’

(December 22, 2005, StarPhoenix Legion approves land sale to Remai)

Royal Canadian Legion, Branch #63 (1929)
Architect: David Webster (1884-1952)


'Readers had their say on which of these 18 projects is most worthy of a share of Saskatoon's centennnial money. Here are the results of our reader poll:

Prairieland Park expansion (42 votes)
Mendel Art Gallery expansion (81 votes)
Hindu Society auditorium (17 votes)
Saskatoon Soccer Centre northeast (27,017 votes)
Persephone Theatre's new facility (85 votes)
Motorsports park (41,127 votes) (TOP VOTES)
Zoo expansion (626 votes)
Victoria Bridge work (219 votes)
Riverfront Park (92 votes)
Meewasin Valley Authority centre (19 votes)
Children's Discovery Museum (32 votes)
20 Above Holdings arts/cultural centre (207 votes)
Western Development Museum upgrades (267 votes)
Wanuskewin Heritage Park renovations and multicultural centre (22 votes)
New YMCA in northeast (402 votes)
Station 20 West community enterprise centre (146 votes)
Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company project (24 votes)
Indian Cultural Centre keeping house (5 votes)'

*Note: The centennial funding reader poll results were available online for approximately two days before being removed. They were never published in The StarPhoenix newspaper.

(December 24, 2005, website)

The centennial funding reader poll results were available on the StarPhoenix website for approximately two days (Dec. 24 & 25) before being removed. The results were never published in the newspaper. No reason has ever been given why.


‘I am writing to you today to express our concern over a recent decision by City Council to provide tax relief for a proposed development by one of our direct competitors.

The proximity of the Remai property to ours will no doubt increase competition in an already extremely competitive market, where every dollar counts. While we welcome competition and have the highest respect for PR Developments we also believe in competing on a level playing field. We do not believe it is equitable to be allowing tax concessions for a development on River Landing while ignoring one of the most significant hotel renovations in our city’s history, the recently completed conversion of the Quality Inn to the Hilton Garden Inn, in the heart of Saskatoon’s downtown.

In order to acquire the Hilton franchise, our company invested over 9 million dollars and 18 months to upgrade the facility to these world-class standards.

At no time during our planning and development of the Hilton Garden Inn did we ask for, nor did we expect, any unique assistance from the City of Saskatoon. Nor did we suggest any kind of special concessions when proposing our own concept for a River Landing Development. It has always been our philosophy that businesses succeed best when they are allowed to compete on their own, in an environment that promotes healthy competition and standards of excellence in industry. That philosophy has not changed, and indeed it is why we feel compelled to write to you at this time.

City Council has now set a precedent which we feel deserves fair consideration and application. Therefore, we would ask that the City of Saskatoon entertain the possibility of a similar tax arrangement for Hilton Garden Inn, to ensure fair treatment that recognizes our value to the City and significant investment which will surely promote Saskatoon’s economic prosperity as much as the proposed River Landing Spa and Hotel.

We would be very pleased to meet with members of City Council or committee to discuss an equitable and similar arrangement as that which will be implemented for the hotel and spa for River Landing. Should that not be acceptable to Council, we would hope to receive a response which explains why we should be treated differently than our fellow corporate citizens.

We thank you for your consideration, and look forward to a favourable response.’

(January 31, 2006, letter to City Council from Betty Anne Latrace-Henderson, President, Airline Motor Hotels Ltd.)


‘A Saskatoon landmark built with the sweat equity of local war veterans will be sold today to the development company that already plans to build a luxury hotel and spa on adjacent property at the River Landing site.

Remai Ventures expects to make a formal announcement of its deal to purchase the Royal Canadian Legion Hall on 19th Street East sometime today, after the sale is officially closed, Remai Ventures' director of real estate, Curtis Zwack, confirmed late Tuesday.

Zwack did not disclose any details of the sale or indicate the company's plans for the site.

Brent Burns, provincial executive director for the Legion, said the organization's provincial office in Regina has already approved the deal, though he's not at liberty to discuss the sale price or any other details.’

(February 1, 2006, StarPhoenix Remai buys Legion landmark)


‘The downtown hall of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 63, built by veterans of the First World War, will be torn down next year to make way for a luxury hotel and spa expected to open on the River Landing site in 2008.

In a news release issued Wednesday, local development company Remai Ventures officially announced its purchase of the Legion property for an undisclosed sum.

"Unfortunately, the Legion building will be demolished but the 1929 cornerstone and the Legion coat of arms plaque on the exterior of the building will be incorporated into a memorial to the Legion building," the company's director of real estate, Curtis Zwack, stated in the release.

The Legion branch will be allowed to rent the hall from its new owner for $1 a month until Feb. 1, 2007, while its members look for a new place to gather.

Now that Remai Ventures has acquired the additional land -- which is adjacent to a huge riverfront parcel it already purchased from the city -- the company is working with local architects Kindrachuk Agrey on five alternative layouts for the hotel and spa complex, Zwack said.

"It gives us a lot more options," he said of the sale, adding that turning the old Legion site into a parking lot for the complex is "not really a priority," but beyond that it's too early to say what part of the new development will occupy that parcel of land.

Zwack said a set of new concept drawings for the hotel and spa should be ready by this fall. Construction is slated to begin in spring 2007, with an opening date sometime near the end of 2008.’

(February 2, 2006, StarPhoenix Legion hall to be demolished)

The Legion building's 1929 cornerstone and the Legion coat of arms plaque.


‘In July 2005, we provided our proposal to the Province of Saskatchewan.

During the summer and fall of 2005, the City of Saskatoon pursued discussions with several organizations to attempt to create a “Destination Complex” on the River Landing Cultural Block. Persephone was one of the organizations. The City was unable to assemble a group of cultural organizations that all met its criteria for operational viability in time to meet Western Economic Diversification’s time requirements for determining how the Centennial funds would be awarded. That led to the City negotiating directly with Persephone Theatre. In early December we reached agreement with the City to purchase a portion of the Cultural Block.

The current purchase price in our agreement with the City is $888,600. The final figure will likely be somewhat lower. We allowed for a buffer to the south and west of our anticipated building location, and we will return unused land to the City, reducing the overall purchase price.

For some time, our budget had allowed for a land cost of $700,000 or more. That is the amount that was discussed in our July 2005 proposal to the Province. Thus, the actual amount we will pay is modestly higher than we anticipated in July. Before the City agreed to sell us the land, the negotiations were premised on a long-term lease. Persephone preferred to pay a lump-sum up front, rather than an ongoing rental that would have to be paid out of operations. The most recent cost calculated by the City for a 50 year lease (which we were concerned was too short a term) was $872,177, with a 99 year lease cost of $947,870. For that reason (and several other reasons), Persephone is getting better value by buying the land than we would have gotten by leasing it.

One reason the City had preferred the lease model was that it wanted the ability to ensure that the land continued to be put to public uses. Persephone suggested that the City take a right of first refusal, so that if we wish to sell the property we must offer the City an opportunity to buy it. That offer was very well received by the City. As well, we agreed to certain use restrictions to provide the City some protection against the property being converted to an office building, for example.

Recently, our Board of Directors approved an increase of the total project budget to $11 million. This is an increase from the $9.4 million budget referenced in our July proposal. The primary reason for the higher project is rising construction costs. It unfortunately has taken Persephone much longer than we ever anticipated to secure our land, and construction costs rose dramatically during the intervening period.

Wright Construction and our architects have expressed some concern in recent discussions about whether the current construction budget of $8,680,000.00 will be sufficient. This is a challenge that Persephone is working very hard to address and we have given clear instructions to our design team that the project must be brought in within our budget. Persephone is being very realistic about these budget constraints and our need to be willing to accept some design compromises to ensure the budget is met. Indeed, we have already made several design changes since December that will help to reduce the cost. As well, we have retained the services of a consultant who specializes in finding construction savings. If necessary, we will give consideration to whether there are aspects of our project (such as fully equipping the fly tower) that might be deferred without impairing the core elements of our facility.

In order to approve an increase of the project budget has increased, Persephone’s Board of Directors had to be satisfied that the funds could be raised to cover the entire project cost. As discussed in our July 2005 proposal to the Province, Persephone Theatre had commissioned a detailed assessment by Compton International Fundraising who stated that Persephone Theatre would be able to raise the required capital for the project. The Compton report indicated that approximately one-half could be obtained from all levels of government and the balance raised from private and corporate donations. At that time, the amount contemplated to be raised from private (non-government) sources was $3 million.

In 2004, Al Neufeld, a highly experienced fundraising professional, was hired to oversee Persephone Theatre’s capital fundraising campaign. In his assessment, he concluded that the feasibility study conducted by Compton was still accurate and achievable.

When assessing the prospects for success of a campaign, consultants look for a lead gift of approximately 10-15% of the proposed goal, and total donations of approximately 25%. Following is a listing of the donation findings:

Donor A* $500,000
Donor B $500,000
Donor C $250,000
Donor D $50,000
Donor E $50,000
Donor F $50,000
Donor G $46,000
Donor H $5,000
Donor I $5,000
Donor J $2,500
TOTAL $1,458,500

*Pseudonyms used for respondent confidentiality

That data strongly suggests that Persephone Theatre is capable of raising a maximum of $5 million to $5.8 million. Mr. Neufeld contacted each donor within the past 6 months, and confirmed each donation indicated above is still correct and achievable by Persephone Theatre. As well, it is noteworthy that Persephone has already secured a lead gift of $1,000,000.00 from the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation. Therefore Al Neufeld recommended that the campaign was feasible and should proceed.

Persephone Theatre has formed a Capital Campaign Committee, and Dr. Bill Thomlinson, Executive Director of the Canadian Light Source, is the Campaign Chair. As well, Mr. Neufeld is the Campaign Director. Persephone is now in the process of quietly approaching many prospects for significant gifts and that activity will be our priority for the next few months. The individuals who have volunteered to take leadership roles on the Campaign include Dr. Bill Thomlinson (our Capital Campaign Chair), Bill Peterson, Doug Richardson, Q.C., John Gormley, Ken Howland, Brian Mallard and David Gerecke. Recruitment of many other volunteers is well underway.’

(February 9, 2006, Persephone Theatre Proposal Update to Barbara MacLean, Deputy Minister, Department of Culture, Youth and Recreation, Government of Saskatchewan)


‘Further to my telephone message, we have received your updated project information.

I am a bit concerned about the assumptions that are built into your estimates for box office revenues in the new facility. I agree that the novelty factor will create greater interest, but you are also proposing a fairly dramatic increase in ticket prices that may stem the interest. What market evidence do you have to support these estimates as they are considerably higher than you are currently earning.’

(February 14, 2006, Email from Dawn Martin, Executive Director, Saskatchewan Culture, Youth and Recreation to Sheldon Born, Persephone Theatre)


‘This memo is to advise you that our department officials have completed a review of the request by Persephone Theatre that the Province of Saskatchewan contribute $2.5 million to the construction of a new facility in the River Landing Development of Saskatoon. The Persephone project is well thought out and responds to a significant need in Saskatoon. The project has the support of the City of Saskatoon ($1 million), a major private donor (also $1 million) and a number of smaller private donors. As well, the Government of Canada has indicated that the Persephone project was highly rated among the projects that were submitted to it for the Canada Celebrates Saskatchewan’s Centennial program. Their request to that program was for $2.5 million. The total project budget was originally $6.5 million. However, Persephone has now had to purchase the land upon which the project will be built and, with rising construction costs, estimate the project may rise to $10 million. The organization has a strong fund raising plan and has already achieved a high level of success. They should be in a good position to raise the additional funds.

As you know, the Legislature approved supplementary estimates for $2.5 million for cultural capital projects in the fall session. It is our recommendation that these funds be released to Persephone Theatre. With your approval, our department will prepare an Order-in-Council authorizing the release of funds.

(February 15, 2006, memorandum to Ron Styles, Deputy Minister of Saskatchewan Finance from Barbara MacLean, Deputy Minister, Saskatchewan Culture, Youth and Recreation)


Saskatoon has the dubious distinction of being home to three of the province's 10 most endangered historical structures. The King George Hotel, the Royal Canadian Legion hall on 19th Street and the Victoria Bridge all made the Saskatchewan Architectural Heritage Society's 2006 Watch List of Endangered Structures, to be announced on Feb. 20 during events marking Heritage Day across the country. No other community in the province has more than one piece of architecture on the list.

"Being on the list is certainly not an honour," Al Rosseker, executive director of the society, said in a release issued to media outlets around the province this week. "Structures on the list could fall down or be taken down if communities and governments do not rally to preserve them for future generations."

This is the first year the list has been compiled and there was no shortage of contenders, Rosseker said in an interview, adding the society isn't trying to point fingers at communities, but to draw people's attention to what could be in store for the old landmarks they've known for years, so that concerted efforts can be made to preserve them.

"We think these structures are important to each community in their own way, and the province in a more global way," Rosseker said.

The society's criteria for selecting endangered structures to appear on the list include age, structural integrity, degree of neglect, exposure to weather, vandals or other destructive forces, involvement of the community and vulnerability to new development.

The downtown Legion hall, located about four blocks south of the King George, was recently sold and is slated for demolition to make way for a luxury hotel and spa complex on the River Landing site sometime next year. The building was constructed in 1929 by local First World War veterans, and features one of the last remaining horse-hair dance floors in the province.’

(February 16, 2006, StarPhoenix City has most history to lose)


‘The attached is the completed ranking of the projects proposed under the Centennial Capital Initiative Request for Proposals. This ranking was completed by Proposal Evaluation Committee that consisted of:

Rob Greer
Rajeev Ludu
Garry Sturgeon
Ulrike Veith, PCH
(Note: due to time constraints Ulrike was not available to participate fully in the review process.)

To arrive at our ranking we have used the following process.

Upon receipt of the proposals each was given a preliminary review. During this review we noted obvious issues for clarification. These issues were listed in a letter to each client that also requested a meeting in early January. Meetings with each proponent took place between January 5 and January 14. These meetings gave us a opportunity to become more familiar with each proposal and obtain clarification on the issues noted in our letters. At least two committee members attended each meeting.

After all meetings were held, the 19 proposals received were screened for eligibility according to the following criteria:

1. Project costs are of a capital nature.
2. Project costs are incremental. (i.e. costs are yet to be incurred).
3. Total project costs exceed $2 million.
4. Confirmed funding of at least 20% of project costs is in place.
5. The project start date is no later than June 1, 2006, and the program expenditures can be completed by March 31, 2007.

At this stage 7 proposals were eliminated from further consideration. Another 3 proposals [information severed but presumed to be Persephone Theatre, Mendel Art Gallery and Meewasin Valley Authority] required confirmation of pending provincial funding to meet eligibility requirements. These were passed through to the next stage on a provisional basis until such time as the status of the provincial funding could be confirmed.

Each project that passed the screening was then rated according to the Rating Guide. The Guide used the rating criteria listed in the RFP and was used to give each project a score. This score determined the relative rank of the project, and gives an indication of the project’s fit with the rating criteria.’

(February 2006, Western Economic Diversification Canada – Report of the Proposal Evaluation Committee Centennial Capital Initiative)


‘Dear: Joe

Thank you for your interest in our situation and building.

The City of Saskatoon did discuss with the Saskatoon Legion Branch 63 the possibility of establishing a Veterans museum in the upstairs hall. These discussions took place approximately two years ago.

The building review committee was given approval to continue discussions with the city regarding the museum at a Branch meeting held on May 27, 2004.

On May 28, 2004 a letter was delivered to the Mayor’s office. The letter stated that a museum could be established but the Branch would not be responsible for renovations, upgrades, or it’s day to day operations. The letter also stated there would need to be compensation for loss of revenue for the hall.

The City of Saskatoon did not respond to the letter. There has been no other discussions with the city regarding this issue.’

(March 4, 2006, letter to Joe Kuchta from John Davidson, President, Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 63)


‘Attention: John Davidson, Chairman, Building Review Committee

Thank you for your letter with enclosure dated March 4, 2006, which I received the evening of March 13, 2006.

I was shaken when I read your letter of May 28, 2004, as I had no recollection of having previously seen it. Tuesday morning, March 14, I called the Mayor about the matter and he had no recollection of the letter. I then asked the City Clerk to search the records to see if the letter had been received. To my dismay I discovered your letter was submitted to Executive Committee on June 14, 2004 and the minutes state is was resolved the conditions outlined in the letter were not acceptable. The City Clerk no longer has her notes that may have reflected on any discussion regarding this issue. And I am still shaken by the fact that I cannot recall your said letter or any discussion relating to it. Saving the Legion building and creating a Veterans’ museum was my dream for part of the River Landing development.

Clearly the error is mine and I accept responsibility for my oversight. My public comments with respect to the sale of the Legion Building were made as a consequence of my oversight.

In light of this information, I offer you my apologies for any comments I made that incorrectly conveyed a lack of interest of your part for a Veterans’ Museum. Although we may never have come to an agreement for a joint project, I lament the lost opportunity to develop a lasting tribute to our veterans and their families and to provide a venue to educate our youth on why it is important to remember and recognize the sacrifices that were made by past generations to afford our society the freedoms we enjoy. However, I will continue to pursue this project elsewhere in the city core.

A copy of this correspondence is being sent to all forums in which I commented on this matter. I will seek an avenue to render a public apology to the Legion in the council chamber.

I thank you for bringing this to my attention and I remain.’

(March 14, 2006, letter from Councillor Elaine Hnatyshyn to John Davidson, Chairman, Building Review Committee, Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 63)


‘Attached please find two Orders-in-Council for yours signature, along with speaking notes for you when the documents are reviewed in Cabinet.

The first is an Order-in-Council authorizing our department to make a grant of $2.5M to Persephone Theatre. The grant is intended to be used for the theatre company’s capital construction of a new facility. However, to facilitate the release of the funds in this fiscal year, the grant is being made unconditionally.’

(March 14, 2006, memorandum to Honourable Glenn Hagel, Minister Culture, Youth and Recreation from Barbara MacLean, Deputy Minister, Culture, Youth and Recreation)


‘Other Partners or Other Government Departments: Funding has been requested from the City of Saskatoon, as well as the Province of Saskatchewan. The City has committed to $1,000,000 in funding, and the Province has been asked for $2,500,000, which they are considering.

Special Conditions(s): The payout of the WD funding on this project will be conditional upon the client being approved for funding of approximately $2,500,000 from the Province of Saskatchewan, as has been requested. If this provincial funding is not approved, it is doubtful that the project can be successful.’

(March 16, 2006, Western Economic Diversification Canada – Persephone Theatre Due Diligence Report (DDR) Draft Copy)


‘This is an agreement between the Government of Canada, the Province of Saskatchewan and the City of Saskatoon for the reclamation and development of the former A.L. Cole power site in Saskatoon South Downtown, part of the River Landing Phase II Project.

The total eligible project costs for the River Landing Phase II project are estimated at $28.6 million, to which the Government of Canada will provide up to $13.7 million towards the River Landing Phase II project through the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund (CSIF). The Province of Saskatchewan will provide $5 million and the City of Saskatoon has committed the balance of approximately $9.9 million towards eligible costs, plus any other costs associated with the project.

Saskatoon also plans to develop the adjacent land called River Landing Phase I. Canada will not be providing any funding through this Agreement for remediation or development of River Landing Phase I.’

(March 17, 2006, Canada-Saskatchewan-Saskatoon – Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund Agreement for Saskatoon South Downtown (“River Landing Phase II”))


‘The undersigned has the honour to report that:

It is desirable and in the public interest that the Minister of Culture, Youth and Recreation, on behalf of the Government of Saskatchewan, make a grant to Persephone Theatre in an amount not to exceed $2,500,000, for operations and development of capital facilities.

The undersigned has the honour, therefore, to recommend that Your Honour’s Order do issue pursuant to section 3 of The Culture and Recreation Act, 1993 and section 18 of The Government Organization Act authorizing the Minister of Culture, Youth and Recreation, on behalf of the Government of Saskatchewan, to make a grant to Persephone Theatre in an amount not to exceed $2,500,000, for operations and development of capital facilities.

Recommended by: Glenn Hagel, Minister of Culture, Youth and Recreation
Approved by: Clay Serby, Acting President of the Executive Council
Ordered by: Lynda Haverstock, Lieutenant Governor'

(March 21, 2006, Order-in-Council #207/2006)


Q. Was there any attempt made by WD to consult with Saskatoon residents on which project they would prefer?

A. No, but a clear set of criteria was created with the needs of Saskatoon residents and the Canada Celebrates Saskatchewan objectives in mind.’

(March 24, 2006, Western Economic Diversification Canada – Questions and Answers Canada Celebrates Saskatchewan Saskatoon Funding Announcement)


‘After five months of uncertainty, four of 19 city organizations that had applied for a funding boost from Ottawa found out Friday they were the recipients of federal centennial money.

Prairieland Park Corp., the City of Saskatoon, Persephone Theatre and Wanuskewin Heritage Park Authority will each receive a cut of the fund, worth $10.5 million. The money was given to the city by the federal government to celebrate the province's 100th birthday.

Prairieland received $4 million for a 50,000-squarefoot expansion of its trade show and exhibit space. The new building will replace one built to mark the province's 50th anniversary. The money will almost cover the entire project's $5-million bill.

The City of Saskatoon will receive $3 million of the $9 million needed to transform River Landing into a location that attracts residents and tourists to the water's edge. The project includes the design and construction of a pavilion building that includes event space, interpretive exhibits and a children's water area.

Terry Graff, director of the Mendel Art Gallery, expected to be in that room.

"We are very disappointed with minister Skelton's announcement today," he said. "We will inquire as to why Saskatoon's premier cultural institution, the Mendel Art Gallery, is not receiving any of the Canada Celebrates Saskatchewan funding."

The gallery requested $7.5 million to help offset the cost of an $18-million renovation project. Plans included expanding galleries and storage space, along with the creation of the Joni Mitchell Cafe.

Persephone Theatre received $2.5 million to build a new facility worth $11 million in the River Landing development.

The Wanuskewin Heritage Park Authority received $1 million of the $3 million it had requested.

Submissions were reviewed by Western Economic Diversification (WD) officials, while Carol Skelton, the WD minister and MP for the Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar riding, had the final say.

Skelton made the announcement at Prairieland Park in front of a boardroom filled with smiling representatives from the winning bids.'

(March 25, 2006, StarPhoenix Centennial cash flows)

Minister Carol Skelton at the announcement of $10.5 million for four Canada Celebrates Saskatchewan projects in Saskatoon. Front row L to R: Lynne Yelich, MP; Tibor Feheregyhazi, Artistic Director, Persephone Theatre; Minister Skelton; and Sheila Gamble, CEO, Wanuskewin Heritage Park. Back row L to R: Mark Regier, CEO, Prairieland Park; Brad Trost, MP; and Don Atchison, Mayor of Saskatoon (March 24, 2006)


‘For Terry Graff, the announcement Friday on which groups will receive a portion of federal centennial funding was the equivalent of receiving a blank canvas.

The director of the Mendel Art Gallery expected to receive something, anything, from the fund worth $10.5 million.

"In this, the year when Saskatoon is designated by the federal government as a cultural capital, its most significant cultural institution, the Mendel, is not on the list to receive anything," he said.

The gallery requested $7.5 million to help cover the cost of an $18-million expansion of exhibit and storage space, as well as to create the Joni Mitchell Cafe.

Graff is even more upset about losing time than the money. He was invited by Western Economic Diversification to submit a proposal for the fund and was told by Heritage Canada not to submit one to its cultural spaces grant program.

"We've lost a whole year's cycle by moving from cultural spaces to contend for the special centennial fund," he said. "So we followed their advice and we're left in the lurch as to funding and our project."

The gallery's private-sector fundraising program has suffered because companies were waiting to find out if the gallery would receive the government funding, he said.

Graff has contacted representatives from WD and hopes to meet with them shortly. He said he called Skelton this afternoon and his call wasn't returned.’

(March 25, 2006, StarPhoenix Art gallery won't receive centennial cash)

Renderings of the proposed Mendel Art Gallery expansion (2005)


‘Persephone Theatre has scored another $2.5 million towards their new waterfront dream home.

After a $2.5-million centennial present from the federal government, the Province of Saskatchewan also chimed in with an additional $2.5 million Friday.

With $1 million already committed by the City of Saskatoon and a $1-million gift from the Frank and Ellen Remai Foundation, the company has now raised $7 million for the new $11-million theatre planned for the south downtown River Landing development.

The company is gearing up to launch their capital fundraising campaign to rake in the last $4 million needed for the new theatre, (president David) Gerecke said.’

(March 27, 2006, StarPhoenix Persephone scores another $2.5M for new theatre)


‘Other Partners or Other Government Departments: No other government agencies are involved in this project.

Special Condition(s): 1) Advances may be provided as the Minister, at his sole discretion, deems appropriate. The Recipient must account for each advance received within 90 days of receiving such advance.’

(April 6, 2006, Western Economic Diversification CanadaSaskatoon Prairieland Park Due Diligence Report (DDR) Draft Copy)


‘The first patch of sod in the 50,000-square-foot expansion of Prairieland Park was turned Thursday with hopes the project will provide more fuel for Saskatoon's economic engine.

Federal Revenue Minister Carol Skelton, Mayor Don Atchison, Prairieland CEO Mark Regier and Prairieland president Les Cannam were on hand to place a foot on a golden shovel during the ceremony.

"This place has a huge economic impact on the community," Atchison said, adding it will attract even more visitors and first-time trade shows because of the expansion. Prairieland attracted 1.6 million people to the grounds last year.

One of those attendees was Skelton, who handed out ribbons at a 4-H heifer show. "I see it as a fresh start for Saskatchewan and Saskatoon as the city moves into its next century," she said.

Prairieland received $4 million from a $10.5-million federal centennial fund that Skelton oversaw. The $5-million expansion plan is projected to be completed Sept. 30.’

(April 15, 2006 StarPhoenix Sod turned on Prairieland Park work)

Minister Carol Skelton puts her foot on the shovel at the Sod Turning ceremony to celebrate expansion to Prairieland Park in Saskatoon. L to R: Mayor Don Atchison; Prairieland president Les Cannam; Minister Skelton; Prairieland CEO, Mark Regier (April 14, 2006)


‘The Mendel Art Gallery has been turned down by the province for funding for its planned expansion.

Instead, gallery director Terry Graff was told in a recent letter from the deputy minister of culture, youth and recreation to ask the City of Saskatoon for more money.

The letter was the end result of a year's worth of effort by gallery officials who had hoped the province would match a $4.5-million commitment already approved by city council.

"The government of Saskatchewan will not be providing any additional resources to the City of Saskatoon for cultural infrastructure. I would encourage you to approach the city to discuss the potential for accessing some of the new resources we have provided as the provincial share of your project," deputy minister Barbara MacLean wrote.

When the province announced some $50 million in increased revenue-sharing with municipalities during the annual convention of the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association in February, about $6 million of that was specifically targeted to infrastructure projects in Saskatoon, MacLean noted in the letter.

"The feedback that government's received over a number of years from municipalities was that they have the ultimate responsibility and really should be the decision-makers as to where provincial funds for infrastructure are spent," she said in an interview Tuesday.

"It was within that context that there was a decision made that . . . new funding was announced for municipalities. So when we looked at municipally owned facilities, the Mendel Art Gallery is one of them . . . and certainly the City of Saskatoon could choose to earmark that money for that particular project."

The gallery made its request through a direct application to the province last spring, "and throughout that time myself and board members have met with MLAs and the deputy minister Barbara MacLean, and we provided information all along and have had discussions around our project," Graff said.

"We followed the advice of the province in terms of who we should talk to and what information we needed to submit, and worked on that basis. And I guess in the end, the letter we received indicated that . . . the province has given funds to the city and that is where our share resides. That was never really our understanding of the proposal. We were never told that the city should be making the application on our behalf -- we were actually encouraged to do it as the Mendel Art Gallery."

Federal officials last year advised the gallery not to apply for funding under Heritage Canada's "cultural spaces" grant program, inviting it to instead apply for centennial funding through WD.

In the end, the gallery did not receive any centennial money.

WD officials later said that "if the province had made its commitment of $4.5 million, the Mendel stood a better chance of receiving the WD funding," Graff noted.

"So the feds were pointing at the province, and (now) the province is pointing at the city."’

(April 19, 2006, StarPhoenix Province rejects Mendel funding)


Persephone Theatre Aerial View (May 9, 2006)


‘No one in Saskatchewan's largest city, Saskatoon, will be too surprised if someone describes the local Mendel Art Gallery as "next year's gallery."

After all, it's clear that the Mendel won't become "this year's gallery."

Hopes were high that a planned $18-million expansion would begin by this fall -- especially since the centennials of Saskatchewan as a province and Saskatoon as a city arrived in 2005 and 2006, respectively. Two years ago, the city-owned gallery marked 40 years as the anchor in Saskatoon's cultural life by unveiling plans to renovate its building on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River.

Included was a much-needed doubling of the Mendel's size to more than 16,500 square feet.

And things looked good last November, when then-Heritage Minister Liza Frulla named Saskatoon one of five "cultural capitals of Canada" for 2006, earmarking up to $2-million in federal aid for sundry projects in the city of 205,000.

Alas, the bulldozers are on hold until next year at least, possibly later -- the result of a lack of financial assistance from Ottawa and Regina. True, Saskatoon's civic government pledged $4.5-million last year to the Mendel's capital campaign. (The city already covers the non-profit gallery's annual operating budget of $2.5-million, which allows for free admission 364 days a year. Last year the Mendel had 184,000 visitors.) And the federal government's Cultural Spaces program has kicked in almost $450,000 toward architectural and construction drawings. Another $1.5-million has been pledged by various individuals, foundations and corporations, meaning that by early this year, the gallery had 30 per cent of its expansion funding accounted for.

But then, in one five-week stretch in the spring, the plans of Mendel director Terry Graff and his supporters were dealt two major blows -- what Graff calls "strange treatment" -- which they're still trying to recover from as well as understand. The first landed March 24 when Western Economic Diversification Minister Carol Skelton (also the Conservative MP for Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar) announced that she was rejecting the Mendel's application for $7.5-million from the $10.5-million allotted to Saskatoon from the Canada Celebrates Saskatchewan program. The second came in early April, when Saskatchewan's department of Culture, Youth and Recreation refused Graff's formal request for the province to match Saskatoon's $4.5-million investment.

"If we'd gotten the okay, we would have been ready to start construction . . . this fall," Graff said in a recent interview. "As it stands, we've lost at least a year. All we can continue to do is work with government and be hopeful that we find a champion in government who sees the Mendel as a priority. In particular, we need the province to speak on our behalf, even if it's a conditional commitment."

Since hearing the bad news, Graff has been trying to meet with politicians of all stripes. "The fear now is of getting left behind," he says. "Culture and heritage tend to get their day in the sun when they're hooked to big celebrations like centennials, and those windows are closing."

It's true culture wasn't entirely "left behind" when government money was handed out in the spring. For example, Persephone Theatre -- Saskatoon's primary drama venue for over 30 years -- received $2.5-million from the Canada Celebrates Saskatchewan fund toward a new $11-million home in River Landing. That's a south-side district that various levels of government have been eager to develop as a major cultural destination. Indeed, last fall, just a few months after Western Diversification officials intimated they'd like to see centennial money forwarded to River Landing projects, the city suggested to the Mendel that it might wish to join Persephone at the site.

However, in October, the Mendel board quashed any suggestion that the gallery leave its current home on Spadina Crescent East. The board, supported by Fred Mendel's 87-year-old daughter Eva, argued that the gallery was too far along in its renewal plans, having already hired Saskatoon's Kindrachuk Agrey Architecture to prepare working drawings for the revamp of the Mendel's modernist home.

When Western Diversification announced it wouldn't back the Mendel, speculation ran rampant that the gallery's failure was the result of it not playing ball with the River Landing scheme. Requests by Mendel representatives to meet with Western Diversification's Carol Skelton so far haven't borne fruit, leading the gallery to wonder if it might have better luck applying to Canadian Heritage's more modest Cultural Spaces Canada program.

In the meantime, Graff has met with local MLAs and, in mid-July, he had a joint session with Saskatchewan's culture minister, Glenn Hagel, deputy minister Barbara MacLean and Saskatoon mayor Donald Atkinson. The Mendel had applied directly to Hagel's ministry for the $4.5-million in matching money it wanted, saying it had been told that was the best route to follow. But in April, the gallery was told that was a mistake: It should have applied to the civic government, which in February had received $6-million from the province earmarked precisely for infrastructure projects. The city, for its part, replied that it already has pledged the Mendel $4.5-million. Now it was the province's turn.

In an interview, Dawn Martin, executive director of Saskatchewan Culture, Youth and Recreation, noted that, unlike in other provinces, her department lacks a dedicated infrastructure program. If a cultural institution like the Mendel gets capital assistance from the province, it's usually because it's seen as a priority within its overall infrastructure program of highways and buildings. "We've asked [the Mendel] to send us something directly" for consideration in the 2007-2008 fiscal year, she said. And while "the Mendel is an important institution in this province, there are no guarantees" it will receive direct provincial aid.

Still, Graff has described his July meeting as "very, very positive," so perhaps he's hoping for some of the $25-million surplus that the province expects to report next spring.’

(August 8, 2006, Globe and Mail Wait till next year, again)


‘During City Council’s July 17, 2006 meeting, Councillor Dubois made the following enquiry:

“Would the Administration please report on what the current schedule/budget for the Blairmore Pool is relative to where it was 2 or 3 months ago.”

Your Administration provided a report at the May 23, 2006 City Council meeting regarding the cost estimate for Phase II. The estimate was based on a high-end range provided by AODBT. The estimated cost for the aquatic centre was $26,700,000 (without the walking track) and $29,400,000 with the walking track (walking track is $2.7 M).

During their July 14, 2006 meeting, City Council approved the architect firm of Friggstad Downy Henry Architects (FDHA) to provide consultative services to complete design and contract services for the Blairmore Phase II project. Your administration requires a detailed design to be completed for the Blairmore project before we are able to provide a revised construction estimate to City Council. It is estimated the design schedule will be 90 percent complete by December 2006. Your administration will provide a report on the construction estimates at the beginning of December prior to the release of the construction tender.

Friggstad Downy Henry Architects has cautioned the project committee that with the increased demand on the construction industry, projects are escalating in cost beyond ten percent per year. Your administration has identified the next project to be tendered is Persephone Theatre (mid to late September, 2006). This project will be used as a benchmark for comparison of the marketplace condition. The cost consultant hired for this project will continue to monitor marketplace conditions and provide ongoing reporting to the project team.’

(August 14, 2006, Minutes of the Regular Meeting of City Council, A1) Enquiry – Councillor B. Dubois (July 17, 2006))


'Persephone Theatre is about to land on River Landing.

"We're very close to starting construction," David Gerecke, president of the theatre's board of directors, said Thursday, putting the estimate at a couple of weeks.

Getting building permits and the title to the land is the next step.

The recently opened tenders came in at slightly more than the theatre budgeted for, but less than it feared.

"It's turned out that we had a really good handle on the costs. I think I can say with confidence that it's less than three per cent," said Gerecke.

That works out to less than $330,000 on the $11-million project.

The theatre hopes to stage its first play in December 2007, slightly later than the November date mentioned at September's ceremonial sod turning. A lot depends on how smoothly the foundation work goes, Gerecke said.

Wright Construction is in charge of the build.

Work remains on another Persephone project -- its fundraising campaign.

"Community support has been very strong and donations are arriving every day, but we still have a ways to go," Gerecke said.'

(November 10, 2006, StarPhoenix Work set to begin on new home for theatre)


'This afternoon, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 63 members will hold a Remembrance Day gathering at the south downtown building for the last time.

Today's gathering will feature music from the North Saskatchewan Regiment and Saskatoon City Police bands. Sing-a-longs are on the agenda, as well as story telling and reminiscing.

The ceremony will also be bittersweet. In January, the 77-year-old building at the corner of 19th Street and Second Avenue is scheduled for demolition by its owner, Remai Ventures Inc., to make way for new development.

Branch members voted in the fall of 2005 to sell the building to the development company. The branch was struggling to pay the building's utility bills, while repairs and renovations fell by the wayside due to budget constraints.

The aging building, which some groups consider historic, has one of the last horse hair dance floors in the province. It was built by veterans of the First World War.

Members have resigned themselves to moving to a new home. In August, the branch purchased the Pensioners and Pioneers Hall on Spadina Crescent.

"I've got mixed feelings. I love the old building," said John Gill a legion member who served with the British Service in the Second World War. "It's going to be really hard on the veterans. They really hate the thought of leaving."'

(November 11, 2006, StarPhoenix End of era for legion branch)


Persephone Theatre Proposed Plan of Subdivision Revised (November 20, 2006)