Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Saskatoon StarPhoenix letter to the editor submitted October 2, 2006

Dear Editor:

When the South Downtown Concept Plan was released in April 2004 the public was told it was viable. Mayor Don Atchison was excited that the plan took just three months to prepare. The fallout from city council’s rush to get something, anything done is apparent. Desperate measures like relocating the Mendel and Cameco attest to that.

The spa hotel did not generate the outside interest promised. Only four local proposals were received.

What was once viable now required tax breaks and subsidies to support. Remai Ventures received enormous tax incentives and the land at a deep discount.

The plan to relocate several existing organizations onto the tiny 1.78-acre cultural block failed. To facilitate Persephone Theatre’s development the city provided tax breaks and reappraised the land lowering the cost from $32.50 per square foot to $30. Taxpayers will finance the underground parking.

Atchison said he did not support spending public money on the Gathercole site. He said the city did not have the resources to preserve the Gathercole building. The $11.8 million required included design fees, roadways, parking, landscaping, servicing and 16% contingency. Since the building’s demolition, which the Heritage Canada Foundation cited as the worst loss of heritage in Canada in 2004, nearly $24 million in public funds have been found for the site. The public was duped.

Saskatoon will soon lose the historic Legion Building too, which council despicably abandoned at a closed-door meeting in June 2004.

Block 146 was meant to be an important transition between the downtown and riverfront. It’s rezoning left council with no control over the quality of the site’s development. The results were special tax breaks for Galaxy Cinemas’ hideous big box theatre and the closing of nearby Pacific Cinemas.

Civic voters will hopefully keep this in mind on Election Day.

Joe Kuchta

Saskatoon, SK


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