Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Remai Ventures cancels spa hotel development in Saskatoon; City moves to reacquire former Gathercole Building site

According to a report from the city manager's office developer Remai Ventures Inc. has decided not to proceed with its planned spa hotel development located in downtown Saskatoon on Parcel "Y" within River Landing Phase I.

In a Feb. 26, 2007, letter to the City the developer said the "rising cost of construction and difficulty in obtaining skilled labour has made this project cost prohibitive."

"There are also considerable costs and risks associated with the development of a mineral spa. Based on these factors, it is no longer economically viable to proceed with this project at this time," said Ellen Remai, President & CEO.

The City Solicitor's Office has begun the process to reacquire the land in accordance with the Sale Agreement it has with Remai. The City will reportedly purchase the 2.43-acre parcel of land back for the original sale price ($1.6M). The land had been assessed at $2.9M.

The property was cleared amid controversy in 2004 when the City demolished the historic Gathercole Building (formerly Saskatoon Technical Collegiate) to facilitate the extension of Second Avenue South, which has yet to proceed.

As far back as September 2003 then councillor Don Atchison was reported by The StarPhoenix as saying he wanted to see a mineral spa and condominium development on the Gathercole site. Following the October 2003 civic election, when Atchison was elected mayor, a pre-determined process was initiated by city council to ensure that a spa hotel and only a spa hotel would be built on the eastern portion of the Gathercole site.

Throughout late 2003 and into 2004 Saskatoon's conservative media and business community applauded city council's actions. Those who opposed or voiced concern were often ridiculed and labelled as being "anti-development".

On February 21, 2005, the 1931 Gathercole Building was cited as the worst loss of heritage in Canada in 2004 by the Heritage Canada Foundation in Ottawa.

The fate of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch #63 building, which lies directly north of Parcel "Y", remains unclear. Remai Ventures purchased the legion property (consisting of 2 parcels) in February 2006. At the time Remai indicated the building would be demolished. On March 5, 2007, I was advised by the City that no application for demolition of the building had yet been submitted by the owner of the property.

At a closed-door meeting in June 2004 the executive committee of city council decided not to pursue establishing a Veterans' Museum within the Legion Building. The public had no opportunity to speak to the issue as it was never debated at a public meeting of city council.

The Legion Building, built in 1929 by local veterans of the First World War, was recently included in the Heritage Canada Foundation's "2007 Top Ten Endangered Places in Canada List" and also in the Saskatchewan Architectural Heritage Society's "2007 Watch List of Endangered Structures".

Parcel "Y" River Landing Phase I


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