Friday, March 14, 2008

River Landing: Parcel “Y” plan still missing mandatory ‘destination attraction’ outlined in EOI; historic Legion Building sacrificed for office space

Michael E. Lobsinger, the President and CEO of Lake Placid Group, was in Saskatoon on Mar. 12 as the guest speaker at the 14th Annual Traders Luncheon in Support of Junior Achievement.

The event took place at the Sheraton Cavalier and was presented by BMO Financial Group.

Lobsinger discussed the challenges and rewards in building in Canada’s hottest markets – Calgary and Saskatoon.

It was Lobsinger’s company, Lake Placid Investments, which submitted a request for proposals in Sept. 2007 for Parcel “Y” in River Landing. At the time the cost of the commonplace hotel-office-residential complex was estimated at $125 million.

In his column ‘I won’t let you down’ (StarPhoenix, Mar. 13, 2008) SP business editor Murray Lyons said “the current project estimate is anywhere from $175 million to $200 million.”

According to Lyons, Lobsinger said he could be ready to get the project underway in 60 days.

It also appears that the developer is keen on adding two storey’s to his company’s proposed hotel.

Lobsinger told reporters after his presentation that he “knew the restrictions” when he tendered on the request for proposal.

“When you start developing inside those restrictions, I can build a hotel with the eight floors that were mandatory under the RFP. That will be a low-end hotel.

“This project calls for a high-end hotel, a destination hotel. This is going to be a destination project so why wouldn’t you have a high-end hotel?”

In his presentation, Lobsinger said he may have misjudged the “passion” Saskatoon people feel for the parcel of land, but he argues his response to the city’s RFP more than meets the city’s interest in a pedestrian people.

In the central plaza with a reflecting pool/seasonal skating rink, Lobsinger said Lake Placid will create a New York City feel to the courtyard between the hotel, condos and offices.

The problem, however, is that Lake Placid’s proposal does not appear to meet the requirements that were set out in the city’s May 2007 Expressions of Interest (EOI).

The EOI called for a ‘destination attraction/gathering space.’ City council classified this as a Priority 1 Essential Element that must be in the proposal.

The EOI stated that the destination attraction’s purpose is “to build on the downtown’s role as the cultural heart of the city by the development of cultural facilities which can improve economic prospects and encourage tourism.”

The developer’s public component are not cultural facilities and do not seem to constitute the required destination attraction.

Furthermore, it also appears that the proposed uses are not permitted under the DCD1 zoning guidelines. The DCD1 clearly state that the “only permitted uses” are interpretive centres, theatres, heritage facilities, museums, art galleries, amphitheatres, display space, events programming, tour offices, box offices and public institutional offices.

The operative word here is “only.”

It seems clear that the Lake Placid proposal does not comply with either the DCD1 Guidelines or the EOI and subsequent RFP.

It appears that Saskatoon city council, Lake Placid, the Meewasin Valley Authority, and the media are operating as if none of this matter. No one has yet identified which specific element(s) of the Lake Placid proposal constitutes the ‘destination attraction’ that is outlined in the EOI. Why is that?

Equally depressing is Lobsinger’s plan for the former site of the historic Royal Canadian Legion, Branch #63, building adjacent to Parcel “Y”. Remai Ventures Inc., the previous owner of the property, inexplicably had the heritage worthy building demolished last year. Lobsinger purchased the land in Feb. 2008.

According to Lyons: “An additional office building on the Legion site will allow Lake Placid to push the total office space in two, five-storey buildings to 130,000 square feet, along with what Lobsinger promises will be “unique” retail at the main plaza level. He said there is considerable interest in the office space.”

So the Legion Building, which was constructed in 1929 by local veterans of the First World War, was ultimately sacrificed for lousy office space. This is truly disgraceful.

On Mar. 14 the SP published another column by Lyons on the same subject.

In Let’s get moving on Lake Placid’s downtown project (StarPhoenix, Mar. 14, 2008) Lyons said “Lobsinger seems to have done well with this Saskatoon project so far, jumping all the hoops to meet the city's request for proposals (RFP). This week he heaped praise on Mayor Don Atchison, city manager Phil Richards and special projects manager Chris Dekker. He also met with the Meewasin Valley Authority to kiss hands.”

Once again Lyons failed to mention that all those involved seem to be ignoring the fact that the Lake Placid proposal does not appear to deliver what the city requested in its EOI/RFP and that it may not comply with the DCD1. All one has to do to is read the documents to see that.


At 7:02 PM, Blogger margi Corbett said...

Thanks again, Joe, for your thoughtful comments on this travesty.
After reading the editorial ("Existing process shouldn't hinder Landing project") in Saturday's S-P, I am officially ready to give up.
After reading about the overuse of coloured glass in modern architecture in Saturday's Globe and Mail, I am officially ashamed to be from Saskatoon. Our city planners think that blue glass is really cool. In fact, it is significantly cheaper than non-coloured glass. Just what a "high end hotel" would use, I'm sure . . . No wonder our fellow Canadians think we are hicks.


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