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Friday, May 29, 2009

Preparations Continue

Park Design

On May 20, 2009, Brian LePoudre lead a public consultation in Pleasant Hill on the design of the new park space. Alan Otterbein of the Parks Branch presented the space allocated for greenspace, and described the various types of parks the City develops and what typically goes into them. Residents, including children, were asked to list as many items they could think of, which would be desirable in the new park at Pleasant Hill. Then, they were given 5 dots. Each person was allowed to place one dot on five elements. When this was done, the Parks Branch had a good idea what the top five elements for the new park would be. The public consultation is scheduled to be completed by September 2009.

The park space will be developed in two phases. The first phase, scheduled to begin in 2010, includes the areas flanking the new school on the north and south. The second phase, likely 2011, will be developed immediately behind the new school on the site of the existing St. Mary School.

Housing on 20th Street

Habitat for Humanity is busy trying to sell as many vacant houses along 20th Street as they can. The City has offered these to Habitat as a fundraising opportunity. On July 8th, any houses remaining will be cleaned out and fenced off. On July 16th, the remaining housing stock will be demolished to make way for new development on this block (Parcel E on the concept plan).

Construction Start Dates

At this point, both ANHDF and Cenith are hoping to start site grading and excavation in June or July. More details will be available in later posts.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Some Surprises

No redevelopment project would be worth anything if it didn't contain some surprises.

Surprise No. 1

During the testing of the land for proposed Parcel A, it was discovered that a small are of the site was contaminated. Parcel A just happened to be the playground on the Grace Adam Metawewinihk Park. The contamination came from a former dry cleaning operation which existed on 20th Street and Avenue P in the 1950's. It was buried well underground and did not pose any risk to people. However, the site could not be excavated for a residential development without first removing the soil and installing a liner underground to prevent any further contamination. It would cost an additional $67,000 to remediate the site.

In March 2008, the playground equipment was dismantled, more test holes were dug, the site was excavated and a liner was buried along the boundary of Parcel A and the lane. The playground equipment was re-assembled by June.

Surprise No. 2

In the fall of 2007, City Council had issued an Expression of Interest (EOI) for housing providers to submit proposals for the first two development sites - Parcels B and D. By the end of the EOI period, only four proposals from non-profit providers had been received. Although appreciated, none of the proposals were from housing providers who could develop the housing using their own means. City Council extended the deadline another three months, but by January 2008, no further proposals were received.

The Saskatoon homebuilders were coming off their busiest year in history. There was little capacity left to take on another housing project. However, by May of 2008, the housing market was beginning to slow down, and interest in the project began to grow.

Pleasant Hill Community Review Committee

A Committee of Pleasant Hill Community leaders was assembled to assist in the review and selection of all development proposals. The City provided a scoresheet and each project was ranked.

Keith Hanson of the Affordable New Home Development Foundation (ANHDF) submitted a unique proposal to the City whereby two local builders (River Ridge Homes and Ehrenburg Homes) would construct a unique form of stacked townhouse, or 'big house' design using local labour and offer training to apprentice tradespeople.

The Big House design will yield 24 family-oriented units. This project was presented to the Review Committee in December 2008, and was chosen for Parcel D.

A second developer entered the picture in March 2008. Sam Qin of Cenith Developments Inc. proposed to build a unique form of modular townhouses and would utilize the latest in energy saving techniques and equipment, including wind power. Twelve family-oriented dwellings will be constructed on Parcel B.

Sale agreements have been signed and both of these housing developments will commence construction in summer of 2009. In recognition of the interest shown by the non-profit housing providers in 2007, the City put a condition in the sale agreement allowing the non-profit housing providers to pre-select up to 50% of the units for purchase. Completion of both projects is expected in early 2010.

Preparation for Redevelopment

By May 2007, the City of Saskatoon had completed the purchase of the first phase of properties. This totalled 1.5 blocks and 22 single unit dwellings. The Environment Services Branch conducted phase 1 and 2 environmental assessments of the land. Other than some heating oil tanks left over from the days before natural gas, the land was clean and could be used for park or residential purposes.

Rob Tomiyama and Bruce Bouthilette of the Facilities Branch obtained demolition permits and fenced the area. Demolition commenced in July/07. Unfortunately, none of the housing stock was in good enough condition to be re-used.

Demolition and clean-up was only the start. Simultaneously, the Planning and Development Branch were undertaking the subdivision and rezoning process to prepare the first two sites for development.

Terry Fusco and Kellie Grant of the Land Branch provided the subdivision services by contracting Saskatoon Land Surveyors to create the land parcels for development and road closure process.

Parcels B and D would be created first. Each was rezoned to accommodate the type of housing envisaged in the Redevelopment Concept Plan. Jesse Sirota handled the rezoning of these two sites.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Redevelopment Concept

In December 2006, nearly 60 residents, stakeholders, school and faith-based reps and key civic administrators met to undertake a comprehensive planning process. Facilitated by Kelley Moore of the Regional Intersectoral Committee (RIC), and lead by staff of the Community Services Department, the objective was to participate in teams and develop a new concept plan for the revitalization project.

By this time, two more adjacent properties had been put up for sale and the City began the process to acquire these sites. This meant the redevelopment area could be as large as 13 acres.

Each team started with a blank outline of the redevelopment area and a team facilitator. By the end of the day, five redevelopment plans were developed by the teams.

From these five redevelopment plans emerged 8 redevelopment principles:
  1. Variety of Housing - Provide for a range of housing types which will meet the needs of families and seniors, consistent with the Pleasant Hill Local Area Plan.

  2. Foster Community - Create a unique sense of place, which is safe and fosters a sense of community.

  3. Add Park Space - Develop more park space which is safe, attractive and promotes a healthy lifestyle.

  4. Walkability - Promote walkability while maintaining accessibility.

  5. Mixed Uses - Include mixed uses to support and strengthen the existing 20th Street West corridor.

  6. Value Added Density - Ensure appropriate density with quality design at key locations to ensure a critical mass of people, create vitality and support potential new local services including education.

  7. Attractive - Create an attractive environment, recognizing potential compatibility issues with the adjacent existing residential and industrial development.

  8. Safety - Foster the safety and comfort of residents and promote liveability by incorporating Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles into the concept plan and more detailed development plans for park space and development sites.

The resulting redevelopment concept was finalized by Edwards Edwards McEwen Architects, presented and adopted by City Council in June 2007, followed by the Board of Education for Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools in December 2008.

Plans were set in motion to begin the process of redevelopment, starting with demolition, environmental screening and remediation of the land.

Project Inception

Pleasant Hill is a mature core neighbourhood in Saskatoon. It is located west of Riversdale, south of 22nd Street. The St. Pauls Hospital is a major anchor within the neighbourhood. The Pleasant Hill Revitalization Project has its roots and purpose in the 2002 Pleasant Hill Local Area Plan. Local Area Plans (LAPs) are a comprehensive public consultation process designed to develop long range improvement plans for Saskatoon's core neighbourhoods. The Pleasant Hill LAP called for better housing, more seniors' housing, elimination of vacant lots and measures to reverse the erosion of public confidence in this historic neighbourhood.

In 2004, a rare opportunity arose to purchase 29 dwellings concentrated in a two block area within Pleasant Hill from one property owner. The housing was in poor condition located immediately adjacent to St. Mary School.

By 2006, a new Federal, Provincial, Municipal funding program called the 'Urban Development Framework Agreement' (UDA) was developed and allowed the City to obtain $3.3 Million dollars in funding assistance to acquire the 29 dwellings, assemble and clean-up the land, develop new infrastructure, new housing and new park space. Also in 2006, the Catholic School Board announced plans to replace St. Mary School with a new, larger facility which would include community space, health and wellness services.

The pieces fell into place for a major redevelopment which would reshape the Pleasant Hill neighbourhood. However, the Revitalization Project needed a plan. The next post highlights the process to develop a redevelopment concept plan, which has guided the revitalization project.