FCM Study Tours
Shortly after the opening ceremonies, which in true convention style, went way too long - I felt incredibly bad for the host, Dennis Trudeau, as he was left smiling and standing through the whole thing -- I was waiting for him to pass out - I went out the side door of TCU Place (formerly the Centennial Auditorium) and on to the bus.
I had chosen a tour called Urban Reserves - From Partnerships to Prosperity. In the years that followed after I left Saskatoon in the late 1980s, a deal was struck between a number of First Nations and the City to establish an urban reserve on a patch of undeveloped land east of Sutherland. Designated for only entrepreneurial activities, the multi-acre site now has a number of thriving businesses that have created a revenue stream for the band, employment for its members and a healthy relationship with the city.
After we enjoyed some amazing bannock sandwiches, we hopped back on the bus to see a similar business development just outside of city limits, on the west side of the highway going to Regina. Again, providing both a revenue stream and employment opportunity, the Grasswood Travel and Business Centre - a development of the English River First Nation was started with a nominal investment which has escalated to a combined property value exceeding $25 million. What a success story.
In the afternoon, a healthy group of us - including Calgary Mayor Nenshi - gathered for the Public Spaces and Urban Activity walking tour of downtown Saskatoon. Through an innovative program of using a percentage of parking meter revenue (44%...I believe) and working collaboratively with several business improvement districts and the Meewasin Valley Authority, the City is turning the urban landscape into a more livable, walkable, vibrant place.
As I strolled, it felt like I was looking through a crystal ball, seeing a glimpse of what downtown Fort McMurray will be like in a couple of years. Councillor Vinni was equally impressed, though his comment was that ours will be even better.
I did not like the fact that I had to walk six or seven blocks with my empty water bottle in hand, waiting to find a recycling container. But, that's something they're working on, according to Liz, our tour guide.
|Mayor Nenshi admiring a pocket park on 21st Street E|
|Councillor Charlie Clark, City of Saskatoon|
The good news for the City of Saskatoon is that they are taking a long-term strategic approach to their city centre and are making progress. Their approach, one of observing how people use the urban landscape, and making improvements that make it a more attractive place to live, work and play is very similar to what we are doing 8 hours northwest of here in Fort McMurray.
Our tour took us to River Landing, a great park along the South Saskatchewan River, complete with a water feature park that had just opened for the season. Adjacent to the Remai Arts Centre, also home to Persephone Theatre, this development creates a wonderful riverfront amenity that celebrates one of the city's greatest natural assets. It's wonderful.
I appreciate the efforts and the energy that went into executing both of these tours. To say I got value from them would be a tremendous understatement. I look forward to trying to weaseling my way into a couple of other ones in the days ahead.