A pair of open houses are giving people a chance to weigh in on long term plans for the future of Saskatoon.
The Growth Plan to Half a Million is a document that will eventually guide city planners for decades to come, as Saskatoon is expected to hit a population of 500,000 within the next 30 to 40 years.
The first open house was held at the Mayfair United Church on Wednesday evening. People who came through got a chance to see charts and maps detailing proposals for transit, water and sewer service and development along major corridors like 22nd Street, Idylwyld Drive and 8th Street.
City Park resident Doris Larson said there was plenty she liked about what she saw, particularly on the transit side, with proposals for dedicated bus lanes along the University Bridge.
“A city has to have good transit, otherwise, it’s a town with pretensions,” she said.
Larson expressed concern about one of the longer-term pieces of the plan, a potential new four-lane bridge crossing the river to connect Preston Avenue and 33rd Street.
“I have lots of questions and unease about that, because some of the things I like best about Saskatoon have to do with the atmosphere around the river, and being able to find a quiet space in a busy town,” she said.
Larson’s concerns about the proposed bridge were echoed by Judy Denham, who owns the Flag Shop on 33rd Street.
Denham said that she and other business owners clustered in the newly-minted 33rd Street Business Improvement District (BID) are also worried about what a bridge could mean for them.
“It’s just got to be very safe and friendly feeling, as opposed to freeway feeling. It wasn’t meant for that. It never was. You know, look back 50 years ago, it just is not that kind of street so we’ve got to move (the bridge) away,” she said.
Alan Wallace, the city’s director of planning and development, stressed that any 33rd Street bridge is still a long way off. He said planners are eyeing the potential river crossing for a number of reasons. Among them, he said a bridge would open up nearby University of Saskatchewan land to development by providing it with road access. He noted that the bridge would also relieve pressure from taking lanes out of the University Bridge for transit.
In the end, he said the city didn’t really view a bridge as a means of pumping more traffic down 33rd Street as a whole, and he emphasized that no one was viewing 33rd Street as a major thoroughfare in the vein of 22nd Street or Idylwyld Drive.
Rather, Wallace said the proposed river crossing would be more like the Broadway Bridge connecting the bustling Broadway business district to the city’s core.
Denham said that is still unlikely to be an easy sell for her and her colleagues in the BID.
“Broadway has four lanes of traffic, two lanes of parking. So they’ve got in total six lanes with a boulevard. In the majority of 33rd, there are two lanes of traffic. We can’t do anything about that, that’s the way it is … in my mind it’s just not going to work, it’s just not a good place to try and make it work,” she said.
Another open house-style event will be held at the Saskatoon Fieldhouse Thursday from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.
The completed growth plan is expected to go for a vote by Saskatoon City Council sometime in the spring of 2016.