A proposal to buy the city yards and build a downtown grocery store isn’t dead yet.
At the city’s finance committee meeting Tuesday, Saskatoon city council rejected a recommendation to nix a proposal from Arbutus Properties to buy the city yards and build a massive development that would include a grocery store, retail and residential development.
Council instead voted to update the north downtown master plan and detail a strategy to phase out the city yards and explore alternate locations.
The problem council faced on Tuesday was that a sale of land couldn’t be voted on if the land isn’t for sale, since Arbutus was the one to bring the proposal forward in March. With no alternate place for the city yards compounding the issue, a few more steps are necessary before a sale can be explored.
“We’ve spent all this money and time to build a north downtown master plan, but we’re really not in a position to really even know how to get there, or how long it’s going to be,” Coun. Randy Donauer said at the beginning of the 50-minute discussion.
“We haven’t really taken the next step.”
Mayor Charlie Clarke was equally critical of administration’s recommendation to turn down the proposal.
“It feels like we’re actually now starting this process even though committee (on finance) thought that we had started it five months ago,” he said.
Part of that delay was because council did not endorse the north downtown master plan at the beginning, leading many to wonder why the city administration was recommending shutting down the proposal.
“Administration would like nothing more than to develop this site and are open to potential development proposals,” said finance manager Jerry Tarasoff when he provided the report from city administration.,
Donauer laid out the situation before council voted on any motions.
“A grocery store downtown or in the north downtown always seems to be a chicken and egg situation,” he said. “It’s like we can’t get density in the downtown until we have a grocery store, but nobody wants to put a grocery store in until we have density.”
Council isn’t expected to get an update on the proposal until early next year.