BC researcher examines densification target failures in Regina

“We clearly see that the goals that were adopted in Design Regina OCP more than 10 years ago are not being successfully implemented. As a researcher, I seek to … help solve these kinds of problems. »

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Hoping to be part of the solution, Rylan Graham investigates how Regina is failing to implement the intensification goals set out in the city’s Official Community Plan (OCP).

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An assistant professor in the School of Planning and Sustainability at the University of Northern British Columbia, Graham said he’s always been interested in how cities grow and evolve to become more sustainable.

Mid-sized cities, like his hometown of Regina, seem to have a harder time making the switch, he said in an interview Friday.

“I’ve followed growth (and) development in Regina for many years and followed the things the city is trying to do in terms of densification,” Graham said.

“We clearly see that the goals that were adopted in Design Regina OCP more than 10 years ago are not being successfully implemented. As a researcher, I seek to… help solve these types of problems.

Introduced in 2013, Design Regina is a plan to manage the city’s growth to a population of 300,000, targeting 30% of that growth in established neighborhoods, including 10,000 in the downtown area, including 5,000 in the city center in particular.

By September, only 74 new residents had made downtown Regina their home, which then-Mayor Sandra Masters said would take 957 years to reach that goal at the current rate of densification.

“The talk about intensification goes beyond downtown, but a lot of the conversation has naturally turned downtown,” Graham said of the more than 30 interviews he’s conducted so far. here.

Graham interviewed people who work in planning and development, as well as others in adjacent fields, as part of the data collection phase of his research project. The next phase will be an in-depth analysis of those interviews, but he said there are already big takeaways, like many questions about what has actually been done downtown to try to achieve those goals.

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“It’s one thing to say it and state it and it’s reasonable, that’s how the planning starts,” Graham said. “It is reasonable to adopt them,” he continued. “But more needs to be done for the implementation to succeed. »

And that’s not something the city denies. Just this week, as council approved an amendment to the OCP that allows them to waive density targets in new neighborhoods under special circumstances, the administration acknowledged that what the city was doing was not working. . He highlighted an upcoming report on scaling up efforts and how they can be improved.

Already, a trio of leisure projects, including a new events center and aquatics centre, and a handful of other “catalyst” projects are being developed to help revitalize the downtown area, and measures such as the potential elimination of densification taxes to stimulate development are also being discussed. .

The annual report on scaling up and updating initiatives was scheduled for an executive committee meeting on July 6, but was tabled at an unspecified future meeting. The report includes recommendations on how to accelerate intensification, starting with the downtown core.

But at the same time, Graham questioned priorities after another council decision this week to approve the demolition of two homes just outside the town center limits to make way for another surface car park.

He said if residents and the development community see the city investing in the downtown through infrastructure and building amenities, they are more likely to do the same.

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“That’s the approach that needs to be taken here, that’s downtown investment,” Graham said. “It’s not about providing more parking. »

Graham expects to wrap up the analysis by the end of this summer and is eager to share his findings.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect, in terms of how important this topic is to people, but from the conversations I’ve had…, from what we’re seeing on social media in response With these changes, there seems a lot of interest in this topic,” Graham said. “Everyone wants to see Regina have a great downtown and it will take effort, focus and investment to make it happen.

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