“This river was used to carry goods and pelts, cultures and people hundreds of years ago and it will still continue to be a connection to the north.” – Henry Lau, Instructor
A team of University of Saskatchewan students have reimagined Prince Albert’s riverbank area. From an amphitheatre, a boardwalk extending on to the river and a dedicated space for food trucks and festivals, their proposals gave the city a unique look into what the area could be.
Two groups of fourth year students in the Regional and Urban Planning Program created different designs for the north part of Central Avenue, focusing on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River and the Historical Museum.
The final proposal videos were completed earlier this month. They planned on presenting their ideas at City Hall at the end of the term, but couldn’t because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Zoey Drimmie was one of 11 students in the class.
“We wanted a design that could really kind of stand the test of time with the changing priorities. We wanted to plan for 30 years in the future, really thinking about that longevity was important to us,” she said.
“Bringing the liveliness to the area and creating a space that you’d want to stay a while was also a big priority.”
Drimmie’s group of six students proposed a lookout point designed for food trucks and festivals. A tiered seating space, she said, would create an ideal gathering spot.
They also incorporated an amphitheatre to open up the space and double as a skating rink in the winter months.
Limiting Central Avenue to one lane would allow restaurants to provide outdoor seating on a large sidewalk space, as well as encourage more pedestrian traffic. Additionally, says the proposal, a roundabout opposed to a three-way intersection on River Street would provide better traffic flow.
The class came to Prince Albert to inspect the site in February. They also hosted an open house at City Hall for input from city representatives, students and the general public.
It was the first time Drimmie had ever been to the city.
“There’s only so much Google Maps can really provide, so understanding the slopes of the area and then also just the feeling of being in that space and being downtown as well. It was more of a feeling than dimension,” she said.
The work started before then, though, with researching Prince Albert’s history and culture, bylaws and the significance of the North Saskatchewan River.
The other group proposed a pathway with multiple gathering points that leads to a boardwalk extending over the river’s edge. The project also included an outdoor oven space, which group members said was because food is an important aspect of the city’s many cultures.
The students also incorporated trees throughout the design to connect it with the surrounding forest.
“I’m pretty excited about the future of the waterfront in Prince Albert and looking forward to seeing what the city implements going forward,” said Drimmie.
Craig Guidinger, the City of Prince Albert’s planning and development services director, said the designs didn’t incorporate aspects such as budget or engineering.
“We don’t currently have any immediate plans to develop our riverbank. That wasn’t the point of the project. The point of the project really was just to encourage the students to think about urban planning and landscape development,” he said.
“They did just that, they thought out of the box.”
Guidinger said the designs incorporate all of the aspects he’d envision in an ideal riverfront, such as diversity, opportunities for public art and culture and a safe gathering space.
Carolyn Carleton is the executive director of the Prince Albert Downtown Business Improvement District. Like Guidinger, she’s been involved in the project from the beginning.
“I love how they took the input from so many different sources in Prince Albert to create something that reaches so many different levels, such as the first settlers, history and keeping true to the gathering place concept,” she said.
Registered architect Henry Lau taught the course. He said the significance of the North Saskatchewan River was part of the reason he chose the waterfront for the project.
“This river was used to carry goods and pelts, cultures and people hundreds of years ago and it will still continue to be a connection to the north,” he said.
“It is a beautiful feature also,” explained Lau, “so Prince Albert is fortunate enough to have this beautiful river.”
The course has five components, he said, which include considering the environment—such as crime prevention—organizing a company, brainstorming, collaborative design with stakeholders and a final exhibition and video proposal.