Prince Albert city council took the first step towards developing the former Angus Merasty School site in the West Hill by giving city administrators permission to begin talks with Miller Contracting.
Miller was one of three companies who submitted an expression of interest (EOI) in the property. Mayor Greg Dionne said he liked their proposal, and was eager for discussion to start so residents could get a better idea of what the finished product would look like.
“I like the plan and I’m waiting for the engagement,” Dionne said during Monday’s executive committee meeting. “I’m also looking forward to when we have something to (show) at a public meeting with the neighbourhood that will actually show the details where everything is going to go.”
Miller submitted a few preliminary drawings as part of their proposal. Craig Guidinger, the City’s planning and development director, said site development is still in the early process. He told councillors the final plan would likely change to include more green space.
Guidinger said the company wants approval sometime this year so they can use the winter to finalize their design, but the timeline is flexible.
“We just want to discuss the proposal in a little bit more detail,” Guidinger told council. “The EOI is very high level. We asked only what their vision was for the property. We didn’t get into the details of what the site will look like, or what types of buildings will be developed. We didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves.”
Ward 8 Coun. Ted Zurakowski, who represents the area where the property sits, said he liked the EOI approach, but wasn’t thrilled with Miller’s first design.
Zurakowski said he has no problem developing the area, but didn’t approve of how little green space was included in the first draft. He also didn’t like that back alleys were included in the plan. He said both of those things will have to change if he’s going to support the design.
“I understand this is just a preliminary drawing, and that it will change, but I think we should get in front of the conversation,” he said. “It would be prudent to say, ‘sure, let’s go back and have a conversation with Miller Contracting and see what they can come up with to increase the amount of greenspace in this piece of land that was existing as only greenspace for a long period of time.’ To me, it would be prudent to get in front of that conversation now, rather than get everyone riled up and excited.”
City administrators asked for EOI submissions on April 22. Companies were given four weeks to submit a proposal.
The City received three bids, only two of which met the minimum submission criteria. The other two were from Miller Contracting, and an unnamed second company that proposed a more high-density development
Guidinger emphasized that the City is still in the very early stages of development, so council may not even sell the land once they receive an offer.