City open for input on downtown revitalization

Prince Albert downtown. -- Daily Herald file photo.

The ball is rolling on the preliminary stage of the city’s streetscape design project in downtown Prince Albert.

On Tuesday, city administrators officially announced a survey intended to guide planners and elected officials in their quest to refurbish Prince Albert’s downtown area.

City planners say there are a lot of ideas floating around about what people want to see in the downtown, but without firm feedback, those ideas are hard to catalogue.

“There’s always anecdotal information that comes out there, but we are putting ourselves in a position right now to concretely ask people what their concerns are (and) what people want to see in their downtown,” planning manager Lars Ketilson explained. “Instead of going on hearsay, let’s actually ask the people what they want.”

Ketilson said some residents have a stigma about downtown Prince Albert looks like, however he also said many have good memories of what it used to be. They’re hoping to channel those recollections and forge something new.

“What we hear a lot is memories of what downtown was in the past. Let’s bring that back,” he said. “Let’s find those connection points. What did you like about it in the past that we can instill into the downtown again?”

“There’s a lot of tradition. There’s a lot of history,” added Prince Albert’s Planning and Development, Craig Guidinger. “We’re at the point in time where we can have some very unique discussions about what we want our downtown to look like.”

At this point, Guidinger said they aren’t concerned about the cost or length of time it will take to make the changes. Right now they simply want some feedback and direction.

However, time is not entirely on their side.

The downtown has a major tenant moving in when the University of Saskatchewan takes over the old Forrestry Centre on Central Avenue on 2020. The city also has major infrastructure work to do, with underground pipes that are more than 110 years old and paving that hasn’t been redone in 30 years.

Guidinger and Mayor Greg Dionne said they’re looking to have a plan in place as soon as possible so they can apply for federal infrastructure funding as soon as it’s available.

In the meantime, business owners in the area will be left to contemplate what might be. Prince Albert Downtown Business Improvement District executive director Carolyn Carleton said they’re excited about the possibilities. She’s optimistic the redesigned downtown will be worth the wait, so long as the lines of communication to City Hall are kept open.

“We’re just in the starting phase of this, but five years from now, I can’t wait to see what comes through (from) the public’s input, and the downtown (business community’s) input to make something incredible,” Carleton said. “Instead of everyone travelling through Prince Albert, we’ll make parts of the city more of a destination.”

The downtown survey is available online at Paper copies are also available at City Hall. The short survey will help city officials select from three proposed design options.