Future waterfront development up for discussion at City Hall

Prince Albert’s waterfront will be the subject of discussion at a brainstorming session to be held Wednesday, Feb. 5 at City Hall. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

The future of Prince Albert’s downtown riverfront will be up for discussion when city planners and University of Saskatchewan students lead a public brain storming session on Wednesday.

The area around the Prince Albert Historical Museum will be the biggest focus, as city planners look to continue public consultation efforts that began with the Central Avenue Streetscape project.

Henry Lau, the U of S instructor leading the group of advanced urban design students, said they’re grateful for the opportunity to team up with the City of Prince Albert, especially on such an important project.

“The North Saskatchewan River is filled with history,” said Lau, who also works as a registered architect. “It was a highway for the building of this nation, where cultures met and synergy was created, especially with the newcomers to this country and the Indigenous people. It is a very important place (and) the connection to the city is very important. We see that as a huge opportunity to improve the livability of the neighbourhood and also revitalize some of the history.”

While Prince Albert’s riverfront has a lot of potential, Lau said any future development is going to take time. He pointed to Saskatoon as a great example of a city with a riverfront “growing by leaps and bounds” but also noted that discussions about those developments began more than three decades ago.

Prince Albert residents need to be patient, he said. They also need to think about environmental protection and long-term sustainability. He views Wednesday’s public brainstorming session as a great place to start.

“It’s a cliché, but the river is the lifeblood of every city,” he explained. “When a city has a river running through it, it’s bound to prosper and grow, and that is something that we need to recognize.”

Lau said a developed riverfront could increase both education and tourism opportunities, but city administrators say city council needs to decide on what they’re willing to spend before any work can begin.

Craig Guidinger, Prince Albert’s planning and development director, said they’ll try and make small changes as soon as possible, but larger suggestions will be left for council’s consideration.

“It all depends on what type of budget is allocated,” he said during an interview on Tuesday. “I don’t want to necessarily say what the timing would look like, but we hope there are some lower cost initiatives that we may be able to grow. I think they’ll be some longer term ideas as well, so (Wednesday) night should help that out.”

Guidinger added that there’s no guarantee the city will follow the recommendations that come out of tonight’s session. However, he still views it as an important and valuable starting point.

Economic and cultural aspirations aside, Wednesday’s session also signals the continuation of a major partnership between the City of Prince Albert and the University of Saskatchewan.

Guidinger said they have an open dialogue with the U of S that’s led to collaboration on a number of projects. With the university establishing another campus in downtown Prince Albert this fall, he expects that cooperation to grow even more.

“We saw this as an opportunity,” he said. “It is something they do every year. Most of the time you’ll see these projects in larger cities, but we’re excited to have them in Prince Albert.”

Lau said he’s also grateful for the partnership between the city and the university. Wednesday’s discussion will provide valuable hands-on experience for his students, he explained, while also helping engage Prince Albert youth.

Lau’s students will be visiting Prince Albert high schools throughout the day to promote urban planning and design. He hopes these discussions will lead to bigger things in the future.

“I think there will definitely be future partnerships, especially with the new campus being built and developed in Prince Albert,” he said. “We see that there is a really great future in partnering on projects and exploration.”

The Envisioning Central Avenue Waterfront Brainstorming Session begins at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 5 in the main foyer at City Hall.