Bigger! Better! Uglier?
A proposed Safeway expansion peeves artsy neighbours
by Stephen LaRose
A Facebook page belonging to a Regina filmmaker is, on first glance, an odd place to debate a city's planning policy. Yet the more than 50 posts - as of press time - on Brett Cameron Bell's social media site provide a glimpse of why some in Regina's Cathedral neighbourhood aren't welcoming a proposed 40,000 square foot expansion of the main neighbourhood grocery.
It's also why an open house Safeway held Aug. 9 at the Cathedral Neighbourhood Centre (in progress as this edition goes to press) might not have been the love-fest the grocery store conglomerate and the City were expecting.
So what's the hullaballoo?
Bell, a long-time Cathedral district resident, says it's a relief to know that one of Regina's last city centre-ish grocery stores will remain open. And he welcomes the expansion. But he's concerned that the proposed renovations and expansion will trash the character of one of the district's biggest shopping attractions.
First built in 1960, the Cathedral Safeway's classic, old-school 'marina' look will, if the grocery store conglomerate has its way, be replaced by a blandly-unattractive exterior of the type common among suburban boxstores.
Sure, the Safeway will be bigger and better stocked, which many if not most area residents will doubtless welcome. But the proposed design is just so ugly.
Bell's Facebook friends agree. "You have got to be kidding!" wrote one perturbed citizen. "They are going to get rid of the classic modernist Safeway (with the roof that somehow echoes the S in Safeway) for a generic 1990s outlet mall look?!?"
Also bothering some residents: stores in the strip mall flanking the Safeway have been told that their leases won’t be renewed. As well, Safeway has purchased four homes behind the store, with plans to shift the alley south to accomodate the expansion. The displaced homes will be offered to Habitat for Humanity.
Bell adds the proposed expansion doesn’t take into account a mural on the building’s side by renowned aboriginal artist Bob Boyer, who passed away in 2004.
"It's almost as if the expansion is being presented as a something where they want our opinions on the project only after the fact," he says.
Bell notes that for an area of Regina where residents pride themselves on being able to walk, bicycle, or take Regina Transit to shop at the grocery store, the artist's conception of the proposed expanded grocery illustrates a parking lot full of sport-utility vehicles.
If the city approves, construction begins in the spring of 2012, and the store will remain open during the renovations.
Officials from Safeway Canada were unavailable for comment as of press time.