Received a fancy package from the city in my mailbox today. My real mailbox. The snow-covered one out on my front stoop. Within a big manilla envelope I found city staff’s recommendation to Regina Planning Commission regarding the expansion of the 13th Ave Safeway.
And, no big surprise, staff are recommending RPC approve Safeway’s proposal.
If you’re a regular Dog Blog reader, there won’t be a whole heck of a lot that’s new to you in this report. We’ve covered most of the details already. (A few times, in fact.) There have been some slight modifications to the plan though since the last public consultation in November.
The most noticeable adjustment will be to plans for the Retallack-facing (east) side of the building. (Tooting of own horn: the last time we covered this on the blog, I predicted this is where we’d see some last-minute changes. I knew this because I’m psychic!) Slated for that wall are ornamental pilasters, brick accents and a fake window like they already have planned for the west side of the building. The big ass Safeway logo that was going up on the southeast end is being changed to a logo and moved around to the south wall.
Alternately, the report says Safeway is willing to make that east wall the site of a recreation of the Bob Boyer mural (those horses currently on the west wall) if that’s cool with Boyer’s widow. (Word on the street is that it probably isn’t. But that’s a bigger story than I can squeeze in here right now.)
Now, if you’re still hating on the Safeway plan, or if you love it and feel the need to let the Powers That Be know, you still have a chance to have your say. There will be a special meeting of Planning Commission to consider this proposal on Jan 24 at 4pm in City Hall. Assuming they don’t send this back to staff to be rejiggered, the proposal will then go to council on Feb 21.*
After the jump, some of staff’s responses to community concerns. PLUS! My reasons for now being an enthusiastic supporter of this proposal!
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In Appendix D of the report, staff list a bunch of community concerns about the project followed by their responses to those concerns. I thought it’d be informative to have a look at some of them. Since I’m going to be typing all this in myself, I’m not going to have time to do a really thorough job of this. But, you will be able to download a copy of this report for yourself Friday afternoon somewhere on this page.**
ISSUE: The proposed design is not sensitive to the area. It looks too suburban.
RESPONSE: Apparently, the staff has been trying to get Safeway to consider changes to their design that would satisfy the community but, “The applicant has been reluctant to deviate from the new ‘Lifestyle’ corporate image of Canada Safeway.”
That said, the report notes that many adjustments have been made to the design to reflect architectural features of noteworthy buildings nearby. Some call that honouring the character of the neighbourhood. Others that it’s a perfunctory gesture toward the local heritage architecture. Me? I get a boner whenever I read words like cornice, dentil and louver so my judgement is impaired.
ISSUE: The scale of the development is too large for the area.
RESPONSE: Basically, staff — like pretty much everyone else who gives a fig about this — wants to see there always be a grocery store at this location. And apparently, Safeway has indicated that “operation of this store with its current floor area would jeopardize its economic viability in the long term.”
Take that at face value if you wish. Or not.
The finished building will have a floor area of 38,110 sq ft and that is smaller than the typical Safeway Lifestyle store which usually starts at 50,000 sq ft. So, it could always be bigger, I suppose.
And while the expansion will necessitate the demolition of four houses (during a housing crisis) staff says that’s offset by other residential intensification in the area. Also, the increased footprint will allow for other on-site improvements like landscaping, corner plazas, re-orientation of the parking area and safer driveway access points.
RESPONSE: Yeah, it’s going to be a fucking problem. Blank walls get tagged in Cathedral constantly. But staff note Safeway has promised to paint over any graffiti within 24 hours. Which is faster by several years than Sask Power typically deals with the tagging of their electrical boxes. So there’s that.
ISSUE: The Bob Boyer mural.
RESPONSE: Safeway plans to tear it down claiming that an independent engineering firm estimates it’ll cost a minimum of $300,000 to maintain it and that that will come with no guarantees that the artwork won’t get damaged or destroyed during construction anyway.
Safeway is willing to accommodate a reproduction of the mural on the east wall but Mrs Boyer (Bob Boyer’s widow) has expressed that she would prefer it be preserved where it is but failing that “she would not care to have it replicated” and that “she would not feel right” in giving her consent to a reproduction.
ISSUE: Increased traffic.
RESPONSE: Staff says their Infrastructure Development Branch reviewed the proposal and they have “determined that the expanded store will not result in significant traffic increases in or around the site.”
ISSUE: The availability of on-street parking will worsen.
RESPONSE: Oh, boo fucking hoo.
Wait, that was my response. Not staff’s.
ISSUE: Loss of existing tenants.
RESPONSE: Staff say they have no jurisdiction over who a landowner rents to or if they rent space on their property at all.
ISSUE: Effect a larger store will have on small businessses.
RESPONSE: From the report: “According to the applicant, in its discussions with other Cathedral Area business owners who might be impacted by the enhanced services provided in the larger store, no conerns were expressed about a potntial negative impact on their continued business operations. The Administration has not received any expressions of concern from business owners who might be affected.”
There were a few more issues listed in the report but I’m running out of typing juice so you’ll just have to wait until the report shows up on the city website to read them for yourself.
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Now, as I teased above, I have, in reviewing this report, become a big supporter of the project and I bet you’re wondering why.
Well, have a gander at this pic….
You might find this a tad hard to read considering it’s a photo of a photocopy of a printout of a scan of a photocopy of the original plans printed by P3 Architecture, but I’m pretty sure that the third item from the right — the one pointing toward the arched features on the second storey — reads: “LOUVERED RECESSES ‘GARGOYLE'”.
You know, when I was interviewing the Safeway rep at that last round of community consultations I mentioned that all he’d need to do to get me 100 per cent on board with the expansion was to add some gargoyles to his design.
And, boy howdy, the guy went ahead and did it! Goddamn gargoyles at my command!
So, true to my word, I am now a full fledged member of the New Safeway Pep Squad. Bring on the olive bar, I say!
UPDATE 11:55pm — My wife has since pointed out, “Those aren’t actual gargoyles, you idiot. It’s just some stupid made-up colour name like seafoam or mojave butter.”***
* Even if an application is denied by Planning Commission, it is still forwarded on to council for their consideration.
** Of course, I hear through the grapevine that over 200 people are on the distribution list for this Safeway plan so I’m sure most of the Dog Blog readers who’ve been commenting on this issue received this report in their mailbox this morning just like I did.
Hm…. why did I write this blog post again?
*** The fourth item from the right indicates that the walls will be done up in Bungalow Taupe. “Taupe,” of course, being another word for “beige.” And, you know, that’s great because what every prairie city really needs is more fucking beige.