It’s Generational!

The latest buzz-phrase bouncing around the Queen City is “generational opportunity”. Perhaps you’ve heard it referring to the Regina Revitalization Project focused on developing the CP rail yards as well as housing and commercial development in North Central (City of Regina). Now it’s also the guiding principle behind plans for the central RPL branch redevelopment (Leader Post).

On Monday, the “Cultural Centre Redevelopment Project” is going before City Council seeking support. From the report: “The Cultural Centre project presents a generational opportunity for the advancement of a first-rate downtown cultural facility that appeals to the creative class and citizens at large.”

To me the phrase “generational opportunity” already feels cliché and overused. It’s now in the same boat as “sustainability” though at least that one had a good 5-10 year run while this has only recently been used twice.  Both are broad, catchall, non-statements that pretend to say something.

At the moment, it seems that “generational opportunity” refers to the fact that the city and province are seeing an influx of people and money. People want to take advantage of this trend to get projects off the ground, making progress in the city. However the phrase is being used like a shiny sticker slapped onto anything we want to push through without more public discussion or thought about what it could actually mean. “It’s generational! We might not get this opportunity again! Just do something before the opportunity is gone!”

Perhaps this feels particularly empty because there are real opportunities that are being sidestepped or missed outright which are not afforded the glowing sentiment. Despite our positive economic state, we’ve seen foot dragging around creating a comprehensive citywide recycling program; we hear superficial statements in support of reducing GHG emissions while we continually green-light sprawling car-centric, inefficient developments; renovating and making use of our built heritage continues to be a non-issue; and there is a lack of real action on affordable housing.

I think if we are going to keep using phrases like “generational opportunity”, we need to really make them mean something. It has to be a larger statement and vision about the type of city we want to live in. Real generational opportunities are not simply development and business interests aligning. They are also moments where we can step forward and be leaders on important social, environmental, and cultural issues and policies.

7 thoughts on “It’s Generational!”

  1. Everything’s a generational opportunity when you haven’t done anything for a generation, except for cut spending and watch a previous generation’s cultural and infrastructural investments start to crumble…

  2. “Creative class” hasn’t even hit Regina yet. Give it another 5 years, then Regina’s next pro-development-approved mayor will be saying “it’s all about the creative class.”

    “How do we sprawl and enhance our truck-centric culture to better accommodate a creative class mindset?”

    To be fair, obviously, a CP Rail infill would qualify as being pretty efficient and non-car-centric, being downtown and all and using existing space. I also understood it would include affordable housing.

    Our city is a ghastly joke, however, when it comes to preserving/using/even caring about heritage architecture and building. Have you ever seen old pics of 11th/12th Avenues, not to mention Hamilton, Smith, Scarth Streets, etc? OMFG…Regina used to RULE. We had it going on. Then the 60s and 70s happened in city planning, followed by the 80s, which finished it all off, with a furious death-knell in ’92-’93. Oh sure, we have the Crown Life building, lots of Impark lots, Alvin Hamilton/Midtown Plaza/Galleria, that office building with the geese in front of it and the shiny Hill Towers to make us look like any other uninspiring mid-sized city, but we lost so much.

  3. Talbot – I don’t disagree that developments in the core of the city are a good thing or the interest in including some affordable housing down the line. Of course they are. But at the moment they feel more like side benefits of these projects, not the driving force.

    I don’t think our city is a ghastly joke, but I do think Regina has a lot of potential that needs to be realized through careful planning and consideration. We need to make up for the ad-hoc planning and development that has dominated for a long time (this was the norm in most North American cities). This necessitates being patient, looking at projects holistically and in a long-term context.

  4. Laura,

    Our city is a ghastly joke, however, when it comes to preserving/using/even caring about heritage architecture and building…

    is what I said.

  5. Talbot – sorry about that. My mid-morning brain missed that… in that it was sentence :)

    I rescind my statement and wholly agree on your point. Our city has missed, and continues to miss a lot of opportunities to maintain heritage buildings and retain historic architecture. The decision to not include the 1923 block of Scott Collegiate in the new North Central Shared Facility is one of them.

  6. It’s another word whose meaning has been grossly warped by hot dog politicians.

    I think it was first Jennifer K of Urbanism and now Dialog that unfortunately exposed them to this word and they use it now like a baby uses a teether.

    From their context, they seem to be using the word ‘generational’ to mean an opportunity so rare and so fleeting that it’s only available for the briefest second once every generation.

    That’s why you hear Brad Wall, Pat Fiacco and now others parroting the word without ever learning the true definition.

    They want us to believe massive debt financing of stadiums and hotel-libraries is such an amazing opportunity that we’d be fools if we blink and miss it.

    But generational actually means something that endures and is passed down. Truly great generational ideas don’t vanish if you blink, nor if you take a little time for objective analysis or consideration of alternatives.

    So if we’re not illiterate, then doing something like improving Taylor Field would better suit the word ‘generational’ as it would preserve and evolve a long tradition in a sustainable way.

    There is a sad irony that the most ‘generational’ thing about these vanity mega-projects will be the long term debt and budget crises they will create.

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