Scarth Street revitalization could lay groundwork for future downtown revival

The revitalization work on the F.W. Hill Mall, also known as the Scarth Street Mall, is underway.

So far, the City of Regina has finished public engagement on preliminary design and vehicle access, with a report set to be brought to council with a recommendation sometime in the fall.

There are currently two main options for the revitalization. One would see the street maintain its status quo and remain open for the public, with the other option seeing some level of vehicle access allowed on the block.

Rylan Graham, an assistant professor in the School of Planning and Sustainability at the University of Northern British Columbia, said that Scarth Street needs revitalization but believes the best option for the street and the city is to keep it open to pedestrians.

“Looking at the sidewalks, paving stones, lightning, the seating, all those physical blocks that make Scarth Street what they are, I think that they are in need of reveal.”

“I think that true revitalization, while is about restoring the physical condition of the street, it’s also about creating a place that is orientated or targets or designed for people, and that’s very difficult to do or make its challenging when you’re turning over a portion of that space over to cars,” he continued.

He said that if the city went with the vehicle option, it would be against the trend of what other cities are doing.

“We’re seeing a lot of cities in Canada exploring how do we actually close these streets off to traffic and restore or reopen them to pedestrians. So a lot of cities are going the other way, “Graham said. “How do we actually make our downtown more pedestrian-friendly or more pedestrian-oriented, rather than opening up more space to cars.”

He feels it would also go against revitalizing the downtown.

“I think that if the broader goal in Regina is downtown revitalization, of which there are several moving parts going on, is about creating a downtown that is for people. I think if that’s our goal here, then we need to invest in spaces and best design practices that are really prioritizing the human experience rather than turning space more space over to cars.”

Graham believes the city could turn Scarth Street into a central part of the downtown.

“If we create sort of an environment or a public space that is comfortable, interesting, where people can come, and they can people watch or socialize, or they can attend an event. If we sort of focus on those things, I think that we can make Scarth Street an even better place than it already is.”

Graham said opening up to traffic could make delivery or drop-off for businesses around the street easier. He said ensuring businesses can access delivery drivers or patrons who maybe need to be dropped off is an important consideration.

“I think there are probably other avenues that we could explore that could both maintain Scarth Street as pedestrian orientation while also ensuring that business owners who are on Scarth Street are having their needs met in terms of a delivery and drop-up perspectives as well.”

Graham said that depending on what the city council decides, it will lay the groundwork for future revitalization projects downtown.

“If we ultimately focus on Scarth Street being or containing to be a place for people, I see that gravitating outwards from that street and same mentality or approach being taken elsewhere in the downtown,” he said.” If we turn Scarth Street over to cars and redesign it for vehicle access, then I sort of see that being the same approach that will be taken elsewhere in the downtown.”

He added that overall it’s just one street, but it’s a very important street in the Queen City, historically and downtown.

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