The Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce released a study on Tuesday claiming the proposed entertainment district could deliver over a $1.37-billion boost to the city’s economy.
The study, prepared by Praxis Consulting, said the district will generate $1.1 billion in economic activity, add $509 million to Saskatoon’s GDP and create 1,580 jobs.
It also said the project could boost the population of downtown by 10,000 new and existing Saskatoon residents within 10 years, generating $332 million in consumer spending per year and $213 million in gross economic activity.
“It’s more than we would have expected, in spite of the fact that the study is very conservative in its assumptions,” said Jason Aebig, CEO of the Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce. “It is clear that the co-location of these facilities in a residential and downtown entertainment district will deliver a huge amount of economic impact to our city in the form of jobs, in the form of an expanded tax base, private investment and, importantly, countering the cost of urban sprawl.”
Aebig said that when cities continue to grow and expand outwards, everything becomes more expensive as services are forced to stretch to new neighbourhoods.
“This piece of infrastructure, this entertainment district and these facilities, really have the potential to act like a magnet to attract people, investment and capital to downtown.”
Brent Penner, executive director of Downtown Saskatoon, said none of the economic activity that will accompany the district has been seen at SaskTel Centre.
“I would challenge anyone to tell me what really has co-located near SaskTel Centre because of it being SaskTel Centre.”
Aebig said growing from the middle will save Saskatoon a lot of money but said the project will still be an enormous investment.
“It does require some bold courage, it requires creative thinking, it requires a bold investment.”
By the chamber’s calculations, the district will pay itself off in 10 years in the form of revenue from hotels, restaurants and taxes.
“There isn’t one single funding stream that is going to get this done. It’s going to be a combination of commercial, residential property taxes that are collected in and around the district.”
Revenue will also come from district events, conferences, visitors to the city and additional development around the district.
One of the city’s most critical goals is to reduce the impact on property taxes.
“If we do not pursue new facilities in a district like the one we are talking about, the cost of renovating our current facilities and maintaining those buildings that are delivering less and less every day will fall to the taxpayer,” Aebig said.
Bob Patrick, chair of the regional and urban planning program at the University of Saskatchewan, said the district isn’t the type of infrastructure that should be placed in downtown Saskatoon.
“The best way to hold onto people in the core area is to have people actually living there,” Patrick said.
He claimed downtown Saskatoon is ready for 10,000 residents right now.
“There is no reason the city does not have a greater density of people living in the core area. We need to stop thinking about growing so much on the edge, on the fringe, but growth in the core area. This is what the entertainment district really needs, for more people to be travelling a great distance in private cars to get downtown to an event just really makes no sense.”
Patrick said if more people were to live downtown, the crime rates would drop and more commercial businesses like grocery stores could move in to sustain the area.
“The city really needs to grow up and focus more on its core.”
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