The City of Saskatoon has released the concept design and master plan to revitalize its downtown core. Led by Stantec who is serving as the prime consultant on the project, the Downtown Event & Entertainment District (DEED) re-envisions Saskatoon’s core as a centre of commerce, tourism, services, and entertainment.

The plan features a new event centre/arena, convention centre, and a renovated theatre, along with a public realm design that will connect new public spaces to the fabric of the City. The new district is expected to drive investment and create significant economic benefits over the long term.

Stantec’s Urban Places team created the concept design and master plan for the DEED, which included a transportation plan, mobility plan, landscape design, and urban planning. As prime consultant, Stantec oversaw the larger design team, including HOK who led the arena concept; LMN who led the convention centre concept; and PFS who led the landscape design concept.

“Positioned in the northwest quadrant of Saskatoon’s downtown, the Downtown Event & Entertainment District is in the geographic and metaphorical heart of the City. Its design reflects the diversity that makes the region so vibrant and beautiful,” said Simon O’Byrne, senior vice president at Stantec. “Our inspiration was drawn from the meeting of city and country that Saskatoon exemplifies in its landscapes and urban form, as well as the deep connection of community.”

Four design pillars guided the project and drew from the power and beauty of nature in Saskatoon to create a cohesive design for the new and existing public spaces: Urban with a Prairie Heart; Where the Earth Meets the Sky; Warmly Embrace the Winter; and Of the Earth. Each pillar is expressed across the DEED with complementary colours, textures, and forms that draw on the distinct prairie landscape and embrace the identity of the surrounding Indigenous communities.

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“These renderings really help illustrate that the District is much more than just an event centre and convention centre – it is to be a community gathering place in any season,” said Dan Willems, Director of Technical Services, Transportation & Construction Division. “They show the potential of the public spaces, with places for events, amenities and open areas where visitors and people from all parts of the city can meet and share unique experiences.”

To bring these design concepts to life, Stantec utilized its virtual reality (VR) studio to create an immersive experience of the central plaza. The VR experience provided the public and decision makers with a better understanding of how vital pieces of infrastructure can form a unique public open space experience in the heart of downtown Saskatoon.

“Where plans and renderings can go a long way to illustrate the potential, this immersive experience gives an on-the-ground understanding of the impact this project will bring to downtown Saskatoon,” said Eric Boileau, Stantec’s VR studio lead. “VR was a great way for the City to tell a unique story where everyone can understand how they can be a part of it in the future.”

With a scale unlike any other project in Saskatoon’s history, the District aims to bring dynamic activity into the centre of downtown through new and improved facilities as well as high-quality public spaces for gathering and celebration. The area is currently dominated by surface parking lots and low-rise office buildings. Developing a new centre of activity in this location will help to fill a gap between the commercial and retail heart of downtown; attract more people to live, work, and play in the District, and invest in Saskatoon’s culture and community.

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The District’s transportation strategy is also designed to bring together communities and make it easier to move through downtown by all modes of transportation. Working in synergy with the existing transportation networks, the new design will make downtown more walkable, bikeable, and transit-friendly. Saskatoon is bringing premier bus-rapid-transit to the City with the DEED at the heart of this system.

Featured image: (Stantec)

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