Watch the video above: a local expert says the city should look up, not out, when planning future growth
SASKATOON – Saskatoon’s population is growing and so is the city, but is too much space being used? One expert in urban planning thinks so and says the city needs to stop expanding out.
“This has been happening for the last 30-40 years but there has to be a point where we have to say we have to stop that.” said Avi Akkerman, professor of urban planning at the University of Saskatchewan.
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City estimates Saskatoon’s population over quarter million
As of March 1, it’s estimated Saskatoon’s population has reached more than 250,000. In response, Akkerman thinks growth needs to happen vertically rather than horizontally.
“We are confusing growth with geo-graphical expansion,” Akkerman said.
His concern is the long-term impact boundary expansion will have on the heart of the city.
“We will implode in the end, there will be no inner city and there will be no downtown everything will be in the suburbs.”
The City says it’s working on strategies for Saskatoon to grow vertically but density can’t just be placed everywhere and anywhere.
“Density has to be strategically thought out and it has to be placed in places that have the greatest benefit and make the most sense,” said Allan Wallace, director of planning and development for the City of Saskatoon
“Tying it to transit makes the most sense. If you want a bus system to work better, you need people to use that system and how they do that is they have to live right near the system or live conveniently close to the system,” Wallace explained.
At this point, Akkerman says the city needs to set physical growth boundaries for Saskatoon – something city officials say comes with consequences.
“One of them is cost of housing because land becomes scarce in Saskatoon, it becomes more valuable when it becomes more valuable the cost of housing goes up,” Wallace said.
“The second thing is what you’ll find is if people do want to live here and companies do want to move to Saskatoon but can’t find the room to do that, they will just simply locate outside the city.”
To manage Saskatoon’s growth, the city is examining best practices across North America, has hired a consultant to help shape policies for future growth and is trying to improve the city’s balance of growth.
“83 per cent of new growth is occurring in greenfield development, so around outside of the city, 17 per cent in the city centre or established neighbourhoods, we would like to achieve a better balance recognizing that greenfield or new development would occur but also try to get to 30 per cent of the new growth in the city centre,” Wallace said.
A percentage that may not seem like a lot but is a difference of about 70,000 people in population.