By Charles Hamilton, The StarPhoenix August 20, 2013 - A vacant riverside parking lot in central Saskatoon could soon be transformed into a multi-million-dollar urban living complex housing hundreds of people and a handful of small businesses. City residents are getting their first glimpse at the plans for the latest project at River Landing. Dubbed "The Banks," it includes a mixture of urban apartments and more than 2,000 square metres of commercial space in the Riversdale neighbourhood on 19th Street West bordered by avenues B and C. "There has been a lot of talk for many years, and now here is a project that is very real," said Chris LeFevre, the Victoria-based developer who plans to build on the 1.4-acre piece of real estate he purchased for $4.13 million earlier this year.
"It's a place that has been waiting for something to happen and here's a courageous step forward." LeFevre's plans for Parcel A - which will go before city council for final approval in September - show four buildings, containing 160 apartment units, a small handful of townhouses on the upper floors and commercial space at street level. The buildings surround an internal courtyard, which is connected to the street with a wide walking path. The main floors of the four buildings could be occupied by coffee shops, vegan restaurants, clothing stores, yoga studios and a bar.
"I want this project to be part of the surrounding community and I think that's very, very important. I think the surrounding community is in the embryonic stage of regeneration ... That being said, it's very important to stress that this hasn't been designed for a privileged few," LeFevre said.
More than half of the units - which range from studio apartments, to oneand two-bedroom apartments and townhouses - will be sold for less than $200,000, LeFevre said.
"I don't want to push anybody of out the neighbourhood by way of my development, and I don't think I'm doing that," LeFevre said.
Despite its bright colours and ambitious plans, the project follows strict architectural controls regarding the size, colour and building style that have been laid out for the River Landing area. Most of the parking will be underground, but there will be parking at street level as well.
"It's certainly not plain in any stretch of the imagination," said Randy Grauer, the city's manager of community services. "It has the visual variety and visual character that the guidelines call for."
Grauer also said the city is confident that LeFevre can pull the project off because he and his company have a wealth of experience and "understand inner-city sensibilities."
LeFevre is well-known for his redevelopment projects in downtown Victoria - transforming old brick warehouse buildings into valuable condos. Construction on LeFevre's other Riversdale project at 204 Avenue D - called The Edge - has already begun.
The architect in charge of the new Banks development, Joost Bakker, won awards for the work he did on Vancouver's Granville Island. A second piece of land at River Landing will go up for sale in 2014 and is zoned for a 25-storey mixed-use tower. It's located between Avenue A, the Senator Sid Buckwold Bridge and 19th Street South to Spadina Crescent.
The remaining parcel of land at River Landing will go up for sale in 2016. The 1.7-acre Parcel BB is zoned for a low-rise six-to eightstorey waterfront housing complex.