Mayor concerned about megaproject delays: Developer won't give firm date

By Charles Hamilton, The Star Phoenix July 25, 2013 - Mayor Don Atchison says he wishes Saskatoon's most anticipated - and delayed - riverside megaproject had a shovel in the ground now, a year after council approved the design.

"I was hoping they would be well on their way by now," Atchison said, referring to Victory Majors Investments Corp. and Cavalier Enterprises' plans to build the landmark $250-million hotel- condooffice project at River Landing.

"I think when people take on projects, sometimes they don't realize how large they are, and when they get going on them they realize there is a significant amount of work that needs to be done."

The mayor's comments come on the heels of an interview with the Saskatoon Express newspaper in which he expressed some frustration at the lack of progress on the riverfront Parcel Y, which is widely considered one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the city.

"I'm like all other citizens in the city: the sooner it gets built, the happier I will be," Atchison said.

Development of the office complex is expected to be the first piece before the 27-storey residential tower or the full-service hotel get underway. Atchison said he would like the project to be taller in order to house more people. He even made the suggestion that a fourth building be erected on the site.

John Nasser, president of Victory Majors, said he understands the mayor's concerns, but wants to assure the public he's not giving up on the current plans for the project.

"Quite frankly, we are not shying away from the development. We are still planning on going ahead," Nasser said. "I can understand his frustrations and the public's frustrations, but we want to make sure it's done right and done properly."

Nasser dismissed the mayor's suggestion that the tower be 34 floors instead of 27, and the suggestion that another building be added.

While city council approved the project last July, it did not put any deadlines on when construction would have to begin. Nasser said the project is still in the planning phase and it's too early to say when shovels will hit the ground.

"I would love to commit to a firm date, but until I know one, I'm not going to," Nasser said.

Victory Majors' initial designs were different from the ones originally proposed by Lake Placid - which had development plans approved in 2008, but couldn't complete the purchase of the land. Victory Majors bought the property in 2010 and its plans were approved by council in 2011.

The residential tower is taller, and a larger public plaza is open to the riverbank and connected to Second Avenue. A conceptual drawing of the development shows the public plaza at street level rather than raised three metres. It also connects directly with River Landing. Nasser said the conceptual drawings of the project are still fluid.

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