By Phil Tank, The StarPhoenix August 14, 2013 - The City of Saskatoon’s plan to sell the police station could provide an opportunity for major downtown development, says a commercial realtor. But a heritage advocate says the city should carefully consider all of its options before selling the building, which was built as a police station and has been occupied by the Saskatoon Police Service since 1977.
The city is proposing to sell the Fourth Avenue building and its adjacent parking lot for $15.6 million and then purchase the former Canada Post building located a block north on Fourth Avenue as well as two properties on the same block on Fifth Avenue for $13.4 million to house city staff.
The police station will be vacated in 2014 when police move into their new headquarters in the north downtown.
“It’s just a great piece of land in downtown Saskatoon.” said Tom McClocklin, Saskatoon president of Colliers International, a commercial real estate brokerage firm.
“The city has always wanted to see some significant development go on in the downtown core.”
McClocklin declined to speculate Wednesday whether the asking price was reasonable for the police station.
But McClocklin pointed out that since the building was built for use specifically as a police station, it may be too expensive for a potential buyer to try to renovate the building to adapt it for other uses.
“At some point, it’s cheaper to tear it down and rebuild it,” said McClocklin. “You have lots of opportunity for more height on that site.”
However, heritage advocate and community planner Lenore Swystun said Wednesday the city should do its “due diligence” in exploring whether the station should be “repurposed” for other uses before selling it.
“I think they really need to do a good analysis of the inventory of the community amenities,” said Swystun, a former city councillor. “That’s especially important because of the growth and development of the downtown core. It’s not just heritage.”
But Swystun also warned not to assume the police station has no value from a heritage standpoint just because it’s only 36 years old.
“Those buildings we might not think have value today might have value in 70 years,” said Swystun. “We can’t discount those things from the ’70s because they might tell the heritage story into the future.”
The purchase of the three properties that include the former Canada Post building, which was built in 1959 and purchased by Vecima Networks in 2006, is intended to provide the city with additional office space and reduce the need to lease space. The building was once considered as an option for housing the police department.
The two properties on Fifth Avenue could be used for parking.
The estimated cost of leasing property for city office space during the next 20 years is $33 million.