The Framework, inspired by a visit to Saskatoon in 2009 by renowned urbanist Jan Gehl, is considered the first of its kind in Canada. Similar public space surveys have helped transform many of the world’s most livable cities such as Copenhagen, Melbourne and San Francisco.
The Public Spaces, Activity and Urban Form Strategic Framework measures a wide range of urban issues, puts them in context and provides explicit and thoughtful recommendations for improving urban quality, the mix of activities and life in the public realm of Saskatoon.
The study measured social activities such as where people live, work, shop, eat, walk, play and bike. It also examined how sidewalks, parks, cafes, trees, and even buildings affect the way people use the downtown. Intended as a guide for future downtown planning the report emphasizes the importance of making Saskatoon’s City Center an even better place for people to live and enjoy. The study was designed to be useful, not only for City Hall, but for downtown businesses, real estate advisors, new developers and the general public as it informs a new plan for an improved City Centre.
Although Saskatoon has a strong Central Business District the Framework identifies significant challenges for its future health. The City Centre had the lowest population density of comparable Canadian Cities. Only 3% of the population lives in the City Centre. Of those, very few families and only 25 children live in the city core. Surface parking covers a significant 26% of the land in the City Centre. Fortunately the report outlines that the City Centre has a green riverfront and healthy main streets where there are more people and trees than cars. The report concludes with a call-to-action proposing high-level recommendations to help the City Centre become irresistible for all; families, children, seniors as well as tourists.
Mark Sterling, the partner in charge of the project, studied with Professor Jan Gehl in 1978. He and his classmates spent several weeks observing the "daily day things of life" (as Gehl referred to them) on neighbourhood streets in Kitchener/Waterloo, developing notational and representational strategies for understanding public activity. Mark hopes “the study will be used as an example of a people-first strategy that might help change the focus of how we plan cities in Canada.”
Chris Hardwicke, the project manager, calls the study “an atlas of public life” and “is honored to have worked with the City and University to produce this unique evidenced-based study”.
“It’s really seeing the downtown in new ways” said City Councilor Charlie Clark, “It strikes me that this is going to create the framework to drive development and get more people living in the downtown”.
The Canadian Institute of Planners Annual Awards for Planning Excellence honour planning projects judged on their excellence, innovation, impact on the profession, implementation potential, and overall presentation. The award-winning projects are recognized for their excellence in planning work, their contribution to the profession, and for showing particular strength in the category under which they won their award. The awards jury had this to say about the project: “The Framework hits high, is beautifully illustrated and is one of the most comprehensive downtown analyses the Jury has seen.”
In addition to the Award for Planning Excellence, the study was also given Saskatchewan’
A direct link to the Final Report on the website of the City of Saskatoon: http://bit.ly/
See the announcement made by the Canadian Institute of Planners: http://bit.ly/
Sweeny Sterling Finlayson &Co Architects Inc. (&Co) is an architecture and design firm based in Toronto, Canada. Dermot Sweeny, Mark Sterling, and Mary Jane Finlayson have formed a partnership that leverages over 25 years of consulting experience to lead a team of ambitious people who deliver bold ideas by integrating strategic and creative disciplines. Beyond architecture, &Co provides expertise in urban design, land use planning, real estate and development consulting, sustainable design, universal design, retail and brand management, information design, visualization, and project management. Go to their website at http://www.andco.com/