A design project by four University of Saskatchewan students has set out a vision to create a pedestrian friendly plaza on College Drive. Located between Dairy Queen and Starbucks across from the U of S campus, the space is currently occupied by a parking lot.
The group’s plan for the area — titled the College Drive Expressway — entails turning the parking lot into a pedestrian plaza by reorienting store fronts into the space, creating a patio with benches and tables, adding public artwork and building a greenhouse. The redeveloped area would be linked to the U of S campus by a large crosswalk on College Drive.
“For our site, we wanted to focus on pedestrians,” said group member Shannon McAvoy, a third-year urban and regional planning major. “Lots of the intersections that cross College Drive are not pedestrian friendly; they are car friendly.”
The group sees updating the area as important because it serves as a gateway between the Nutana community and the U of S campus.
“When we got out there, we realized that there were so many people coming that space and so many university students,” said Jelena Misevski, a fourth year regional and urban planning major and another of the project’s designers.
When the group started the project, they took into account the individual interests of each group member and tried to include them in the finished design. In doing so, the project brought together the unique backgrounds of each member, which range from engineering to visual art.
Both area businesses and the U of S community have had positive reactions to the group’s idea. According to McAvoy, Starbucks was open to the idea of having a patio for its customers. The College of Agriculture helped to develop the group’s greenhouse concept. The U of S Visual Arts Students’ Union also expressed support for the idea.
Despite the project’s favourable reception, no further progress has been made. Misevski says that the group has not met since the assignment’s end and that they have not received any “real offers” to further its development.
Opposition to the project has centered around the removal of parking spaces from the area.
“We’re taking away parking space, but its not efficient parking space. More efficient parking space would be raised and have multiple levels,” McAvoy said.
One of the biggest obstacles to making the project a reality is getting the owner of the parking lot, as well as all the area businesses on board. However, McAvoy said she feels that with the community’s support, they can work through the issue.
“It’d really be up to the community to make this change happen. No one person or group can make changes like this,” McAvoy said. “That’s kind of what we’re hoping to spark; it takes community members to make positive change and to create spaces that are fun for everyone.”
The project was a class assignment for an upper level geography course on urban planning. Groups were assigned specific spaces in Saskatoon and tasked with reimagining them in a more functional way and to prepare a video presentation on their project, all of which can be found on YouTube.
Other spaces included the open grass area between the U of S’ President’s Residence and the University Bridge and the empty space directly south of the rail bridge on the west side of Spadina Crescent.
“We want to make a change to how Saskatoon is planning its spaces,” McAvoy said. “There are so many spaces that have so much potential that’s just not fully utilized.”