transforming downtown regina

The City of Regina is at a crossroads. There are aging facilities that must either be replaced or face extensive renovation, additional recreational/sport facilities are needed, and vital city centre corridors must be upgraded. The Catalyst Committee, established by Regina’s city council in 2022, has reviewed a number of proposed projects that are opportunities to transform Regina, leading the city into a prosperous future. 
The Regina Downtown Business Improvement District (RDBID) is advocating for two of the proposed Catalyst projects: the locating of a multi-purpose event centre downtown, and investing in modernizing the central library branch downtown.



Moncton’s Avenir Centre has been operating for more than four years in that city’s downtown. Hear what that facility has done for their city.

Learning from other Canadian cities

In the last 15 years, many Canadian cities decided to build event centres downtown and invest in their downtown libraries and they have benefited from that decision. 

In that time, 25 event centres have been built in Canadian cities. Those most relevant and comparable to Regina include Abbotsford, London, Ont., Victoria and Moncton. All built downtown. 

During that same period, there have been a number of cities that chose to invest in their central library branches downtown include Halifax, Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton and Kitchener, Ont. 

Calgary opened its new downtown library branch in 2018. That city’s mayor at the time said the branch draws more people than all sports and arts and cultural events in Calgary combined.

Event centres built in Canadian cities in the last 15 years

Sarah Meilleur, CEO of the Calgary Public Library, explained how it benefits all of downtown during a panel discussion at a Canadian Urban Institute event. “Families make it a part of their weekends because there’s great coffee restaurants, playgrounds and yet the real draw really is the library.”

Strengthening Regina’s business community

More people spending more time and money downtown–where about
one-quarter of Regina’s businesses and 40 per cent of the city’s largest businesses are located
strengthens the city’s business community. 

For example, London, Ont. saw the amount spent on restaurants, accommodations and entertainment grow after building the Budweiser Gardens event centre downtown—

150 new businesses

added to the downtown core after announcing and building Budweiser Gardens in 2002


$12.7 million increase

increase in spending on restaurants, accommodations and entertainment

Gathering to meet community needs

Then there are the needs of the community, which are met by many diverse groups in the city. Some of that work is done through a connection to the downtown library branches. Sarah Meilleur, CEO of the Calgary Public Library, explained the role of libraries in this work.

Libraries are part and have to be part of an interconnected web of supports, and we work in collaboration with a lot of other community agencies and services,” said Meilleur during a panel discussion at a Canadian Urban Institute event.

She described how “one of the things that libraries are great at is lifting up other organizations and providing space to amplify the work of others and convening community partners in the care of our community.”



Attracting more residents downtown

An increase in the number of residents downtown will create a greater sense of security in the area. Spending time downtown creates more familiarity with the area, which in turn makes people feel safer. Additionally, a larger downtown population can allow businesses to remain open for longer periods, contributing further to the overall sense of security.

The development of event centers and investment in library branches downtown has not only attracted visitors but also new residents. Several Canadian cities have seen an increase in residential sales and population growth in their downtown areas due to these initiatives.



In London, Ont., there was a 75 per cent increase in the population living downtown between 1996 and 2016 after it opened Budweiser Gardens in 2002. 

Calgary’s downtown library branch is considered a key anchor tenant that is expected to contribute to growing the downtown population by about 7,500 residents by the mid-2020s.

Edmonton saw a 60 per cent increase in condo sales in 2016-17 after Rogers Place opened downtown.

Winnipeg’s MTS Centre attracted housing developments, which resulted in increased population density and investment into different types of housing downtown.

Encouraging more investment downtown

All this activity inspires confidence in our city which leads to investment and development increasing. That is what happened in other cities. They saw more new construction, existing buildings repurposed and the mix of buildings in their downtowns broadened.



In Moncton, after they announced Avenir Centre, building permits for downtown soared. There are $108 million worth of new downtown projects expected by 2023. 

In Winnipeg, between 2005 to 2013, over 100 new projects were completed in the downtown core after the MTS Centre opened in 2004. 

In London, Ont., after Budweiser Gardens was announced, there was over $255 million of additional private-sector investment that took place in its vicinity, including the construction of over 2,200 residential units.

A city’s strength and growth depends on the appeal and activity of its downtown.

The ball is already rolling with a $26 million upgrade of Regina’s The Globe Theatre nearly completed. Then there is the update planned for 11th Avenue and Scarth Street, along with the announced  Saskatchewan Drive Corridor Project. 

These two projects – a multi-purpose event centre and a downtown library branch – are important to Regina. Locating a multi-purpose event centre downtown and invest in modernizing the central library branch downtown will contribute to transforming our city. Future generations will thank us for getting this right.


Greg Morgan Morning Show–CJME
On January 19, Greg spoke with Regina Chamber of Commerce CEO Tony Playter about the importance of the multi-purpose arena, and the central library branch, being located in downtown Regina.
The segment begins at 3:41.


The Regina Downtown Business Improvement District is pleased that Tim Tompkins was the first speaker in the City Building Speaker Series.

The series will feature speakers who have experience and insight into how cities can maintain and build vibrancy and prosperity by recognizing the benefits of large-scale building projects and the importance of activating downtowns. 

During his presentation at the Hotel Saskatchewan on Jan. 27, Tompkins pointed out how large-scale projects he championed benefitted Times Square and highlighted what is working well for Regina now and what more could be done to transform the city’s downtown. 

Tompkins has been the President of the Times Square Alliance since 2002. He is the Chair-elect of the International Downtown Association (IDA) and the past co-chair of the NYC BID Association. He is also the founder of Shared City Shared Space, which nurtures the interaction of ideas, institutions, individuals and culture — particularly through public, private and civic sector collaboration — in order to make more prosperous, vibrant and equitable cities. He is currently teachers two courses as an Adjunct Professor of Urban Planning at the Wagner School of Public Service at New York University.

The City Building Speaker Series is a partnership between the Regina Downtown Business Improvement District, Regina Warehouse Business Improvement District and the Regina & District Chamber of Commerce. 


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