A survey conducted by the University of Saskatchewan and the City of Saskatoon suggests several ways more people might be drawn to live in downtown Saskatoon.
"We're not going to get more people wanting to live downtown unless we create a more cohesive sense of an environment, a neighbourhood that people really fall in love with and want to live in," said Ryan Walker, an urban planning professor and researcher at the University of Saskatchewan.
Walker was the lead investigator of the survey conducted by the university and the city. A total of 470 residents who live in downtown Saskatoon, and 10 other neighbourhoods were surveyed.
He says the study aimed to determine what people already liked about the city, and how to create a demand for a downtown lifestyle.
The survey found that some of the top reasons people want to live downtown include being close to work, businesses, retail and school.
The study also found that the South Saskatchewan River and the Meewasin Valley are downtown's biggest assets and people would like to live close to them.
Variety of housing important
Creating a variety of housing was one of the main takeaways from the survey, Walker says.
"What people were talking about was just different types of housing for different household structures," he said.
He said highrise living will always be a part of downtown, but other choices should include more mid-rise or townhouse- style dwellings, adding that there could be pet-friendly options, too.
Other findings included making downtown more pedestrian friendly and re-purposing underused properties.
Walker says empty lots can be used for outdoor markets, pop-up spaces and informal sports.
Walker also says having a downtown community association would be an important way for people to talk about their residential environment.
"Most of the tone of conversation for downtown is commercial, and that's important, don't get me wrong, but we need that resident voice," Walker said.
Two of the main barriers for people who might want to live downtown are the lack of grocery stores and the perception of low safety.
The survey asked people how safe they felt in Saskatoon as a whole and how safe they felt in downtown. Walker says the perception of safety was remarkably lower in the downtown area. In order to fix that, he says, the solution is to have more people in the area.
"One of the great remedies for the low perception of safety is actually the vitality and presence and passive surveillance that comes from having lots more people living downtown," he said.
He says even though downtown isn't a new neighbourhood, it should be looked at through a neighborhood co-ordinated approach.
"People are rooting for downtown," Walker said. "They want it to thrive, they want it to be a beautiful, inclusive and wonderful residential environment."