Finance

Why Saskatoon may limit office buildings outside downtown

Over the course of Saskatoon’s economic boom, the city has seen a growing trend of large office buildings sprouting up in industrial areas where land is cheap and parking is easy. Here’s why that’s considered a problem, and what the city administration recommends to city council.   The problems: Industrial zoned areas were never meant to accommodate large, single-purpose office buildings, says Alan Wallace, the city’s director of planning and…

Over the course of Saskatoon’s economic boom, the city has seen a growing trend of large office buildings sprouting up in industrial areas where land is cheap and parking is easy.

Here’s why that’s considered a problem, and what the city administration recommends to city council.  

The problems:

Industrial zoned areas were never meant to accommodate large, single-purpose office buildings, says Alan Wallace, the city’s director of planning and development. The city gets complaints from office workers and owners about noise, dust and vibration around them, while clusters of offices consume industrial land and could lead to traffic issues.

Saskatoon is the only city among those compared in a new report that does not regulate office buildings.

The solution:

The city is using a light touch, Wallace said. The administration’s recommendation isn’t to ban single-purpose offices in industrial areas, but to limit their size. While some may say the government shouldn’t interfere in the market, intervention is common, Wallace said.

He cited previous restrictions of retail stores in industrial areas and the banning of a movie theatre in Preston Crossing as examples.

A business’ view:

“We like the idea that the city is starting to take steps to ensure the downtown doesn’t become a wasteland,” said Trevor Jacek, chief financial officer of the Mid-West Group of Companies.

“If it’s super easy for everyone to develop office buildings in industrial areas or in the suburbs, the downtown is going to become vacant and run down, and we want the downtown to be vibrant.”

Recommended Floor Area Limits:

Light and Heavy Industrial Districts: 21,528 square feet. This will still accommodate offices that directly relate to or support industrial uses.

Industrial Business District: 43,056 square feet. This is meant to limit major office uses that are typically more suited to a downtown location.

Source: City of Saskatoon

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