The two biggest barriers to people moving to downtown Saskatoon are perceptions of safety and the lack of a downtown grocery store, according to a recent study.
Ryan Walker, a researcher at the University of Saskatchewan (USask), said the reservations are not insurmountable, particularly concerns about safety. The increase in population also increases security, he told Global News Morning.
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“People tend to feel safer where there is a lot of passive surveillance,” Walker said. “So people walk, look out windows, go in and out of doors at any time of the day.
People are more drawn to living downtown because of the convenient lifestyle, whether it’s for work, nightlife, or access to the Meewasin Trail and South Saskatchewan River, Walker said.
The study involved an online survey of 470 people, including those from downtown Saskatoon and ten other neighborhoods. There were also five focus group discussions as part of the Research Junction-funded initiative, which is a joint effort between the city and USask.
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There doesn’t seem to be a one-size-fits-all solution to bringing a full-fledged grocery store downtown, an area often viewed by experts in the field as a “food desert.”
“We often find food deserts in the core of the center,” said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Laboratory for Agri-Food Analysis at Dalhousie University.
Supermarkets tend to settle closer to suburban neighborhoods where land is more affordable and consumers have more time to buy groceries on the way home, Charlebeois said.
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Due to work-from-home measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, Charlebois said more people are leaving downtown areas.
“That will discourage supermarkets from building in urban centers because there will be less traffic,” Charlebois said. “That could actually lead to more food deserts, not less.”
Global News contacted numerous grocery store chains to get this story. None of them provided comment before the deadline.
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