Saskatoon’s Midtown Plaza could be home to downtown grocery store

A Vancouver-based developer has approached the City of Saskatoon with a proposal to open a full-service grocery store with a restaurant and take-out at the Midtown Plaza.

The Pitchfork Market + Kitchen store is proposed for the space in the mall that was initially developed for another business but has remained vacant, the city said in a news release.

the Standing Policy Committee on Transportation will consider the request from Arbutus Properties when the committee meets on Monday. Arbutus is also behind The Meadows development in Rosewood in southeastern Saskatoon.

“We opened our first Pitchfork Market + Kitchen store in Meadows Market last June and building on that success, we have selected a Midtown Plaza location for our second store to serve the downtown and surrounding neighbourhoods,” Arbutus director of planning Murray Totland said in a letter to the city.

“This will be our flagship Pitchfork Market + Kitchen for Saskatoon and be a full-service grocery store combined with our unique offering of full restaurant service and lots of take-out/delivery options with our premade meals and groceries.

“As you and I both know, the City’s goal to attract a grocery store downtown has always been a priority and Arbutus Properties is proud to be able to help the City, and our community, achieve this goal. This will be a huge shot in the arm for the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods and has become an even more pressing need with the recent announcement by Loblaws to close their Broadway store.”

An administration report recommends $220,000 worth of infrastructure work in the area once the grocery store reaches a certain build-out point:

  • Installing a full traffic signal at the intersection of Auditorium Avenue and Idylwyld Drive
  • Removing the median on Idylwyld Drive between Auditorium Avenue and 22nd Street
  • Installing a traffic island at the intersection of 21st Street and Idylwyld Drive.

Other options include: deferring installation of traffic signals until significant Idylwyld Drive rehabilitation is completed; installing them in 2022 with the city and adjacent businesses splitting the cost; and the city paying for and installing them in the summer of 2024.

“This is a unique situation, and the City needs to resolve how to respond to Arbutus’ request. All options presented are viable,” the report reads.

“The Administration’s recommendation is largely based on the premise that a Downtown grocery store is consistent with the City’s vision of Downtown and will support many of the City’s strategic priorities. Although a traffic signal is an atypical way to incentivize such a venture, the proponent has made it clear that they believe the viability of the grocery store is contingent on the traffic signal.”

The report also notes that mall access would be improved for all people accessing the mall and Auditorium Avenue, and the island to be constructed at 21st Street and Idylwyld Drive is expected to last for the long term.

A requested tax abatement for the grocery store is not recommended, as the available space at Midtown Plaza has already been approved for a tax abatement, according to administration.

If approved, the next steps will be in the developer’s hands, the city says.

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