How Fast is Riversdale Changing?

This blog post first appeared on the Element Urban Village project website.

Living and working in Riversdale, we’ve had a unique connection to the neighbourhood over the past few years and have watched one business after another set up shop along 20th Street West. We hear from people who come to the neighbourhood for lunch at Odd Couple or to shop at Hardpressed and are blown away by the rapid change along 20th. Others express surprise that Riversdale hasn’t revitalized faster. Who’s right? We decided to dive into that a little deeper with a blog that looks at the rate of change in Riversdale.

Old buildings and new ideas

In The Life and Death of Great American Cities, Toronto-born journalist and community activist Jane Jacobs talks about the importance of maintaining a balance of old and new buildings in the ecosystem of a neighbourhood: "Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them.... for really new ideas of any kind—no matter how ultimately profitable or otherwise successful some of them might prove to be—there is no leeway for such chancy trial, error and experimentation in the high-overhead economy of new construction. Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings."

For this reason, neighbourhoods like Riversdale attract the attention of entrepreneurs, artists and creative industries that need old buildings to animate new ideas. In the last few years, there has been a rapid influx of new ideas, services, restaurants and cafes into the neighbourhood—animating old buildings in interesting ways and drawing new people into the community.

What's happening?

We put together a little video that compares google street view images from 2009 and 2015. A quick survey of the first 5 blocks of 20th Street West shows that a whopping 52% of the commercial properties have seen major renovations or changes in a 6 year span. That same area has received $4 million of investment from the City of Saskatoon in streetscaping. We’ve seen projects like The Banks and The Blok transform parking lots into vibrant residential and commercial communities that are just starting to grow. These numbers are staggering considering the glacial rate of change for most neighbourhoods.

Alongside new businesses, we have buildings and businesses that have been here for decades: the Chung Wah grocery store, the Mandarin, Odessa Meats, the Park Cafe. So while new energy helps bring new customers, energy and investment into the neighbourhood, old businesses help retain its history, character and identity. 

Diversity and inclusivity

When people tell us they think Riversdale should be “further along,” we respond by saying that we think Riversdale is actually one of the few neighbourhoods that has managed to retain this balance of old and new!

Diversity is the lifeblood of a healthy neighbourhood—diversity of people, uses, buildings, transportation and housing options. Just read our blog about the 5 foundations of a great neighbourhood. We want a neighbourhood that avoids the pitfalls of gentrification—when a neighbourhood becomes so popular that real estate is too high for interesting ideas to percolate and housing becomes unaffordable for many people. Such trends erase the identity and character of a place, and exclude people from feeling welcome and engaged in a community. 

All across North America, trends see people seeking living options in core neighbourhoods that offer proximity to amenities, downtown, and active lifestyles that are walkable and bike-friendly. We want people to measure the amenities and lifestyle offerings of Riversdale against any other option in Saskatoon: check out the AMENITIES section of our Designing Riversdale blog!

Want to know more? This blog is number two in a series, designed to answer questions about Riversdale: is it a good investment? Lifestyle? Real estate trends? Stay tuned by joining our newsletter.