The mystery of Regina's Taylor Field site and the 'commitment' to affordable housing

The site of the former Taylor Field in Regina remains an empty dirt field more than five years after the football stadium was torn down.  (Cory Herperger/Radio-Canada - image credit)
The site of the former Taylor Field in Regina remains an empty dirt field more than five years after the football stadium was torn down. (Cory Herperger/Radio-Canada - image credit)

When Taylor Field, the old home of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, came crashing down on Oct. 17, 2017, it was meant to herald the beginning of something new.

With 46 acres of open space set to become available in Regina's North Central neighbourhood, there was a belief that affordable housing could be built there.

After all, that was how the Regina Revitalization Initiative (RRI) was repeatedly sold to the public.

Then-mayor Pat Fiacco told media as much in February 2011 when he unveiled the future plans for Taylor Field, which used the name Mosaic Stadium in the years before its demolition.

"Have a look at the property where Mosaic Stadium sits right now. Envision that as a major housing development, OK?" Fiacco said.

The RRI was meant to be an urban revitalization project that would take place in three phases: the construction of the new Mosaic Stadium, development at the former rail yards behind Casino Regina known as The Yards, and Taylor Field being replaced by housing in that location.

Now, more than a decade later, only the new football stadium has been built. The Taylor Field site remains empty, with no work scheduled.

WATCH | Will the old Taylor Field site ever be home to affordable housing? 

CBC found records and interviews conducted with Fiacco and former mayor Michael Fougere where both referenced housing being built at Taylor Field.

A video published in April 2011 on the City of Regina's YouTube channel touts how "on the site of Mosaic Stadium, we'll develop a state-of-the-art for residential neighborhood. The design will seamlessly bring a mix of both affordable and market rate housing."

In a recent interview, Fiacco was asked whether housing at the Taylor Field site was part of the package the public was sold. He said "sold" was the wrong term, and that housing was part of the "vision" for the project.

Fiacco said the project was meant to kick-start the revitalization of Regina's north central. But that's not what has happened in the years since he left office in 2012.

A decade and two mayors later, Fiacco said building a neighbourhood at the Taylor Field site is still a worthy cause.

"I would like to think that they're working toward that vision," he said.

Peter Gilmer is with the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry. He was part of initial conversations with the city in 2011.

He said there was no question at that time about housing being built at the site.

"There was discussions about the meaning of affordable housing, but there was never any debate as to whether or not there was supposed to be an affordable housing project on the old Mosaic Stadium site," Gilmer told CBC News in a recent interview.

The City of Regina and municipal politicians have recently raised doubts about whether there was a promise to build housing at the location.

A document published by the City of Regina in January highlighted that the city "is committed to include affordable housing as part of the Regina Revitalization Initiative projects on... [the] former Taylor Field site."

City of Regina
City of Regina

However, that document has now been edited. The City of Regina said the document "innacurately implied that City Council approved or committed to affordable housing" at Taylor Field.

City of Regina
City of Regina

Mayor Sandra Masters has previously stressed that city council has not voted on the project and was never committed to affordable housing in that spot.

"I don't know who promised housing. I have no idea actually where anyone can find that promise," Masters told The Morning Edition.

LISTEN| Regina's mayor discusses the work of the catalyst committee so far:

This week Masters told media that work at the location remains in the distant future.

"There's no concept plan. There's no formal approval for what happens on Taylor Field other than the broad concept of of what could happen there," Masters said.

Alexander Quon/CBC News
Alexander Quon/CBC News

That's a frustrating statement for housing advocates like Gilmer, who say housing at the site could have made a difference for the area.

Gilmer said low vacancy rates and a lack of affordable housing were already an issue a decade ago, and have only gotten worse.

"Unfortunately, we're sitting still to this day with an empty area and discussion of other projects taking place in that area, when really there continues to be a desperate need for more affordable housing," Gilmer told CBC News.

Murray Giesbrecht, executive director of the North Central Community Association, said affordable housing at the Taylor Field site would have allowed many to start building up credit and experience housing ownership.

However, the construction of the new Mosaic Stadium has had its benefits, Giesbrecht said.

He said between 200 and 300 people are involved in clean up after various events as part of a partnership with the Regina Exhibition Association Limited.

"Just a little extra money for them to help with their bills and some of their expenses and that partnership just keeps growing and growing," Giesbrecht said.

LISTEN| Regina's catalyst committee gathers public feedback on downtown plans

The city is continuing to explore a series of major projects, some of which could find a home at the Taylor Field location.

Fiacco admitted that priorities can shift as times change.

"We've gone through a pandemic. So to be fair to everybody, we're not living in the in the same times as we were a few years ago," Fiacco said.

WATCH | Look back: 5 years since Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field was demolished