The City of Regina is looking at transforming some parking luildings and parking lots for infill housing.
In the downtown and surrounding area, there are 330 of those sites, according to a report by executive council. Using those areas, the city could potentially build housing for almost 11,000 people.
Vanessa Mathews, assistant professor in the department of geography and environmental studies, says increasing the downtown population that much would completely transform the area.
"If you're adding 11,000 people then you're having a lot more vitality, there's a lot more activity that would be happening," she said.
"So with the residential base that would attract retail, it would entirely change the quality of life … in that area."
Imagining what could become of all the empty space downtown and what would follow is exciting, Mathews says, but in order to become a bona fide neighbourhood, a population has to be there first.
She also says that even though putting housing over surface level parking lots would lessen the amount of parking, people do plenty of parking and walking in downtowns, and if more people lived there, there would start to be more public transit and improved walkability.
Increasing population density in existing neighbourhoods is a good move, Mathews says, but expanding on the outskirts of a city can cause problems.
"When you have outward expansion, you're immediately thinking about how to service those populations, how to provide infrastructure," she said. "So there's that disconnect. It's harder to provide public transit as well when people are really spread out."
Expanding away from the centre of a city can take away land that could be used for agriculture and other things, she adds.