The rejuvenation of the Riversdale neighbourhood in Saskatoon over the past few years has been incredible. The neighbourhood that was once thought to be on the wrong side of the tracks started its transformation almost 10 years ago, when new businesses saw potential in an area close to the city's central business district. And in recent years, excitement about the area has only grown.
Early adopters of the new Riversdale ethos were Garden Architecture and Escape Sports on Avenue A, which opened up in 2004, followed closely by the renovation and re-opening of the Roxy Theatre in 2005.
The new life breathed into the neighbourhood is due in large part to arts and culture groups. There are now more than half a dozen galleries and arts groups that call Riversdale home, and many have joined forces to create the Arts on 20th collective.
AKA Gallery and PAVED Arts completely renovated their building on 20th Street, and celebrated the new space with a grand reopening in 2008, though they had already occupied the building for a couple of years. If yoga can be considered an art, Hot Yoga on 20th opened in 2009, and has developed quite a dedicated following.
The Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company has made their home on 20th Street since 2002, but recently moved down the street to share space in Studio 914 with La Troupe du Jour. The renovated building opened in 2011. The Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra also opened up their doors on 20th Street in 2011, just two doors down from AKA Gallery and PAVED Arts.
A hub for entrepreneurs
The Riversdale neighbourhood has also attracted attention from entrepreneurs and small businesses.
The new business incubator Ideas Inc. opened in 2007 next to the Saskatoon Farmers' Market new permanent location. The inspiration behind a business incubator like Ideas Inc. is to offer entrepreneurs affordable office space, and help them connect to the resources and people they need to get started.
A few years later in 2011, the Two Twenty co-working space opened on 20th Street. The project was created through Curtis Olson's Shift Developments, and was his fifth project in the neighbourhood.
Similar in spirit to Ideas Inc., a co-working space is designed to give small businesses and entrepreneurs an affordable place to conduct their work and collaborate with other like-minded groups and individuals.
The co-working room looks much like a coffee shop, with couches and tables and an open floor plan. Memberships for the co-working space run from $15 per day to $200 per month, but the building also has some office space available that is rented on a monthly basis.
Even before its renaissance, the Riversdale neighbourhood was known for its great restaurants, and that trend has continued as the neighbourhood reinvents itself.
The Park Cafe, which has been awarded six Best of Saskatoon Awards from Planet S magazine, opened in 2005. The Saskatoon Farmers' Market moved to its location at 19th Street and Avenue B in 2007. The Hollows opened in 2011, taking over the historic Golden Dragon building, and has received rave reviews for its combination of down home comfort and big city style.
The colourfully-painted Two Gun Quiche House opened last year. The name plays on the area's history, honouring Morris Abraham “Two Gun” Cohen – a Saskatonian who made himself famous in the 1920s for being a military assistant to Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of the Republic of China.
Building on the past
New businesses moving in hasn't been the only change that has affected the make-up of Riversdale. Although not technically in the Riversdale neighbourhood, the redevelopment of River Landing has brought more people to that section of the river, and the changes have connected River Landing to Victoria Park, breaking down the Idylwyld overpass barrier.
The infamous Barry Hotel was shut down in 2008, and Riversdale Business Improvement District director Randy Pshebylo said police service calls for that corner of 20th Street went from over 600 per year to zero.
While most people cheered the end of the Barry, some were sad to see yet another historic landmark torn down. And at least one investor sees the future of the neighbourhood in its past.
A Victoria-based developer recently purchased a 1.4-acre piece of real estate on 19th Street West bordered by avenues B and C. He says the neighbourhood could be the next Gastown, a trendy, historic neighbourhood in Vancouver that experienced its own rejuvenation.
The future of Riversdale is looking bright, and the rejuvenation seems to be rubbing off on neighbouring areas as well. In Pleasant Hill, Station 20 West and the Good Food Junction Co-op opened last year, giving the core neighbourhoods one of their first grocery stores in years, and city council has approved a project to turn St. George's Parish Hall into a daycare centre, learning commons, and office space.
So many new and loveable businesses have made their home in the area, we don't have room to discuss them all. What's your favourite Riversdale haunt?