leaderbuildemmaTo revitalize the Regina downtown area: the magic words proudly promised by our city’s politicians.

On September 21, the Downtown Neighbourhood Plan was approved. The plan runs on a mandate of being able to walk to work. The City of Regina wants work towards creating a greater presence of culture and the arts as well as meeting green initiatives by making the area more bike and pedestrian friendly. Although the October 28 municipal election holds no controversy regarding this plan, one Regina resident is working her hardest to solidify a downtown presence for the arts.

Marian Donnelly is an integral member of the Saskatchewan arts community, and has been involved with the creative industry since 1976.  Donnelly, who has a Master of Business Administration degree, teaches the "Introduction to Arts Administration" class at the University of Regina. Since then she has been involved with the Globe Theatre, SaskMusic and currently runs the arts and culture consulting business, Inner Circle Management.

In 2003 Donnelly talked to people from all over the world at a Toronto conference. The conference dealt with the importance of artist live/work spaces, and how dying warehouse districts and downtowns have been revitalized in other communities by facilitating them.

“You have to remember at this time, downtown was dying. It was dead,” said Donnelly. “When I came back from that conference I looked around. I walked around downtown and looked at a bunch of different buildings and the Leader building was the one that I always came back to. I can’t tell you how many times I stood across the street and just looked at that building and thought, that’s the building, that’s the one.”

So began the Leader Building project. Since 2005, Donnelly has been working tirelessly. As it stands now, the project is awaiting funding from the provincial government, and though many years of changes have occurred, ambitions have been settled on converting the third floor. It would include classroom space, incubation space and a service center where those working in the creative sector could seek business advice and guidance. The University of Regina and SIAST are also on board the project for the location of a future downtown campus and the potential establishment of a new degree program in creative entrepreneurship.

If and when the nod from the province comes through, Donnelly feels that support from the city won’t be a problem.

Pat Fiacco actually gets it and he gets it pretty big. I mean, his enthusiasm for bringing in events like the Rolling Stones and Bon Jovi are partly driven because he understands what an economic impact the creative sector can bring to a community,” she explained.

New jobs and businesses will be created from the project and with the uniqueness of the degree program (only the University of Toronto and University of Waterloo have something similar) it hopes to keep, attract and bring back people to Saskatchewan.

Ian Brodland, who resides downtown, sees an importance in retaining the arts in his neighbourhood and notices a vast change in the downtown population from day to night.

“You see all the business people in the day and then they leave and go away. If there is a stronger presence downtown of art and artists that will make them definitely more aware, which is a good thing,” he said.

The project will hopefully inject life into the downtown and with goals of creating new festivals and events, there will be a facet that all Regina citizens can enjoy. And although the province is moving slow on approval, Donnelly has high hopes for a downtown that doesn’t clock out at 5pm.