We as professionals in the commercial real estate industry can be known to talk out of both sides of our mouths.
There is no question almost every stage of real estate development has become more complex. I often hear frustrated comments due to the increase in resources and knowledge required to navigate red tape from what can be numerous applicable authorities who have jurisdiction over development.
And yet, in some cases there are not enough controls in place.
Zoning and environmental laws
Regardless of who develops a piece of land, there will always be zoning and environmental laws in place which determine many aspects of the design and site coverage.
Private developers are more likely to place restrictions on exterior building materials and front elevation design.
We are in a somewhat unique situation in the City of Saskatoon because the city is a major player in the development and sale of commercial real estate. It has jurisdiction over building code and zoning compliance, but very seldom do we see the authorities add specific architectural control elements within those requirements.
A case for large parcel development
The City of Saskatoon achieves development continuity by tendering land in larger parcels. You cannot purchase a retail, office or industrial parcel under one acre from the city.
As a result, in these subdivisions you will not see a string of smaller commercial buildings with significantly different front elevations.
A problem can surface within infill development, however. An example of this can be found on the south side of 8th Street East between Clarence and Cumberland Avenues.
We have seen a flurry of small office development on lots previously occupied by single-family homes. Each small office building is, for the most part, attractive in its own right.
Put them all together however and we have an hodgepodge of buildings.
Architecture controls could protect all stakeholders
A commercially reasonable set of architectural controls which address such specifics as exterior treatment and glazing could greatly enhance our cityscape within these older areas.
The benefits would accrue to not only enhancement of the overall street design but simply put, increase the value of the real estate for all the individual owners.