What Makes Downtown Regina So Cool

What Makes Downtown Regina So Cool March 6, 2018 · 9 min. readDisclaimer: While the thoughts and opinions are my own, this article was brought to you by a third party.

Throughout the past few months I've been sharing a lot about downtown Regina, and there's a reason for that. Downtown Regina's urban centre has undergone a massive revitalization the past few years, and since I love Regina, I felt it was important for me to talk about this. For those who don't travel downtown regularly, you'd be surprised to find out it is no longer the downtown of the 1990s. A lot has changed, is changing, or has been completely transformed.

Rink downtown

Scores of people had to come together to make this happen, but one of the driving forces behind this transformation is the Regina Downtown Business Improvement District (RDBID). This organisation was established in 1981 under the belief that entrepreneurs, diversity and creativity should thrive in the hub of the city. It may have taken time, but after decades of work their efforts are finally being rewarded. Today, downtown Regina is the epicentre of festivals, vendors, concerts, movies, art displays, and outdoor activities. This winter the RDBID lit the Christmas tree downtown, has been operating the skating rink twice a day everyday, and helped to arrange the crokicurl rink – the new sport that is sweeping the nation. 

In the summer the list gets even longer – thanks to many partners and sponsors – with the Regina Farmers Market, Market Under the Stars, Cinema Under the Stars, AfroFest, Doors Open, Yoga in the Park, art {outside}, Parkin(ing) Day, Pop Up Downtown and dozens of other events and festivals.

City Square Plaza City Square Plaza Sunset

A lot of the changes around downtown can be attributed to our booming culinary scene. Within the past few years, when people think of going out for breakfast, lunch or supper, they immediately think of downtown. Collectively, the restaurant scene downtown has redefined what it means to "go out and eat" in this city. The RDBID has further helped this cause with promotional events like Restaurant Week and their Agribition Dish Voting.

There are also plenty of hidden treasures downtown too. With over two-dozen restaurants, ranging from Chinese food to custom steaks, you can find anything your stomach desires. There’s gastropubs, pizza joints, tapas bars, breakfast buffets, wrap shops and just about everything in between.

If you love supporting our veterans, there is also Dieppe Café. This small café is run out of the Legion and sells everything from wraps to soups, sandwiches to burgers, fries to salads, and breakfasts to wings. Better yet, all the profits go towards operating the kitchen, and whatever is left goes towards 9 Legion and our veterans. It should be no surprise that this is one of the few restaurants that isn't afraid to put a sandwich board outside in the dead of winter.

Sandwhich at Chopped Leaf Monty Cristo at Dieppe Cafe

Small shops, instead of big box office stores, have also taken a foothold in the downtown area. Smith & Best, Mortise & Tenon, Treehouse Smoke Shop, Norwood and Sara Lindsay have all been bringing a shopping experience to the city that is only seen in major metropolitan centres. There are plenty of staple businesses that have been downtown for decades, like The Book End or Vintage Vinyl.

When you're not eating, you're shopping, and this is increasing the number of people downtown dramatically. In fact, to ease the pedestrian congestion, work is underway to transform Hamilton Street into the "new" Scarth Street. A decade ago, this kind of thing was almost unheard of. Now, an average of 800 people walk up and down Scarth Street almost every day. This shows incredible growth, but also the need to expand some of the major shopping routes.  

If you have time to explore downtown, you'll find yourself in a mix of old and new architecture, mythological and historical artifacts, and politics and religion. The streets, alleyways, corners and traffic-boxes around downtown are all slathered in creativity – may it be larger-than-life murals, art installations, historical posters, or even wayfinding signs so you can get around easier. A fitting example of this is along Lorne Street where there is exhibit after exhibit showing the path of the famous 1912 tornado. These plaques, photographs, murals and art installations from Victoria Street all the way to the Warehouse District showing the many stories of what happened that fateful June afternoon.

Cyclone Mural Power Boxes

To highlight these stories, the RDBID has worked with local artists to bring art into downtown by colouring and designing  traffic control boxes. Next time you're standing at an intersection, try turning around. There might just be some art waiting to surprise you!

Unlike other cities that have massive organisations running events throughout downtown, The RDBID is managed by a very small team. Members include people like Judith Veresuk who oversees that downtown remains a vibrant and essential place to visit, work, play and live and Taron Cochrane, who specialises in promoting downtown and the local music industry. Others are Lindsay des Rochers, who manages the planning and execution of a variety of downtown programming, Lovella Jones, who helps create public spaces for events and activities, Nelson Mitchell who manages the Clean Team and organised the first annual Regina Downtown Clean Up Day and Bonny Bodnar who controls the day-to-day administrative activities and keeps the RDBID on track.

Cartoon inside RDBID office

Countless other people work to make the downtown area such an exciting place to be. Two of them, Rawry and Poly, even created a fantastic mural in the office of the RDBID, showing a wide array of events, scenes, sights and sounds that define this neighbourhood. Others, like Kurtis Balon, the smiling face most people know when they visit the ice rink, are what makes downtown such a fantastic place to visit.

It's through the efforts of these individuals that the downtown area has improved from just a few decades ago. Their "Info on the Go" team help enlighten people to the many sights and sounds of the city, and the "Regina Downtown Clean Team" helps make it a cleaner, better place to be. In 2016 "Regina Downtown Clean Team" picked up 652 bags of garbage (over and above the regular City of Regina collection), disposed of over 120 discarded needles, swept 1,255km of sidewalks and removed over 773 graffiti tags.

Downtown Hill Towers

Many people have a stigma that downtown isn't a safe place to be; that it is dirty or there is nothing to do, but because of the RDBID and their efforts, none of this is the case (not that it ever was). Downtown Regina is safe place to visit, it's fun, friendly and clean. There's always an event happening, a function taking place and someplace new to explore. If you were to visit a different restaurant downtown everyday, it would take you over two months to try them all. You would spend another month visiting all the different stores, and a final month visiting all the art displays. There's so much to do downtown, and there's so much to see, that it's almost overwhelming where to start. Thankfully, the RDBID has plenty of pamphlets to get you started.

What's your favourite part about downtown Regina? Is there a restaurant you prefer? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

Downtown Regina Elephant

What's your favourite part about downtown Regina? Is there a restaurant you prefer? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

What Makes Downtown Regina So Cool What Makes Downtown Regina So Cool

And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.

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