Category Archives: Saskatchewan

Suburban Office Complex’s are Obsolete

Something for Saskatoon business owners to remember.

What tenants want in an office building is changing, and the old model of the isolated suburban office park is going the way of the fax machine. That’s according to a new report from Newmark, Grubb, Knight and Frank [PDF], one of the largest commercial real estate firms in the world.

Suburban office parks are losing their luster, industry analysts say.

The old-school office park does “not offer the experience most of today’s tenants are seeking,” according to NGKF. As a result, the suburban office market is confronting “obsolescence” on a “massive scale.” More than 1,150 U.S. office properties — or 95 million square feet — may no longer pencil out, the authors estimate, though a number of those can be salvaged with some changes.

“Walkability and activated environments are at the top of many tenants’ list of must haves,” the report states. Office parks in isolated pockets without a mix of uses around them must have “in-building amenities” –including a conference center, a fitness center, and food service — to remain competitive, according to NGKF: “If tenants are not going to be able to walk to nearby retail or a nearby office property to get lunch, they had better be able to get it at their own building.”

This is the same for many businesses.

The study took a close look at suburban office submarkets in and around Denver, Washington, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. In the “southeast suburban” Denver office district, for example, office buildings within a quarter-mile of the new light rail line had a 1.7 percent vacancy rate. For those outside a quarter-mile, vacancy rates were nine percentage points higher.

NGKF’s findings don’t mean that office tenant preferences are in perfect alignment with walkability, however.

This explains the tension in Saskatoon’s governance who are older and therefore prefer to drive.

Parking was also important to the marketability of buildings in suburban Denver. The report notes that a lot of older management personnel prefer to drive, while younger workers want transit access. So buildings that offered both were in the highest demand.

So do you build a office complex (or a city) for the past or for those you want to attract.  So far around here, it is about building for the past.

City of Saskatoon land branch sales fall by $100 million

This is bad news for the City of Saskatoon for a variety of reasons.  The one reason is that it provides funding for civic services and some of the profits were expected to pay of some of the growing city debt that our bridge building spree has cost us.

Long explained most of the land sale revenues go to paying Saskatoon Land expenses like servicing, marketing, land costs and administration.

However, since 2007 about $123 million from land sales has been redirected to pay for other civic initiatives, including another $4 million in the 2016 budget.

“There’s been a lot of benefits from the city being in the business of selling land,” Long said. “At the end of the day, it’s up to city council where the money goes.”

The other thing it means is that this is $100m less in development that is happening in Saskatoon.  I have heard from realtors, contractors, and increasingly laid off or under employed trades people that the boom is over and they are struggling.  Others are making plans to head back to British Columbia or Ontario.  The grass may have been greener in Saskatoon for a while but the fall of oils and the stagnant mining industry has taken it’s toll on a lot of people in Saskatoon.  This is just one of the many number of indicators that show us that things aren’t good right now in Saskatoon.

Council decides to revisit debate on public art funding because two councilors don’t like it.

Saskatoon City Council debates 1% art funding again because Eric Olauson didn’t like it the results the first time so here we are again.  Reporting from the CBC.

Saskatoon city council is still trying to figure out what it’s going to do about public art. At Monday’s council meeting, councillor Eric Olauson tried to rescind a policy to earmark one per cent of the budget of significant capital projects for public art.

The rest of Saskatoon City Council decided to move ahead with this last year but Councilors Olauson and Donauer bring it up again.

Last year, council decided that for high profile civic capital projects of $5 million dollars or more, one per cent of the city’s contribution — up to half a million dollars — would be earmarked to include a work of art. 

The public art reserve is one of the topics that dominated discussion around the council table during the annual city budget review on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

Councillor Randy Donauer also questions the policy.

"What we had brought to us at budget this year was a half a million dollar project to put art on sound walls and on fire halls that I don’t think is line with what public perception for funded art is."

He said if art is inside a fire hall, the public won’t see it. If art is on a sound wall it can be vulnerable to graffiti.

Actually, in Saskatoon and elsewhere, graffiti artists leave art walls alone.  It is bare walls without walls that are vulnerable to being tagged.  As for the art indoors, by that  logic, all art should be taken outside of public buildings.

Donauer wants council to re-examine the policy and decide where and when public art should be built.

Council once took hours to debate the kind of material a fence should be made of in Sutherland.  Can you imagine a debate on where and what kind of art should be built?

Meanwhile councillor Charlie Clark said he believes there is some confusion about how the policy is applied.

"Intuitively it’s not one that you would think ‘OK we want to spend a lot of money to add public art into.’ Although I have had a lot of people say those sound walls are pretty boring. And they end up being a scar on the landscape in a way because they’re just plain and divide neighbourhoods from each other."

He said there are innovative ways to make them more interesting while the walls are being constructed.

He gave an example to a privately owned wall along Warman Road intentionally covered by graffiti, which he said has become quite "beloved in the community."

Expect more of this as we get closer to the provincial election where Olauson is desperate to raise his profile and prove his conservative credentials. 

Aunt Beth

I had a great aunt named Elizabeth.  The only reason I knew that is that it was on her Christmas stocking.  I always knew her as Aunt Beth.  She was my grandmother’s sister.  Never married, a chain smoker’s chain smoker, and staunch New Democrat.  She adopted our family growing up as hers and so every Christmas she would come down from Regina (she lived in the senior’s complex that looks like a giant suitcase – you know the one I am talking about) to stay in Saskatoon for a couple of weeks.  She also came down for her birthday and all of our birthdays.  Often for part of the summer and almost always for Labour Day weekend although for that I don’t know why.  Probably to see us off for school.

She travelled the world in between those trips so when I say she lived in Regina, that may have been an overstatement.  Since she did live alone, she never really got the family dynamic down.  She used to drive me crazy when on a Friday night and I was getting read to watch Miami Vice, she would come into our living room and and turn to Dallas.  I would just sit there and quietly put my socks back on.

Of course her entire extended family other than myself and my mom were New Democrats.  Strong New Democrats and union organizers.  Being part of a family where debating politics was a passion, having Aunt Beth here was great as there was a true to life New Democrat in our house who was both as obnoxious as my mom and I were as really funny as well.

The best debate was over Christmas and it was never spoken.  Being Progressive Conservatives, we would have a Christmas card from Grant Devine and Brian Mulroney over our mantle.  That wasn’t going to cut it for Aunt Beth.  So after one year of enduring this, the next one there was a card from Ed Broadbent and Al Blakeney on our mantle, placed just in front of the Devine/Mulroney cards.  The best part was that we never saw Aunt Beth put her cards in front of the other ones and she never saw me put the conservative cards back out front.  It would discretely change several times a day over well over 100 times over the holidays.   I never acknowledged by any of us publically other than a little snicker whenever someone was really discrete with it.  This went on from 1987-1991 when she passed away.

It’s funny but as partisan as all of us were back then, I don’t think a single harsh word was ever spoken about each other’s politics (lots of jokes though), we kept the intense arguments for what was important (I remember getting off the phone with her and she was livid and wanted to speak to my mom.  She had just gone to the Roughriders game and it was a blowout and she wanted to yell about it).  That was the only time I remember her getting angry over anything.

I still miss her.  She was a lot of fun to be around but the biggest lesson she taught me was the family and respect was far more important than making a political point to someone.  We had great talks about all sorts of policies and different world views but it was never personal (well the jokes were) but having your Christmas card in front of the other guys was really important.

Top 31 Photos of 2015: #30 – Third Avenue United Church

Top 31 Photos of 2015: #30 - Third Avenue United Church

Back in January I was out for a walk on a warm winter day.  I captured this with my Pentax K-30 with a 28mm f/2.8 manual focus lens.  Flickr seemed to like this more than I did.  That being said, Third Avenue United Church is a hard building to photography from the street.  The ugly pine tree and overhead wires take away a lot from a photograph of the building. 

Top 31 Photos of 2015: #31 Scotiabank in Downtown Saskatoon

Scotiabank in downtown Saskatoon

According to Flickr, this was my 31st most interesting photo of 2015.  It was taken with my Pentax MX-1 while walking along 2nd Avenue in March.  If I remember correctly, the Google Street View car glared at me when I pulled my camera out which confused me since he was driving a giant camera himself.

I’ll be counting down and posting a new one each day until the end of 2015.

Hiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National Park

Easy 1.5 – 2.0 km One Way Hike

On Sunday, Wendy, Mark, Oliver, Marley and I drove to Prince Albert National Park and hiked the Kingsmere River Trail at the far end of Kingsmere Road.  The first 15 km of the road out of Waskesiu is paved with narrow shoulders but the last 17.5 km is gravel and pretty soft.  It’s not a road you would want to drive on after a couple of days of rain.  It takes about 15-20 minutes to get the parking lot and picnic area with washrooms.

The trail shares the trailhead with the start of the Grey Owl trail.  Take the path for the first 500 metres before you come to a clear sign that directs you to the Kingsmere River Trail and the stairs that take you into the valley. 

At the bottom of the stairs you will come to a bridge where you can see the clear water flowing along the Kingsmere River. Once your across the bridge you will see a set of train tracks. These tracks are used for people to move small boats or canoes to Kingsmere Lake. Follow the tracks until you get to a dirt and later rock covered trail.  The dirt trail will bring you all the way to the Southend Campground. Once at the campground area, you will have a picnic area, stove, out houses, and bear stands. The campground area over looks Kingsmere Lake, and if you look over to your left you will spot a cabin with a boat, and that is the Park Warden’s cabin.

Hiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National Park

I am endorsing…

Since the editor of the site is the same as the publisher, I am given tremendous latitude in who I endorse around here.

In Saskatoon West where I live, I have a choice between:

  • Randy Donauer: Conservative
  • Lisa Abbott: Liberal
  • Sheri Benson: NDP

Of the three, the NDP were the only ones that knocked on my door.  A gaggle of Conservatives walked by my door, looked at the address, checked their database and kept walking.  Apparently they were not interested in either Wendy or my vote in this election.  I wasn’t even robo-called called by the Conservatives or the Liberals.  So yeah, thanks for the effort teams.

For me the decision comes down to the Liberals and the NDP, both parties are outside of my federal comfort levels.  I have serious problems with both of their platforms but nothing compared to the problems I had with the Conservative campaign. 

I also have been poorly served by Kelly Block’s office.  When I used to contact Carol Skelton’s office, I always got a personal follow up from Skelton, even when she was a minister.   The one time I contacted Kelly Block’s about a serious issue, I was sent Conservative Party talking points by an assistant. 

I have watched Randy Donauer as a city councillor and I was greatly disappointed in the change I saw from the time he announced his candidacy until now.  He was always a fiscal conservative which is needed but to see him pander that almost exclusively in council meetings was frustrating.  From the time that he announced his candidacy, I called on him to resign his seat on council (just as I did when Councillors Paulsen and Hill did when the ran for the Liberals) which is the same as other some other cities require.

As for the Conservative record. 

  • Bill C-51 when the United States has proven that local police will abuse powers.
  • Elimination of the Mandatory Long Form Census
  • Botched military procurement (which to be honest, isn’t all their fault)
  • Seeing military procurement as a job builder rather than equipping the Canadian Forces with the best gear possible.
  • The Mike Duffy debacle
  • The Pamela Wallin debacle
  • The decision to shut down the senate without making a serious effort at reforming it.
  • Lack of participation with the Premiers
  • Cutting funding to the Homelessness Partnering Program
  • The feud with the Supreme Court of Canada
  • The lack of desire to fix unsafe water conditions on Canadian reserves.
  • Muzzling of scientists then lying about it.

I grew up in a Conservative household.  I was part of PC Youth.  I still defend Grant Divine when push comes to shove but I can’t defend this record.  Part of me thinks that if another Conservative government had acted like this, Stephen Harper would start his own party… oh right, that is exactly what he did do.

I thought Lisa Abbott has run a great campaign.  So great that it may cause an unfavourable vote split between the Liberals and the NDP but that it the first past the post system.  She has run the best Liberal campaign I have ever seen in Saskatoon West since I moved here in 1984.   Her candidacy (and the Justin Trudeau campaign) have made Liberals relevant in Saskatoon West for the first time ever.  I can’t speak highly enough of how she carries herself in this campaign.

As for Sheri Benson, she has been working on issues that political parties ignored during this campaign.  Poverty and homelessness for years through the Saskatoon United Way.  She has brought different social agencies together (it’s like herding cats but harder) and brought focus to issues that few care about.  If Lisa Abbott has been helped by the Trudeau campaign, Benson has probably been hurt by the mediocre NDP campaign (the phrase “You NDP’d that up” for when you should win but don’t is now entering our lexicon).

If I lived in Saskatoon Grasswords, I would vote for Tracy Muggli and in Saskatoon University I’d vote for Cynthia Block.  Both are excellent candidates that deserve to be in Ottawa.

Living in Saskatoon West, I am going to endorse Sheri Benson.  She has shown the ability to move local issues that few cared about forward and that is what we will need in Ottawa.  In a minority government, all parties will need people who can bring people together.  Sheri will do that for the NDP. 

That being said, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Lisa Abbott for her campaign.  She would also make a great MP from what I have seen and if either one of them are unsuccessful, I hope they run again either provincially or federally.

My 2016 Mayoral Campaign

I was asked a few times today if I was going to run for Mayor in 2016.  The answer is no.  I have no political aspirations and have no desire to be a politician.   That and I don’t like ties or suits.  Even if I did, big boned and balding politicians generally don’t do that well… wait a minute, we do really well in politics.

I have very little respect for career politicians.  There are many people I know (and we all have our lists) that desperately want to be elected to something and want to remain elected for financial, prestige, or even retirement reasons (I have heard of politicians whose entire retirement planning is based on getting elected and then government pension).  They see politics as a career and as a path to greater political power.  I don’t aspire to that.  I have control of the both the TV remote and the Apple TV remote at home.  I’m good.

I have a lot of respect for those that are public servants.  Those are people who are drawn to the service of their city, province, and country and that is the main motivating factor for them.  The problem is that most politicians start out that way but it’s a fine line until you transform into a politician where re-election comes before doing what is right.   Some public servants can be elected for decades and serve only the public.  I think of the Joe Clark’s, John Crosbie’s, or the countless MP, MLAs, and councillors that care far more about constituent issues and the big picture than party politics or personal gain.  They avoid the meanness that defines many politicians and they genuinely love their jobs.  I think they are great but I still wouldn’t want to be one.  I simply lack the desire to compromise on things and in our system, it is based on compromise and doing things you hate.

Then you also have the campaign fight.  That can’t be a lot of fun.  I remember door knocking a couple of decades ago and a guy came to the door with a shot gun, I was bit by a stray dog, and some naked women answered her door.  No wonder Atch stands on the streets and waves at cars.  Who can blame him?  If I was him I’d have a small portable fence with me at all times.  If someone from the media questioned me, I’d have them stand outside the fence and deal with the dogs.

I was out with some candidates and councillors years ago and they were talking about lawn sign stake storage and what a pain that is.  So let me get this straight, you win office and instead of celebrating, you have to clean out your shed and build extra storage for the stuff you need for the next campaign.  Wendy would not be pleased with that.  We have a small house, we don’t have a lot of storage.  She’d be out campaigning for Atch or Charlie Clark on the provision that they took all of the lawn sign stakes when I lost.

I’d be going, “How does the other campaigns get all of these leaks from?” and Wendy and Mark would be avoiding making eye contact with me as they easily moved stuff in and out of our shed.  Okay, that would be hilarious but still.

Also, the being recognized in public part is both good and bad.  Bad when someone tells me how stupid I am in front of my kids.  Good when they say nice things to me but I still find myself going, “please don’t punch me in the face” when someone goes, “Aren’t you Jordon Cooper?”.  Of course I could just be like one councillor who makes me go, “I thought they quit council” the rare time they speak. 

I guess I could run against Darren Hill but here is a list of his accomplishments in office and my position on them.

Darren Hill’s Record in Office

Jordon Cooper’s Position

Avenue B Diverter in Mayfair

Thought it was a good idea

Thought the Cosmo deal was a costly mistake

Totally

Disagrees with 33rd Street Bridge and says it would be built over his dead body.

We agree with that too although I hope no one has to die to stop it.

Wears colourful socks

Wears plain socks

Wears colourful ties

Has a tie just like Rob Ford’s NFL tie but has NHL logos on it.  Wishes he had a tie like Rob Ford’s NFL tie.  Would also wear a MLB tie.  Now that I think about it, that is a solid three tie rotation. 

Suggested that we wait a few years to buy a new city website when prices were lower.

Umm, yeah.

Tweets at celebrities

Does that actually work? (update: Darren says it does.)

Tweets at City Council Meetings

Tweets about confidential in-camera meetings that he read about in The StarPhoenix.

Ran for the federal Liberal Party after two terms as councillor.

Criticized Hill, Paulsen, Olauson, and Donauer for doing the same thing and not resigning their seat.

Non committal about in Council Twitter Wall.

Totally in favour of Twitter wall.   Really, really in favour of a Twitter wall.  Have I mentioned how badly I want City Council to have a live twitter wall. 

That would be a riveting debate.  I can see the moderator saying, “So the only area where you truly disagree is men’s socks.  Well let’s go back to that issue once more and Mr. Cooper, could you tell us where you got that NFL logo tie from?”

So after reading that chart over, I am not running in Ward 1 or anywhere else in the city since I live in Ward 1.  Darren is doing a fine job… well there was the vote where he voted to “right size the bridge” that was waste of tens of millions of dollars.   Nor do I ever aspire to being on Saskatoon City Council not now and not in the future.  Here is why.

Outside of Wendy and the boys, not many people have seen how sick I have been this summer.  It has scared Wendy and even made me wonder from time to time if I was going to make it.   I have never been so sick in my life and it hasn’t been fun.  Today my vital signs were so out of whack, the nurses freaked out and that happens all of the time.  There is no way I am strong enough to make it through a campaign even if I did want to.  I have never seriously considered it but I need get rid of the MRSA infection in my ankle and then get healthy again. 

I have been married with 18 years this week to Wendy and for the first time since we have been married, her depression and mental health issues are under control.  You have no idea how many times I have said, “next summer” will be better (well actually about 16 summers).  To actually have a summer trip go well and her depression be managed was a huge thing in life but we have a lot of catching up to do.

Those lost summers have come with a price of me being there for Wendy and not having the time to spend with Mark and Oliver.   It’s why next summer is being spent in the backcountry of Banff and Kootney National Parks.  The only door knocking I plan to do is at the door of a mountain tea house at the end of a long hike (I hope I don’t get bit by anything)

I don’t know how politicians handle their commitments to the public and family.   Is there a less family friendly job then being a politician at any level?  For this I am not being sarcastic, I can’t imagine how hard it is to juggle all of that well. I enjoy being a dad.

So my plans are set for election night 2016, vote and watch Monday Night Football while writing about those that did decide to run.  That is my goal for 2020, 2024, and 2028.  It is also my goal for any and all provincial and federal campaigns.  I have even a less of a desire to be told how to vote by a government or opposition whip who got the job because they are difficult to deal with in Question Period.

So yeah, I am never running for public office but thanks for suggesting it.  Throw your support behind someone that wants the job, there are some good ones out there, support them.

Southern Prairie Railway in Ogema, Saskatchewan

Southern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanIMGP1465Southern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, SaskatchewanSouthern Prairie Railway in Ogema, Saskatchewan

We took a weekend to go to Ogema, Saskatchewan and experience the Southern Prairie Railway.  The railway is a tourist one and offers different kinds of rides every weekend.  It is the only tourist railway of it’s kind of the prairies. After getting to Ogema a little early and taking a look around a truly charming town, we headed to the train station and looked around.  After boarding, we were off to the ghost town of Horizon, Saskatchewan. 

Along the way, we were treated to entertaining local history and stories by the host of the trip who both shared a prepared presentation and interacted extensively with the audience.  Once to Horizon we were able to go inside a historic Federal Grain elevator while the train turned around and we headed back.  The entire tour takes about two hours in a restored Pullman carriage (the restoration of the carriage makes for a great story in itself).

Starting with lunch in the community, the entire afternoon was worth the time and the money.  The boys, Wendy, and myself loved the trip and want to do it again in the future.

We did learn one thing on the train and that is the back of the railcar swings quite a bit.  The difference in going to Horizon and then back was extremely noticeable.  Not a distraction but another neat part of the trip.

You can find out more about the railway at www.southernprairierailway.com.