First proposed in 2016, the extensive rebuild of the CNIB building now has provincial approval and construction is expected to begin this spring or summer.
The announcement was made on Monday morning — the 100th anniversary of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, a registered charity that provides services to Canadians with vision loss.
“We are pleased that we’ve received approval from the Provincial Capital Commission to have a rebuild on this site with our partner Brandt Developments,” said Christall Beaudry, executive director of CNIB Saskatchewan Division.
Once construction begins, she said it will be at least two years before they can move into the new facility, which will be built on the existing site on the edge of Wascana Park.
CNIB is currently working out of a temporary space on Broad Street, after the existing building was condemned for safety reasons. The 63-year-old building was described as beyond repair for over a decade now, most recently suffering extensive damage from frozen and burst pipes over the winter.
As originally proposed, the new building will not take up more ground space in Wascana Park than the existing building, but will be one-and-a-half stories taller.
“It is larger than the existing building, but it’s the same footprint,” said Beaudry. “It’s just a little bit taller, but still within the tree line of the park.”
She said CNIB hasn’t received any complaints or concerns about the height of the new building, which was echoed by Shaun Semple, president of Brandt Group of Companies, the project’s developer.
“We had a public hearing and everything went well there,” said Semple. “Like any project, not 100 per cent of the people are always in favour, but this one, when you consider the thousands of people … that will have the benefit of this new facility, it really is supported widely in the community.”
Semple said everything from materials to labour will be sourced from within the province, and an environmentally sensitive process will be used to make sure the building is energy-efficient.
“We’re big proponents of, Lets have projects made in Saskatchewan, by Saskatchewan companies. While a lot of the building’s features still need to be decided upon, the new facility will be a bright, accessible building complete with amenities that can be used by park-goers and the other tenants in the building,” Semple said.
CNIB will be joined in the new building by the MS Society Saskatchewan Division, as well as other commercial tenants.
The new 70,000 square-foot building will be designed to facilitate services like low-vision and orientation mobility and independent living skills. Beaudry said, “New programs will include peer support, care partners beyond the classroom and youth leadership programs to enhance employment opportunities for people who are blind and partially sighted.”