Experts have proposed a five-step plan to rebuild Yellowknife’s 50/50 lot, the downtown patch of land currently occupied by a parking lot.

The lot’s future has been a source of debate for years. Improving the lot – and the neighbouring Centre Square Mall – is seen as central to officials’ hopes of revitalizing Yellowknife’s downtown.

Consultants Theia Partners, represented by Rodney Wilts and Jeff Westeinde, told city councillors there is no “silver bullet” as they presented recommendations for the empty lot on Monday.

No matter what options council selects, said Westeinde, the lot will need a number of years to reach its full potential – but action should begin immediately, he emphasized.

Theia’s report focuses on making the lot more attractive to potential developers through a five-step plan:

  1. Have lawyers review development rules regarding the site – what, and where, can and can’t be developed?
  2. Upzone the lot – in other words, increase the flexibility around what you can and can’t develop there, including the potential height of any development – to broaden the range of ideas developers have
  3. Explore new incentives to attract buyers for the lot
  4. Advertise the site’s availability as an event venue and vacant space
  5. Work with the mall to encourage investment, invest in surrounding properties to increase the lot’s desirability, and continue to invest in support for homelessness and addiction

The report listed a range of potential uses for the lot, from transforming it into a boutique hotel through to using it as a site for festivals and pop-up markets.

A boutique hotel, Theia said, would take advantage of the space’s central location, promote tourism, and complement surrounding buildings.

Councillors were in favour of the report’s recommendations. “Almost everything you’ve said today, I totally agree on,” said Councillor Niels Konge.

The report’s authors urged council to spend time getting their development of the lot right, though some councillors expressed concern the report comes so close to a municipal election – which means there’s a risk the recommendations are forgotten or overlooked by the next council.

“Let’s take a deep breath,” said Wilts, emphasizing patience during the process of revamping the lot.

“Let’s get this positioned with everything we can for success, and let’s collectively recognize where we are and be a bit patient and know that, ultimately, that right use will come along.

“50/50, in some way, serves as a little case study, a little pilot project for what you think about for downtown revitalization.”

Still, Wilts and Westeinde recommended immediate action – in the form of beginning work to upzone the 50/50 lot.

City administrators are now expected to study the report and bring follow-up recommendations of their own back to councillors.