One Year Status Report: Two Twenty Solar Panels

One Year Status Report: Two Twenty Solar Panels

Well, it's been a year since the installation of the SES Solar Cooperative solar energy project on top of the Two Twenty, and we can't wait to share the good news. The solar panels supplied nearly a third of the building's electricity and saved tonnes of greenhouse gases! (20, actually.)

Here's the story. In June of 2016, a total of 95 solar panels were installed on the roof and front awning of 220 20th St W in a partnership between Shift Development and the SES Solar Co-op -- their inaugural project. We wanted to take action on a green energy project, and the SESSC stepped up to help. Read our blog from last year on the initiative.

The panels have been happily converting those generous Saskatchewan rays into clean energy for the Two Twenty ever since. They are still the second largest solar installation in Saskatoon, and the largest within Saskatoon Light & Power's energy district.

The Two Twenty features 95 solar panels on both the roof and front awning. It was the very first project of the SES Solar Co-op, and remains Saskatoon's second largest solar array.

The Two Twenty features 95 solar panels on both the roof and front awning. It was the very first project of the SES Solar Co-op, and remains Saskatoon's second largest solar array.

Nearly a third of our electricity was sourced from the sunny Saskatoon sky.

Nearly a third of our electricity was sourced from the sunny Saskatoon sky.


At Shift, we're all about results. So we were happy to learn that over their first year, the Two Twenty panels produced 28,388 kWh of clean, renewable energy. This amounted to 29 percent of the total energy consumption for the building. Not bad for the first year!

The panels had a noticeable effect on the amount of energy drawn from the Saskatoon Light & Power grid, as well. The month-by-month analysis of energy consumed by the building shows a striking reduction in grid-sourced electricity following the installation of the solar panels, dropping from a monthly average of 7,854 kWh to 5,833 kWh.

Monthly grid-sourced power usage saw a significant drop (25.7% on average) as a result of the solar panels.

Monthly grid-sourced power usage saw a significant drop (25.7% on average) as a result of the solar panels.


Environmental sustainability is important to us. It's why we develop only in walkable neighbourhoods, use green building standards, and lead by example with initiatives like this. It's also why, at Element Urban Village, we're planning another solar experiment involving five panels powering a shared electric car. The Element electric car can be used by all Element homeowners and should have a capacity of 12,000 km per year. We're taking big strides toward building car-free independence into Saskatoon's core neighbourhoods. This is just one part of our strategy to reach net zero energy housing in our residential projects by 2020.

Back to the Two Twenty project. According to, the amount of clean energy produced by the panels over the past year saved 21.86 tonnes of greenhouse gases (measured as carbon dioxide equivalents) in Saskatchewan. Calculations using more recent SaskPower data indicate a savings of 18.34 tonnes, but Saskatchewan is still one of the dirtiest energy producers in Canada. The same amount of energy produced in hydro-loving BC or Manitoba would save less than a single tonne of CO₂e. The impact that using solar energy can have in Saskatchewan is immense, and the incentives toward adopting green energy infrastructure through policies like a carbon tax could make it all the more possible and lucrative.

So, approximately 20 tonnes of CO₂e was spared from the environment because of our pioneering local solar energy partnership at the Two Twenty. Environmentally savvy readers just collectively fist-pumped; but what about the rest of us lay people? How much is 20 tonnes (20,000 kg) of CO₂e, really?


Physically, a balloon filled with 20 tonnes of CO₂e would measure 200 metres in diameter. That's the distance from the Farmers' Market to the riverbank, and 2.5 times the height of Saskatoon's tallest building. That scary balloon would dominate the city. Here's its footprint super-imposed over the Two Twenty:

The carbon balloon we saved measures 200 m in diameter and weighs as much as 37 light-duty trucks.

The carbon balloon we saved measures 200 m in diameter and weighs as much as 37 light-duty trucks.

In more realistic terms, 20 tonnes of CO₂e is the equivalent of the average annual pollution produced by 4.5 passenger vehicles. It's approximately the amount produced by the average Canadian household. It's the carbon-based diet of 67 trees. And it was saved without changing day-to-day operations at the Two Twenty whatsoever. In other words, it was easy.

The success of the SESSC Two Twenty project is a proof of concept as much as it is a direct benefit to the community. As solar capture technology becomes more attainable, and as non-renewable energy becomes more costly, more and more Saskatchewan people and businesses will be able to make use of the abundant natural energy resource right above our heads. Saskatoon Shines, after all.

We're looking forward to seeing a lot more solar panels and other green infrastructure fighting the good fight against climate change throughout Riversdale and Saskatoon. In fact, we're going to be one of the ones making it happen. Keep in touch. And here's to many more bright and shiny years of solar energy in our community.

The Shift Version of the Shared Economy

The Shift Version of the Shared Economy


In 2009, we began to build The Two Twenty—which includes a co-working space, small offices for entrepreneurs and creative industries, shared meeting rooms, a boardroom, resources, printers, a kitchen, and an outstanding cafe connecting the whole ecosystem together. Having a number of friends who routinely escaped the home office to unpack our laptops in Caffe Sola, we had already experienced the synergy and inspiration inherent in shared workspace. So when it came time to expand Shift Development and buy the building on 20th Street West, we engaged our friends to design, name, and create the foundations for a collaborative community to evolve.

At the time, the term shared economy wasn’t used much in our collective lexicon. The seeds of Uber and Airbnb were just being planted. Bike and car share programs were few and far between…but growing. Without knowing it, we were tapping into an idea that would become a central feature of the current economic landscape: collaborative consumption. Sharing resources using smart technology. 


We like to travel. We like to walk to where we need to go. We like making new friends. We like shedding the burdens of “stuff” and creating lifestyles with room to move, travel, and get inspired. For us this means expanding the sharing economy within our own neighbourhood and projects. While definitions of the sharing economy are varied and contested, here are the bedrocks of what makes for opportunities to share. 


The closer our projects are together, the easier we can enable sharing among our tenants, buyers and staff. All of our projects are within a 7 minute walk of our office at The Two Twenty, and they include commercial buildings, co-working space, two townhouse projects, and a few infill homes. Proximity breeds community. Read our blog on walkability to hear our full explanation of why walkability is such a key focus of our projects!


Now that we’ve got a growing mass of people in close proximity, we open the door to options for sharing bikes and cars when getting around on foot just won’t cut it. We started by buying bikes for our 160 tenants at The Two Twenty to use when they need. So far Paul Miazga, editor of Flow Magazine, wins for most frequent user!


We’re huge fans of car share services but Saskatoon is a small market with only two operators. So we started an experiment, buying a little Fiat 500 for the Shift team, allowing 2 of our staff to eliminate the need for a second vehicle. 

For our newest residential project on the river, Element Urban Village, we’re committed to putting a shared electric car (powered by solar energy) into the condo for the owners to utilize. The project is so close to downtown, 20th Street W and other amenities that this should fill most owners' needs for a second car. Right now, we’re looking at how to make this happen: whether it's partnering with the Saskatoon Car Share Coop or buying the car outright. We hope this also becomes a way to introduce our buyers to electric cars without needing them to buy one themselves. 


Back to The Two Twenty, Saskatoon’s first and largest co-working community. With 160 people and 39 companies all shoehorned into 35,000 square ft in the heart of Riversdale, we’ve built a buzzing community of people who share resources, spaces, and ideas.

But the best part is the kind of community and collaboration that happens when people share. Whether it’s spontaneous lunch dates, movie nights, Friday beers after work, or lunch ’n learn events, the shared economy can allow us to build relationships with people that make the moments in between work more interesting and fulfilling. 

We’ve opened up the co-working space to outside rentals to make sure this community is not insular, but accessible to our neighbourhood. Recently, we hosted the Indigenous Poets Society, Lululemon, birthday parties, and book clubs. 


The sharing economy is not exclusive to work spaces. We recently put two of our most interesting projects up on Airbnb, expanding our sharing economy to visitors from outside Saskatoon. While they are in Saskatoon, they have access to the events, co-working space, and lifestyle that we’ve built for our community. 

The Hayloft is an old grocery store in Caswell Hill that we transformed into a live/work space, featuring playful reproductions of prairie architecture: a barn, elevator and grain bin that brings Saskatchewan to life. It's been the scene of many happening house concerts over the years with outstanding international talent, and we're thrilled to offer the experience of this space to travellers. 

Element Urban Village with its location overlooking the river is an ideal and luxurious spot for visitors or locals alike--especially being within walking distance of the restaurants and shops on 20t Street W, downtown, Remai Modern Art Gallery and Persephone Theatre. 


We now live in one of the units at Element Urban Village, and even I underestimated the richness of living in the Element community—where there are smaller yard spaces, private decks, but lots of opportunity to mix and mingle with other people. And literally across the street, we share Victoria Park—a 6 acre front yard with a skate park, canoe club, tennis club, public pool, and outdoor gym. The best part? While I’m skating with the kids or exploring the riverbank, the City is mowing my lawn :)

There's a lot to digest here. We're going to follow up this blog with deeper dives into our experiences with Airbnb, co-working, and how the sharing economy is built into the designs of our living/working spaces. We haven't even gotten into the environmental benefits yet! If you're not already signed up, join our newsletter and stay tuned as the conversation unfolds.

Shifting Towards Reconciliation

Shifting Towards Reconciliation

A few years ago, the national magazine The Walrus published an article titled Reviving Riversdale: Gentrification and Reconciliation in one of Saskatoon’s poorest neighbourhoods in which author Alan Casey writes: "Riversdale is more than a neighbourhood that is gentrifying. It is a chance at healing an old wound. It is a knife-edge on which a city stands."

When the article was published, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was travelling the country, listening to the testimonials of residential school survivors and their families. Months later, the TRC would reveal a set of Calls to Action to everyone in the country to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation. 

I live and work in Riversdale and daily I grapple with the question, how do we heal this old wound? How we do move forward towards reconciliation? How do we support and maintain inclusivity in our neighbourhood?

My community work for Shift Development has allowed me to try out various strategies for responding to these questions. In the winter of 2016, I joined Reconciliation Saskatoon, a group of over 40 organizations, non-profits, government agencies, and churches who were coming together to plan a Walk for Reconciliation in June 2016. There began a transformational experience of learning, connecting, and moving forward.

Shift's work with Reconciliation Saskatoon continues in a deep and meaningful way, and we look forward to sharing some important projects coming soon, including the second annual Walk for Reconciliation this June. But this work has also revealed how much Shift Development as a team still has to learn about our Indigenous community, history, and the meaning of reconciliation.

Towards this end, we've planned a day of Indigenous Cultural Awareness Training on March 30 for the Shift team. I'm convinced that this is an essential first step for all of us, as the path towards Truth and Reconciliation must begin with listening and learning. So we're opening the invitation for anyone to join us. If March 30 doesn't work for you, organizing this training is as easy as calling the Office of the Treaty Commissioner and asking for their guidance. That is how we connected with Annie Battiste to facilitate the training, and we look forward to engaging this process.

Please join us!
Bring your coworkers, friends, family and collaborators.
Indigenous Cultural Awareness Training
Thursday, March 30  10-4pm (Location TBA)
Chef Jenni will serve soup and bread for lunch.
Registration is free. Contact to reserve your spot. 


I Wish I Had A River I Could Skate Away On

I Wish I Had A River I Could Skate Away On

"I wish I had a river I could skate away on"

-Joni Mitchell

“I think in Saskatoon there’s too much of a sense that people endure winter rather than enjoy winter. Building quality of life in Saskatoon means building a city that’s great all year round.” 

- Mayor Charlie Clark, The StarPhoenix 30 Nov 2016

The first year I had a baby, I changed my relationship with winter. Eliot was 5 months when winter descended upon Saskatoon, and still small enough that those terribly awkward bucket seats and freezing cold cars really made any outing less appealing. Yet I was a new mom at home with my son. Craving interaction and needing to get some work done (I was a singer/songwriter booking a Western Canadian tour at the time), I would walk daily down to the Two Twenty. Curtis would watch Eliot--who most likely fell asleep on the short trek--and I would spend a couple of hours working or visiting before walking home in the deep snow.

How novel. I grew up in the suburbs believing that I had to survive winter by escaping it--in my car, in my house, indoors. But in the simple attempt to get my new baby some fresh air, a nap in the stroller, or some time to myself while I walked him, I came to love winter. Embrace it. Crave it.

Soon we abandoned the car altogether, only possible because we lived in Caswell Hill relatively close to the amenities we needed. Now we live in Element Urban Village, and I'm experiencing anew that fascination with winter as I watch it transform the river bank into a winter wonderland. And what I see from that view overlooking Victoria Park is a city eager to reach its full potential as a winter destination. I see people running along the Meewasin. Winter bikers commuting or road biking in large groups. Walking dogs. Sledding on hills with a bare skiff of snow cover.

In the last few years, Curtis and I have had the opportunity to travel to cities that embrace and exploit winter and all that it has to offer. We went to Winnipeg and skated their Red River Mutual Trail--the Guinness book record holder for the longest naturally frozen skating trail, dotted with warming huts designed through an international art and architecture competition. We ate at Raw Almond, a pop-up restaurant resurrected on Winnipeg's frozen river. We visited Iceland, where warm outdoor pools run winter long. Inevitably, these voyages have inspired many conversations about what Saskatoon can do to realize our potential as a winter city. The City is currently working on a Winter City Strategy, so we thought we'd share some of our wild musings as you spend the holidays enjoying the snow, hopefully inspiring your own ideas for how Saskatoon can embrace winter.

1. Let the South Saskatchewan River Freeze

SaskPower’s Queen Elizabeth power plant dumps enough waste heat into the South Saskatchewan River that it can keep it it flowing with open water in -40C weather. Think about it. That’s a LOT of wasted energy. Let’s buy that heat from SaskPower and put it to better use, so that the river freezes over.

2. Frozen River Winter Activities

Like the Red River skating trails in Winnipeg or Ottawa's Rideau canal, a frozen river offers huge possibilities for building spaces for outdoor play. We could clear skating paths from Wanuskewin to the Berry Barn. Skating becomes a journey through the city. How about cross country skiing on the river? Hockey and curling rinks? Let's host the world's largest snowball fight annually. Or toboggan down the slopes of the riverbank onto the ice.

3. Pop Up Ice Restaurant

Let's take a hugely popular model from Winnipeg and bring it to life in Saskatoon. Every year Raw Almond erects a pop-up restaurant featuring some of their best local chefs and sells out tables for 20 days serving brunch and dinner. Whether you're seeking a new experience or culinary excellence, this is an adventure worth sharing! We've already got our tickets for 2017!

4. Riversdale Pool as Winter Spa?

Let's think back to the waste heat from the QE Power Plant that we now have an abundance of. How about we use it to heat Riversdale Pool year round? I'll admit, I wouldn't have thought this to be a pleasurable experience myself until I traveled to Iceland, where the outdoor swimming pool is a multi-generational hub of community activity even in winter.

5. WinterShines Festival

Think of all the possibilities for expanding the WinterShines Festival down onto the frozen river! Add winter fireworks and we’re off to the races.

The City of Saskatoon can do a great deal for creating the conditions for a cultural shift to occur: where we enjoy rather than endure winter! Let's start the conversation. Share your ideas or experiences of winter cities and let's share that insight with the City as we move forward. I'll get my skates sharpened.



FOR RENT: Try Urban Living On For Size

FOR RENT: Try Urban Living On For Size

Utilities are not included in the rental rate. You can now experience the dramatic river views and lifestyle advantages of Element Urban Village, even if you're not quite ready to purchase a condo! We've created rental opportunities for 2 of the 6 units, available now! Feel what it's like to live on the river, walk to your destination, and be at the heart of the activity in Riversdale. Here are the details.

Available NOW!
2 and 3 Bedroom units

*Units are Unfurnished


Amazing views of the river and ideal location for dynamic urban living. Across the street from Victoria Park, Element Urban Village is walking/biking distance from downtown, the Farmer's Market, Remai Modern and more. Enjoy being in the heart of Riversdale, where you'll find the city's best cafes/restaurants/shops. Clean, modern design makes the home bright and luxurious. Let the living begin. 


- BRAND NEW—be the first renters!
- Second floor deck overlooking the South Sask River and Victoria Park
- Garage for 2 cars parked in tandem
- High ceilings
- Air conditioning
- Superior sound proofing
- 1,572 sq. ft of livable space
- 447 sq. ft of garage space
- AVAILABLE Dec 2016


> Cooktop: Fisher & Paykel Induction
> Wall oven: Fisher & Paykel Stainless Steel Electric
> Refrigerator: Fisher & Paykel Stainless Steel
> Microwave: Panasonic Stainless Steel Inverter Microwave
> Dishwasher: Blomberg Stainless Steel Silent
> Fireplace: Regency Horizon Gas Fireplace, Log Set (2nd Floor) 
> Blomberg Washer and Dryer 

- Available: Dec 01 2016
- Security deposit: 1 month’s rent is required
- Utilities not included in the rental rate
- Units are not furnished
- $2,400/month



$20k Furnishing Credit for Element Homebuyers. Seriously?

$20k Furnishing Credit for Element Homebuyers. Seriously?

"With only 3 units of Element Urban Village left for sale, we decided to create a truly special offer. Until Dec 2, 2016 Element Urban Village homebuyers will receive a $20k furnishing credit at Area.

Looks like Christmas just came early..."

-Curtis Olson

Perched right on the South Saskatchewan River, our latest project Element Urban Village combines the serenity of living right on Victoria Park with the vibrant lifestyle offerings of Riversdale. We laboured over getting the details right, agonized over the design, knowing small decisions can make a big difference when it comes to how comfortable and beautiful a home can feel. And we believe we came up with a great design--a blank slate ready for each homebuyer to insert their own unique aesthetic.

We built the canvas. Then along came Area...and they brought the paint. 

When Area arrived to furnish our show suite, we saw Element Urban Village brought to life with well-designed, timeless pieces of furniture that worked extremely well with the space. Now, we confess to loving beautiful furniture. We can't walk by a chair in a showroom without testing it out. So we truly appreciated the quality that Area brought to Element Urban Village. 

There are only 3 units left for sale at Element Urban Village, and we've decided to do something really special for our community. We are offering Element homebuyers a $20,000 furnishing credit at Area until Dec 2, 2016. 

How to Fix Potholes Without Raising Taxes

How to Fix Potholes Without Raising Taxes

"Why should a resident in Fairhaven care about redevelopment in Riversdale? Because it can help pay to fix their potholes. Let me explain..."

-Curtis Olson

Over the last number of years, I've participated in many discussions with City of Saskatoon administration, Councillors and the Mayor about the positive impact that redevelopment of older areas has on the city. We've talked about infill, densification, streetscaping, new art galleries, River Landing, bike lanes, parking, transit and literally have left no stone unturned. 

I know what you're thinking. Infill? Densification? Most people only have vague understanding of what I'm talking about. And why should they? But on the cusp of a municipal election, I find it more important than ever to bring together core neighbourhoods and suburbs to understand the ripple effects of infill development on the entire city. 


I started with a simple question:  "Why should a resident in Fairhaven (the 1970's suburb I grew up) care about a redevelopment project in Riversdale?" It's a tough question, and the answer surprised even me: it's because redevelopment in Riversdale can help pay to fix the potholes in Fairhaven. Let me explain.

I began by looking back over 5 projects that we've completed at Shift: the Fairbanks Lofts (which I worked on through Olstar Developments in 2005), The Two Twenty in 2011, Mosaic (in partnership with Quint Development in 2011), 228 20th St W in 2013 and Element Urban Village in 2015.

After completion, our commercial properties pay an average of 3 times the amount of property taxes they paid before redevelopment. Our residential properties? 7 times the property tax! To be exact, these projects combined now pay $113,815 MORE in taxes each and every year as a result of redevelopment in core neighbourhoods. 


So, where does this money get spent? If you go to the City's PROPERTY ASSESSMENT AND TAX TOOL you can see exactly where your property taxes get spent: Police, Fire, Transportation, Roadway Improvements, Transit and Parks combined consume 69% of our property taxes.

The interesting thing is that all of Shift Development's projects utilize roads that are already built.  They're on existing transit routes, and served by existing fire halls and police. The water and sewer systems are already in place. And the parks were built long ago.

I wouldn't go so far as to argue that there's zero demand on city services by our new projects, but it's pretty clear that of all the new tax revenue created, there's a surplus that can get redirected to other services. The city's 2015 Hemson Report on financing growth agrees with me, as does this interesting infographic based on Halifax.

Suburban/Urban Image came from and is based on Halifax Regional Municipality.

Said another way, infill development is the low hanging fruit that grows the income from property taxes faster than growing our expenses to maintain infrastructure. This is so important! Let me say it again. Infill development means property taxes grow faster, expenses are kept low, which means everyone's taxes stay low. 


Well, we could fix the potholes. Or replace aging sidewalks. Or do more frequent street sweeping. Or more snow clearing. These are all things that residents want. But they also DO NOT want higher taxes. Who would? So why not let higher density infill development projects pick up the tab on behalf of the other tax payers?


Here's one way to look at it. Let's pretend the City is an office building. I'll use our commercial workspace, The Two Twenty as an example. If I ran The Two Twenty the way the City currently treats development, I would only fill my building to 60% capacity. I'd leave 40% empty. 

It makes it a lot harder to build a solid business when the building is only 60% full. I might have to raise rent to make it work. I might have to charge for extra services, like meeting rooms, to make ends meet. I certainly wouldn't have enough room to give back to the community, create extra services or have fun. Cut sponsorships to local arts organizations. And that studio space we donate to our artist in residence, Kevin Pee-ace? Gone. Friday beers. Well, that turns into BYOB.

In Saskatoon, that 40% vacancy appears as undeveloped potential (like surface parking lots) in areas that are fully served by existing infrastructure. We, the taxpayers of Saskatoon, already pay the bill of servicing it. But when they go undeveloped, those properties pay next to no taxes.

The opportunity cost is huge. Until we can add density by developing those spaces to their full potential, we'll never get to realize the benefits additional tax dollars could create. 

Like supporting arts, sport and culture. Improving services. Investing in existing neighbourhoods as opposed to allowing them to fall into a state of disrepair. 


Now here's the part of the story that really troubles me: our city administration is moving in a direction that is preventing infill development from happening. They don't necessarily realize it. It's not intentional. If you look at the City's Growth Plan, they claim to want to encourage infill development! But the vision hasn't trickled down to influence and change the small decisions made in numerous different departments everyday that can either make or break a development project. 

For example, we recently had the opportunity to create a 4 unit condo project in a core neighbourhood and increase the density of that lot. With very little support or rationale, the City decided we would have to pave 386 feet of the back alley--despite the fact that the city standard for back alleys is gravel and the older neighbourhoods don't seem to suffer for it. That imposed a massive cost on the project and killed it. Instead of working with us to find solutions to add density, the City put up road blocks that ultimately prevented it. I've talked with a number of other developers, including ones working to provide affordable housing in core neighbourhoods. They face the same challenges.


Since 2005, I've seen our project costs related to city infrastructure grow exponentially. Over the course of 4 projects since 2005, we've seen our costs of providing city infrastructure grow from $2,626/condo to $46,000/condo for a project we are currently considering.

At the same time, we've seen programs aimed at encouraging redevelopment (tax breaks, rebates) go from providing $15,584/condo down to zero. Given these rising costs, the prospective project we're looking at is dead in the water. It never even had a chance.

Now I know what you're thinking: why would the city invest $15,584/condo back in 2005? Because they understood that by investing in these projects and encouraging infill development, they could realize a 13% Return On Investment

Strategic infill areas as outlined in City Growth Plan


How do we fix our potholes without raising taxes? It's simple. Change the city's development path and aggressively pursue the low hanging fruit: get construction happening on downtown surface parking lots and level the playing field between suburban and infill development. And then we're poised to reap the financial rewards. 

The City already gets it. Their Growth Plan states that 50% of all growth needs to happen within the core areas inside Circle Drive--a significant shift from the City's current trajectory. Their goals for increasing infill development make it clear they understand what's at stake. Now it's time to change actions, decisions, policies and behaviours in order to realize those goals. 

The City’s Vacant Lot and Adaptive Reuse (VLAR) Program, which we have benefitted from at 228 20th St W and on Mosaic, is exactly the kind of incentive the City can implement to promote infill development. We need to think more in this direction and take cues from other cities across the country who are addressing similar issues in innovative ways.  


Which mayoral candidate is going to boldly move forward and make the decisions, create policy and change behaviour in a way to keep our taxes low and grow our City in a smart, efficient way? So far, our leadership has not successfully shifted the City administration's path when it comes to infill development. I'll be asking questions of all the candidates to see who best understands how infill development can create significant benefits for  all people in Saskatoon.

Why Walkability Matters

Why Walkability Matters

"At Shift Development, you may have heard us say that we only
work on projects that we can walk to. Here’s why such a basic
concept can be so critical when choosing where you want to live."

- Carrie Catherine

It’s summer. And with the exception of long drives out to the lake (for which I am eternally grateful), the car stays in the garage. You see, I’m blessed to live in one of Saskatoon’s few neighbourhoods that is considered “walkable.” 

Walkability is far from a loose concept referring to one’s ability to access a few amenities by foot. Since the 1960s when Jane Jacobs first extolled the virtues of intimate, mixed-use neighbourhoods, walkability has been a measuring stick for urbanists and planners striving to foster communities that are healthy and diverse. At Shift Development, you may have heard us say that we only work on projects that we can walk to. Here’s why such a basic concept can be so critical when choosing where you want to live. 

The following comes directly from the website and app Walk Score, but there are countless other sites and research that determine the walkability of a place based on this criteria:

  • A center: Walkable neighbourhoods have a center, whether it's a main street or a public space.
  • People: Enough people for businesses to flourish and for public transit to run frequently.
  • Mixed income, mixed use: Affordable housing located near businesses.
  • Parks and public space: Plenty of public places to gather and play.
  • Pedestrian design: Buildings are close to the street, parking lots are relegated to the back.
  • Schools and workplaces: Close enough that most residents can walk from their homes.
  • Complete streets: Streets designed for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit. 
Photo by David Stobbe

Photo by David Stobbe

Most of these are features we consider when buying a home. Shift Development has been in a love affair with Riversdale precisely because of the characteristics that make it walkable. It is centred around the bustling activity of 20th Street West, with an abundance of restaurants, hot spots, retail, art galleries and studios. There are people from diverse backgrounds, mixed income and mixed use, narrow streets and an intimate scale that all contribute to its walkability. 

Perched right on the riverbank and in the heart of Riversdale, Element Urban Village is a shining example of how choosing a walkable living space can enhance our overall lifestyles. At a score of 79 (considered very walkable), the location and design of these homes makes it easy to stay active and connected to the people and places of the neighbourhood. Similarly, that lifestyle was forefront in our minds when we created The Shift Home (very walkable at 84), The Two Twenty (a "walker's paradise" at 97), and Mosaic (95). In addition to previous projects, we scored an average of 89.4 on the Walk Score!

Across the street from Element Urban Village. Photo by Matt Braden

Across the street from Element Urban Village. Photo by Matt Braden

Why is this so important to us?

Because we're in agreement with the countless studies by planners, academics and community builders who claim that higher walk scores translate into healthier lives, economic benefits, and sustainable practises. Here's a super brief overview of the benefits they list:


  • Did you know the average resident of a walkable neighborhood weighs 6-10 pounds less than someone who lives in a sprawling neighborhood? (Walk Score)
  • Doctors are “desperate to get the population moving” as a means of addressing North America’s cardiovascular health issues. They connect the simple act of walking as a response, but acknowledge the huge role that neighbourhood design plays in making a simple lifestyle choice more or less available to people. Read more here!
  • Get happy! One of my favourite reads Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design by Charles Montgomery makes a strong connection between walkability and our overall levels of happiness.  He's not the only one


Can walkability actually affect your property values? You bet. Just read the research report that claimed that one point of Walk Score is worth up to $3,000 of value for your property.

Now let’s talk about all the money you’ll save on gas and/or cars. A great example is Element Urban Village, which is so amenable for walking, we think you'll eliminate the burden of owning a second car. So we're creating a car share program to help you do that. 

Did we mention it’s an electric car? Cue the next benefit of walkability…


82% of CO2 emissions are from burning fossil fuels. Your feet are zero-pollution transportation machines.” (Walk Score) Need we say more?

(Above: Inspiring walkable neighbourhoods around the globe)

When you look at the research criteria, you realize that walkability isn’t just about being able to get around on foot. It’s about laying the foundation for a certain kind of lifestyle that is active and connected to the pulse of the neighbourhood. 

I’ve walked from Element Urban Village to the farmer’s market or to 20th Street West countless times. It’s not simply that this commute is more pleasurable on foot. As I take in the meandering South Saskatchewan River, I’m simultaneously transported outside the busy-ness of the city and connected right to the heart of it. I pass neighbours and friends along the way, giving me a feeling of community. I make lifestyle decisions that keep me connected to my natural environment because a breath of fresh air keeps me sane and cool--but like many, I don't always make the time for it if I have to work for it. 

(Above: Park(ing) Day Saskatoon advocates for walkable street design. Photos by René Prefontaine)

At Shift, we're working all the time on increasing Riversdale's walkability scores by advocating for complete streets and better public spaces, such as through events like Park(ing) Day. We are inspired by the likes of Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia who transformed his city with radical changes to enhance walkability, public spaces, and public transportation, and it is his words that we'll leave you with: “God made us walking animals—pedestrians. As a fish needs to swim, a bird to fly, a deer to run, we need to walk, not in order to survive, but to be happy.”


Making the Shift to Renewable Energy

Making the Shift to Renewable Energy

Here at Shift Development, one of our five core values is environmental sustainability. In all our projects and endeavours we strive to foster sustainable lifestyles while minimizing our environmental footprint. In keeping with this idea, we were pursuing the installation of solar panels to offset the energy use in our office with renewable energy. But we ran into a roadblock in financing the project. That is when the SES Solar Co-Operative stepped up and filled the financing gap to help us go ahead with the project.

This is a great story of collaboration which not only helped us further our renewable energy goals, it also gave the SES Solar Co-Operative a platform to complete their very first project! And what better place to do it, on the rooftop of a hub of collaboration, the Two Twenty.

We are very excited to announce the SES Solar Co-Operative have installed 95 solar panels on the Two Twenty. Be sure to take a look for the 5 solar panels which are visible from 20th Street. The other 90 panels are located on the rooftop. Suncatcher Solar completed the installation for the SES Solar Co-Operative. The panels each generate around 300 Watts which gives a total system power of 27 KW. This is enough to power about 1/3 of the electricity usage of the Two Twenty. The system is grid tied and will take advantage of SaskPower’s net metering rebate program. CHECK OUT THE VIEW FROM THE SKY!

We hope that this project will encourage other imaginative and interesting renewable projects in the neighbourhood and the city. What to learn more? Check out these links:


Picture This: A Photo Tour of Urban Living

Picture This: A Photo Tour of Urban Living

When it came time to photograph the show suite of Element Urban Village, we wanted to put our best foot forward. After all, we’re really excited about the design, the feel, and the look of these spaces and wanted to get images that would get you excited too!  Photography of living spaces is an art, but Matt Ramage of Studio D effortlessly captured the warmth of light of each room. 

We're very excited to welcome the first buyers of Element Urban Village into our community. There are still five units left, so book a tour of our show suite here or by calling 306-651-0510. Please note: paddle board sold separately

Show suite staged by Element Urban Village designer Crystal Bueckert in collaboration with Area. Dining room table by local designer/furniture maker James Hopper. The work of local artists Jan Corcoran, Ben Hettinga and Martin Bennett are featured throughout the suite. Paddle board supplied by Escape Sports.

Welcome Home: Show Suite Open

Welcome Home: Show Suite Open

"Now it's up to you to see how all those conversations and decisions that kept us up late at night resulted in a space that works, flows, and just feels right."

- Carrie Catherine

Hire an Artist, Build a Neighbourhood

Hire an Artist, Build a Neighbourhood

"It’s not exactly standard practise for a real estate development company to have an artist residency. But we’re not exactly standard developers."

—Carrie Catherine | Shift Development

There’s a creative new vibe around the Shift office these days. And it’s not just because we’ve moved into a sunny new office on the second floor of The Two Twenty. We’re excited to announce that we have a new Artist in Residence: Kevin Pee-ace.

Laying the Foundation

We came upon Kevin Pee-ace’s work serendipitously. The Saskatchewan Native Theatre Company (now called Gordon Tootoosis Nīkānīwin Theatre) used to own the building that now houses The Two Twenty. When we bought the building, SNTC owned two of Kevin’s works, and we were instant fans. When SNTC decided they had to sell the works, we eagerly jumped at the opportunity. The paintings ended up in our home; and looking at those works has the rare power to uplift me as immediately as music can.

Fast forward to 2015. On a complete whim, I sent Curtis and our two young boys to an art sale at Wanuskewin Heritage Park, where Kevin and other Indigenous artists were selling their work. Curtis and Kevin had a great conversation, and soon Curtis was connecting Kevin with friends and commissioning new work for The Two Twenty, eager to help spread the word about an artist whose work we so admired. Their relationship evolved, and when a studio in the basement of The Two Twenty became available, we offered Kevin the space.

Introducing Kevin Peeace

Kevin was born in Kelvington, SK and is a member of the Yellowquill First Nation. He came to painting by watching his uncle, the well-known visual artist Jerry Whitehead. For years, he watched as a young apprentice, until he finally decided to take up the paintbrush on his own. He trained at a fine arts studio diploma program at UCFV Abbotsford in British Columbia and has explored various programs in art history, archaeology, anthropology and native studies at the University of Saskatchewan. It took awhile for him to develop his signature style—but now his bright canvases and uplifting message can’t be mistaken. 

According to Native Art in Canada, Kevin's current works, often depicting mother and child with floral motifs, emphasize the importance of family, tradition and respect for his culture and heritage: "These paintings are a tribute to my mother, who was my guide, my grandmother for her strength in cultural beliefs, and my children for the inspiration they give me" (Pee-ace).

There's so much more to Kevin's story, including how his residential school experiences impacted his early years. He'll be sharing his story with The Two Twenty community, and we look forward to passing that along to you through our BLOG.  Visit Riversdale Love or The Two Twenty on Facebook for information about upcoming events.

Why an Artist Residency?

It’s not exactly standard practise for a real estate development company to have an artist residency. But we’re not exactly standard developers. We spend a lot of time thinking about the lifestyles we're fostering and the communities we become part of when we undergo a project. From our earliest beginnings, Shift Development has collaborated with artists, musicians, dancers and more, because we know that a building is simply a building. We can create the right conditions for creativity, connection and collaboration--but it's the artists who actually bring people together, animate a space, and tell its stories.

We know this to be true, partly because we are artists and musicians (though with 2 little babes at home, the touring van has been traded in for a Boler). We are also part of a global trend in Creative Placemaking: "an evolving field of practice that intentionally leverages the power of the arts, culture and creativity to serve a community’s interest while driving a broader agenda for change, growth and transformation in a way that also builds character and quality of place" ( We want Riversdale and other neighbourhoods we work in to exude a strong local identity and sense of place because there are artists collaborating and creating there.

When you think about it this way, all real estate developers should have artist residencies.

One of the most interesting residencies I’ve come across is the Neighbourhood Time Exchange curated by Justin Langlois which brings together artists and community to “dream up creative community-led projects for the neighbourhood.” This residency realizes that creative work can foster community-building and tackle urban issues in an interesting way. (Read Riversdale Love’s blog about initiating such a residency in Riversdale.)

Next steps

Riversdale Love is the community development arm of what we do, and its goals revolve around sharing the benefits of revitalization with the broader community. Certainly artists can have a significant role to play in bridging diverse communities, animating underused public spaces, envisioning the future of a neighbourhood, and mentorship. 

Kevin will be involved in Riversdale Love activities, speaking at an upcoming Two Twenty gathering, and participating in events. We look forward to evolving the program organically and helping each other out along the way. In the meantime, we'd also LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU! 

How do you think an artist can contribute to community-building? What kinds of projects would you like to see launched in Riversdale? Submit here. All ideas welcome and will be shared on our Facebook page. Let's start a conversation.

Now Hiring

Now Hiring

Shift Development is hiring! Are you interested in actively building the city you want to live in? Apply within.

To Cool or Not To Cool?

To Cool or Not To Cool?

Hot Topic! Curtis Olson tackles a common question faced by nearly every home owner -and homebuilder- in Saskatchewan: Do we install an air conditioner? His answer might cool this hot-winded debate once and for all.

10 Books I Read While Building Shift Development

10 Books I Read While Building Shift Development

Shift Development founder Curtis Olson highlights 10 books that have had a significant impact on how Shift thinks and behaves as a development company working in the core of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

You Are Where You Eat

You Are Where You Eat

We may not be gastronomes here at Shift Development, but we definitely know what we like. We've stitched together a list of 13 of our favourite spots to eat in Riversdale, and we're sharing them with you. Enjoy!

I Know A Good Room When I Meet One

I Know A Good Room When I Meet One

Music is an important element in any healthy, vibrant community. Village Guitar & Amp is a jewel of Riversdale and a local source for remarkable shows by top musical talent within Canada and abroad. This week, Carrie Catherine takes us inside for a deeper look at what makes the space at Village so special.

Oh, The Places You'll Live

Oh, The Places You'll Live

What elements create a great home? Triple car garages? Dual-sink ensuite bathrooms? Is it access to amenities, or a broader sense of community? Jeff Nattress of Laneway Suites explores these common questions that we all face when moving or building a home.