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Historical Perspective – A Long Journey To a Place Call Home

 

As the Juniper Housing Corporation welcomes its first senior residents, an exciting milestone is reached for public community housing and the Riversdale Neighbourhood. The Juniper housing development and construction time frame spanned about four years from inception to completion. However, the seed for development was planted about 45 years ago.

 

In the early 1960’s, the Chinese Community in Saskatoon identified a need for a community center in the Riversdale neighbourhood. After extensive consultations, three plots of land were purchased in 1964 at the north east corner of Avenue F and 19th Street. The Certificate of Title indicated the land was registered to Mr Charlie Mack, Tom Gee and Hong Wong. These community leaders represented the interest of the community at large and the land purchase would be the impetus for a community center. Prior to the purchase, the three plots of land and house had a number of owners including Mr. Stanley Whitfield, who was a CP Railway employee and owned the land and house from 1946 to 1963.

 

The three plots of land were subsequently transferred to the Saskatoon Chinese School. Numerous discussions were held regarding the development of an art and language school to serve the community. However, no development took place. The original Whitfield house was demolished due to deteriorating condition and the land was then transferred to the Saskatoon Chinese Benevolent Association (SCBA) who assumed the responsibility for maintenance and upkeep of the property. A 1992 land title certificate showed Mr. Guy Mak as the representative for the SCBA.

 

In the early 1980’s, the need for a cultural center was revisited. The interest for a cultural center was highlighted by the demand for Chinese language training and events such as Folkfest. A new non-profit organization called the Saskatoon Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC) Inc. was formed to advance the cultural center concept. In 1986 and with funds raised by the local community, the SCCC purchased two additional plots of land adjacent to the land owned by the SCBA. Concept drawings and draft proposals for a cultural center incorporating the five plots of land were prepared for community input. Due to anticipated large capital expenditure, the cultural center development did not materialize. There were many other twists and turns in the history of the five plots of land but the land remained vacant for over 45 years. However, a portion of the land was temporarily donated to the City for use as a community garden.

 

In 2004, the idea of an affordable housing development was initiated. After an initial market survey in 2005, it was determined that an affordable housing development would serve the needs of the community and the best long term use of the vacant land. Subsequent to community consultation, the Board of Directors for both the SCBA and the SCCC agreed to donate their land holdings to the newly formed Juniper Housing Corporation. All the land was then consolidated and turned over to Juniper Housing Corporation in 2006 for affordable housing development.

 

The opening of Juniper Housing is a remarkable achievement considering the numerous obstacles encountered over the course of the site’s history. The housing project can be traced back to the vision and hard work of many community leaders, volunteers and fund raising activities. Although early pioneers such as Charlie, Tom, Hong and Guy have all passed away, their efforts along with many other volunteers have not been wasted. The current housing development will not only benefit low income seniors but also newly arrived immigrants who may need temporary housing to start a new beginning in Saskatoon.

 

 

By Garry Mak