This morning prairie dog sent its third-string-at-best City Hall reporter to cover an important press conference at the mayor’s office.

I’m afraid that’s me. Hi! Let’s get through this.

The presser was a progress report on Mayor Pat Fiacco’s billion-dollar vision to develop the CP railyards. The mayor announced that plan last month and you can read about it here.

The two big things announced today are the proposed timeline for the development and a new, potentially half-million dollar business unit run out of the city manager’s office.

The development will be “definitely, largely private-sector-driven,” says Fiacco.

“The interest from the private sector side and of course our own residents has been very, very interesting,” says Fiacco. “More importantly, on the private sector side, there’s this overwhelming response from them to be part of the exciting development on 53 acres.

A lot of the reporters at the press conference seemed to think the timeline was aggressive. I have no idea about that, but the plan is to start construction on the new entertainment facility (i.e. stadium) in 2012 with an end date of 2015. Work on the rest of the CP land would start in 2013. Finally, redevelopment of the old Taylor Field site would get going in 2016.

As for the new, two-three staff business unit, city manager Glen Davies says it’s important to this project.

“As the mayor has indicated, there’s a strong desire to engage the private sector at an appropriate juncture in all of this, Davies said. “And the City needs to define its expectations. We have a start on all of that. We have a business unit that’s going to be hitting the road running quickly in terms of the nuts and bolts of putting a project like this together. Work will be done with some of our expert advisers in terms of 3-P Canada overtures [and] financing opportunities.

“Also, our expert advisers can help with the land use planning, which will give the City an opportunity to define what it expects to be developed on those 53 acres.”

“This is large, it’s complex and there are high expectations so in effect what you’re going to be seeing in the report council deals with on Monday is administration’s efforts to start putting some definition around the needs of a project,” Davies said.

I’m sure we’ll have more on all this after Dechene reads through the press release. My what-the-hell-do-I-know, first-glance take is that an office to co-ordinate the development will probably be a good thing if it’s run by capable people and a bad thing if it’s not. We’ll see what happens.

Given the City’s recent WTF firing of a certain highly qualified and intelligent planning staffer, this new office will require scrutiny.