Tuesday, January 25, 2005


Of all the surface parking lots that litter downtown Winnipeg, none are as obviously gaping and vulgar as the lot next to the TD Centre on Main Street. Very close to the spot where Henry McKenney built the first store at the corner of Portage and Main Street 143 years ago, this parking lot replaced the very fine McIntyre block some 20-25 years ago.

When it appears that, for over two decades, the best use of prime real estate smack in the heart of the city is an impark lot, you can imagine how much psychological damage it inflicts. It tells us that Winnipeg is an economic no-fly zone. It tells us that a couple dozen parking spots and cheesy billboard ads are all our once proud and bustling banker’s row is now good for. It spells out civic and economic failure.

The reality is that because this blight on the heart of downtown serves as an “accessory” parking lot for the TD Centre, it earns them a provincial tax credit; a tax credit they would not have if the property still contained the McIntyre block, or a newer building.

Hmm, could policies like this have anything to do with a geographically spread-thin downtown suffering from decades of stagnant growth?

td parking lot

td parking 2

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Yesterday the city’s Executive Policy Committee approved the Waverly West development, which will be built on a patch of farmland southwest of the city. No surprise there, despite the fact that nothing is yet known about the project. No one knows the population densities, the pace of development, where the schools and roads will go and who will pay for them, what part of River Heights will have a “freeway” cut through it, or how much money the City stands to gain. Nobody knows that. Nothing. That doesn’t matter.

It is surprising to see such reckless abandon coming from a government that rejected such investments as a rapid transit corridor because it was not a sound plan. Surprising to see such a quick and dramatic response to the “housing crunch” when so far only token gestures and smiles for the cameras have been given to the demand for downtown living. This is not only an acceptance of a nonplan, but it is a rejection of an actual plan: Plan Winnipeg.

This contoversial approval of the controversial suburb can be seen on page B1 in today’s controversial Free Press, written by the controversial, Thesaurus-deprived Mary Agnes Welch. Since no specifics of the suburb are known, none were provided. However some lovely platitudes of dense, walkable Waverly West neighbourhoods were given, perhaps in hopes of silencing Waverly West’s critics.

Of course everyone would like to have a cute neighbourhood where you could walk to get somewhere, rather than nowhere, where you can buy a litre of milk without having to drive, and where you meander along storefronts and busy sidewalk cafes. Who wouldn't want that? In theory, no one. In practise, apparently, everyone.

I found what I believe to be a sneak peak into Waverly West on the bottom of page A6 of today’s paper, a small article entitled “Condo plan rejected in new flip-flop”.

“Mayor Sam Katz and his cabinet (EPC) rejected plans for a controversial (there’s that word again!) condo project in Linden Woods yesterday, the latest in a series of flip-flops (a term that should be banished from the english language)... Residents said they were promised a school on the site, or at least single-family homes. The proposed duplexes and bungalows are too dense for the neighbourhood, they said. City planners recommended the project go ahead, but a committee of local councillors rejected plans to rezone the land after public outcry...”

That is the future of Waverly West. It is developers who do not build the services they promise, a City Hall with no planning capabilites or backbone, another tract of land underuse, and it is a population plagued by proufound cases of agoraphobia and xenophobia.

The real kicker will come when interest rates shoot up (nevermind gas prices,) and the only people buying homes in a bland suburb so far southwest of anything will be landlords looking to divide up giant dream homes for revenue property.