Sunday, September 11, 2005

Bird's Eye View of Winnipeg, 2004

No, this is not a view of an American Sun Belt or Midwestern city circa 1975, this is Downtown Winnipeg, 2004.

In this photo, we can see the sparse patchwork of Modernist highrise blocks from the "New Downtown" of Earl Levin, which replaced a dense, leafy neighborhood of rowhouses. We see a "Transit Mall" ironically lined with parking lots. We see the eviscarated Eastern portion of the Exchange District that serves the single use of auto storage for baseball fans (though some small portion of it's holes are presently being filled by condo projects). We see a block of Main Street looking like it would have some 150 years ago; lined with dirt and weeds. We see a city that sucessfully solved its "parking problem", and was left with a host of bigger problems as a result.

To fill these holes, there may not be many companies who are itching to relocate to Winnipeg and build a new office tower, as many would hope. But there are certainly many citizens of Winnipeg who see what the upcoming energy crisis means, or perhaps have simply had enough of all the boring, poorly built, car-dependant apartment ghettos scattered throughout the suburbs. Downtown Winnipeg could be the place they are looking for. Imagine each of these gaping holes filled with 5-7 storey mixed-use condos and rental units.

Unfortunately, it is much more of a challenge to plan for change and renewal, than it is to simply cut taxes, and then do nothing but wait for some magical company to move in. Until the new, "business-friendly" City Hall wakes up to this reality and begins working hard at change and renewal, we can look forward to more decades of Downtown's current, tired pattern: A few demolitions here, a big-ticket project there, a new business on Portage Avenue one month, a new "for lease" sign the next, and the demand for parking growing greater every year.

PS- I am going to soon begin focusing more on good things that are happening, I promise!