Saturday, February 18, 2006

This town is more alive than people realize. This afternoon, after attending an exciting community consultation meeting with the Bridgman Collaborative, the architectual group heading up the Barber House project, my wife and I drove to the Library via the West End, to finally get to the Ellice Cafe at Ellice and Sherbrooke. A lunch rush was just winding down as we walked in at 3:30. Our server, a friend of ours, told us they had been busy all day. This was a Saturday in the middle of a brutal cold snap. We took the corner booth and watched the foot traffic flow on Ellice. Buses would stop at the corner and drop off handfuls of people of all different races and somewhat varying economic groups... This wasn’t exactly the dangerous core of a dead city we always hear about.

Yesterday morning, I had a breakfast meeting at Connie’s Corner Cafe on Main and Selkirk. With the wind-chill, it was a brisk -44C. Yet ten minutes after opening, the place was hopping with regular old timers and construction workers, as someone got the jukebox going with early Cash and Metis country-rock tunes.

The day before that, I walked from my house down through the Exchange District, Graham Ave and West Broadway to my church in Wolseley... It was -30C with the wind-chill that day, but people were on the streets: well-dressed men in suits (a rarity in this golf-shirt city) going up and down Albert Street, transit riders going about their business on Graham Avenue, student hipsters walking home from the U of W through West Broadway, and cyclists riding everywhere...

It is a reminder that urbanity still survives in the centre of Winnipeg in the face of wholesale opposition by traffic engineers, sprawl developers, politicians, the media, fairweather cheerleaders on internet forums, and yes, even the bitingly cold winds.

As William H. Whyte said of Winnipeg pedestrians in his book City, they “are a hardy lot". It is not at all comfortable on winter days like these, but it still works. Seeing all kinds of people on the streets through this cold snap, demonstrates that this city of ours can operate today in the same basic arrangement of urban life that made Winnipeg great in it's first 80-90 years. Downtown streets, storefront commerce, and neighborhood corner stores are not things that need to be discarded simply because our winters are cold.

Just dress in layers and keep on moving.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice picture...
this weekend, i'm building an igloo, then sleeping in it - i'll keep you updated on how thigs turn out(i heard your not suppost to drink very much water bdfore bedtime)


8:08 AM  

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