Thursday, March 27, 2008

This is too easy

The gentle and benevolent French Metis fur trader Kevin Lamoureux, stands beside the evil and colonizing Anglo-Saxon HBC comptroller Jon Gerrard, united in the quest to "preserve" the fort that was lost 125 years ago. ('story' here)

The sheer magic-marker cheapness of the signs, I imagine, is for grassroots cred.

Perhaps unbeknown to these two olden time gentleman, is that they were standing close to the arched entrance way of Union Station, which--whether it was the intention of the architects or not--bears some resemblance to the primitive archway of Upper Fort Garry's north gate.

But like the Fort Garry Hotel (1913), Union Station was built in an age when it was still believed that we honor the past by building greater and greater. We do more than be born at Upper Fort Garry; we grow up around it.

Today of course, we seem incapable of paying tribute to the efforts of pioneers by building better. Were Union Station, the Fort Garry Hotel, or the Manitoba Club's house built today, one could be sure that opposing them would be the cause celebre, and that politicians would bedeck themselves in silly costumes, protesting their construction.

Construction site of Fort Garry Hotel, 1913, mere feet from the city's birthplace which it would cast an affronting shadow upon

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Civilization's progress, 1909 - 2008

The St. Charles Motel--now with 30% more CGA people out front!

Two months ago Ken Zaifman, owner of the St. Charles Hotel, hired architect Sasa Radulovic to come up with a conceptual drawing of the drive way from Albert Street he simply must have. Here is what he came up with:

Promptly sent back to the drawing board, Mr. Zaifman came back to City Hall with this rendering yesterday:

Less green myst is a nice change, more people (preferably non-translucent people) on the street is nice, and who can argue with photos of old buildings that replace actual old buildings, but no mater how this plan is presented to City Hall and the public, it is essentially unchanged from a year and a half ago: simply a plan to demolish buildings for a driveway.

The threatened building, the Albert Street Business Block, perhaps owes its present existence to Daren Jorgenson. While Mr. Jorgenson has been unsuccessful in his continuous attempts to purchase the ASBB, he has succeeded in proving that 'Peggers can again be choosers when it comes to downtown development. No more should the City fear telling a developer "play by the rules or take a hike," because there's better developers out there.

The Exchange District BIZ and CentreVenture may have bought into this antiquated and fearful notion that downtown will fall apart if any short-sighted developer is allowed to do whatever he wants in the city's most historically intact, distinctive and renowned neighborhood.

But the Standing Committee on Planning Property & Development isn't buying it--for now at least.

Here is part of Mr. Jorgenson's letter submitted to members of that committee yeterday:

"In an attempt to help Ken Zaifman get the increased surfacing parking he states he requires for his project to move ahead I have offered to "swap" our back parking lot at the Royal Albert Arms Hotel for the Albert Street Business Block. This plan would actually give him MORE parking than the plan he is presenting to you today because the space where he now proposes to build the "interpretive centre" would not be used as parking.

This property is a classic example of Demolition By Neglect and your Committee must not reward it's owner for his actions. Globe agencies has:
1 - refused to sell the property
2 - neglected to maintain the property
3 - shown no interest in developing the property
* 4 - and now fourthly has refused a swap of adjacent land to meet their stated objective of increasing the parking capacity.

I remind you which company originally brought this demolition of the ASBB to the city in the 90's - IMPARK.

Keep Winnipeg's Nationally designated Historical Heritage Exchange District "HISTORICAL." It is not just the right thing to do but also the smart business move for the area in general. If we hold strong on the heritage aspect of the Exchange District just imagine what this area will look like in 10 years as new investment continues to pour in and build upon the status of the area. We are blessed in Winnipeg to have such an area and we must not cast away the opportunities it affords us.

I took over ownership of the Royal Albert Arms Hotel March 1, 2008 and just wait to see how we incorporate the heritage of this hotel into our business plan. There is no reason why Ken cannot do the same and the both of us can enjoy such success."

Clear-cutting a streetscape

This article appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press today:

A drawing was released this month of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's future offices at Logan Avenue and Main Street, which is part of Centre Venture Development Corporation's "cluster developments" for downtown. A 200-car parkade will adjoin the building, and up the street close to Higgins Avenue, a new surface lot will join the cluster of parking spots.

Reviews of the design for the WRHA building from local architecture critics have so far ranged from bad ("pretty poor -- standard office park architecture"), to very bad ("an affront to Inkster Industrial Park, never mind the most historic street in Western Canada").

But the tragedy is not only what the fabled Main Street strip -- which even in 1892 was called "Winnipeg's Bowery"-- will be stuck with, but what it will lose.

The Starland Theatre, a former vaudeville house built in 1909, and the Epic Theatre, a Grade 2 heritage structure which was one of Canada's first movie theatres -- once two of five theatres at Logan and Main. Then there is the Jack's Place building at 652 Main (1912), and the Weir Hardware building up the street at 666 Main (1899). To allow for demolition, the Starland and Jack's were removed from the Historical Buildings Inventory by the city's heritage buildings committee on March 20. The fate of the Epic and Weir's, meanwhile, will be decided at a later date.

For such a feat of perfidy and hypocrisy, the heritage buildings committee should congratulate themselves: Three historical buildings being approved for demolition in a single day probably hasn't happened since the 1970s.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Editions, etc.

I corrected facts in my last post to reflect what is going on regarding the Albert Street Business Block, and Ken Zaifman's--who wants to demolish it--appearance at City Hall this morning.

While Forks North Portage Partnership and the Winnipeg Parking Authority are apparently behind the demolition of the Grain Exchange Annex, the Winnipeg Sun reports today that Mr. Zaifman claims to have the support of the Exchange District BIZ. I wonder: would a new parking lot be featured in their Summertime historical walking tours?

Less surprising is Mr. Zaifman's support from Centre Venture. After all, it was a staff person at Centre Venture who told the new owner of the Royal Albert Hotel, an outspoken opponant to the demolition of the Business Block, that he should be more of "team player" with regards to the St. Charles Hotel development, and even offered him the possibility of more funding for the Royal Albert if he does so.

Certainly, these publicly funded agencies know much about how to improve business conditions in a historical neighborhood...

Monday, March 24, 2008

When it rains...

Tomorrow morning, Ken Zaifman will be at City Hall, to try and convince the Standing Committee on Property Planning and Development (Mayor Katz, Councillors Swandel, Fielding, Vandal, and Wyatt) to de-list the Albert Street Business Block. This is the second time this year that Mr. Zaifman will have appeared at City Hall, to try and convince Councillors that. It seems that since his last visit his January, he hasn't come up with anything new to sell his idea--just the same architectural drawing and extortion-like threats about how he'll turn the St. Charles into a fleabag SRO hotel again, filling up Albert Street with hoards of drunken panhandlers.

Also on the agenda tomorrow is an appeal by architect Ray Wan to downgrade the heritage designation of the Grain Exchange Annex at 153 Lombard (ultimately to demolish it for a parkade).

In regards to the Grain Exchange Annex, a man on the inside writes of the impressively elaborate scheme to demolish the Grain Exchange Annex: "[I]t appears they first thought they had to change the main Grain Exchange building from a Grade 2 to 3 to allow the Annex to be demolished, but were advised to get the Annex listed separately instead. Unfortunately, if it is listed as a Grade 3 as the summary report indicates, it can be demolished 'if the owners prove that it is necessary.'"

One troubling aspect of this is what a Mr. Sid Storey wrote to the City Clerk's office, found on page nine of the agenda:
"The owners of the Grain Exchange buildings have been encouraged by both the Winnipeg Parking Authority and the Forks North Portage Partnership to construct a parking structure to meet the demands on downtown parking created by the growth of Waterfront Drive and the pending Canadian Humanities Museum. The structure, if constructed on the site of the Annex, could access the skywalk system through the Grain Exchange Building."

If the WPA and FNPP really are encouraging this, it would show that the threat to Winnipeg's historic neighborhoods (starting of course with the smaller, 'less significant' buildings) is not ongoing just because of a few lone, backward-thinking property owners, but because of public agencies and sometimes, City Hall. This is obvious with Centre Venture's plan for North Main, and in the City's Heritage Building's Committee's removal of two North Main buildings from the Historical Buildings Index last week. Not even the centre of the Exchange District is safe.

One must always remember that the Exchange District (or other historical neighborhoods like North Main) are not defined by their best, most ornate, most 'significant' heritage buildings, but by the integrity of their streetscapes. The whole will always be greater than the sum of its parts, and the integrity and viability of the whole will always suffer if lesser parts are taken away--particularly for the purpose of erecting a parking structure to serve condos that already have sufficient on-site parking, and a "Canadian Humanities Museum" that will be a ten-minute walk away.

Once these small, inconspicuous buildings are gone, other buildings will surely take their place as those deemed small, insignificant and expendable.

Friday, March 21, 2008

We can do better if we want to

The nature of large publicly-driven urban revitalization schemes in poor cities, is to make the project take up as much room, and take out as much blight as possible. Thus, 200 office workers and their parking spots take up an entire city block where a dozen buildings and a score of different uses once were.

But somewhere between the 1970s and today, other cities began to learn how to re-build streets in ways that doesn't destroy them further. Jeff Daniels aptly said on Leno recently that Winnipeg is "like Buffalo [New York], but with communists." In Buffalo, our less collectivist American counterpart, they've shown how beleaguered districts can be brought back to life within the context of that district's scale and architectural traditions.



The question is, does anyone have the will to do this on North Main Street?


When I submitted this article to the Uniter last week, I had no idea how timely it would be. I was only writing on what I hope will one day take the form of a book: the colorful story of Main Street.

Looking north from the NE corner of Main and Henry Avenue, 1899

May Day parade at Higgins and Main, c.1915. The Dominion Bank, which is now home to the Bridgman Architecture firm, is on the left

the east side of Main between Henry and Logan Avenues, c.1918

Crossing the street at Main and Higgins, c.1935

Soldiers on Austin Street near Higgins, c.1945. Part of the Royal Alexandra and Mount Royal Hotels can be seen in the background

Looking north from Rupert Street, 1962

Please visit this North Main Walking Tour, which can be downloaded in .pdf format.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

One cannot care for streets they've never walked on, pt.II

The most unfortunate thing to happen to publicly-paid men and women in the Downtown Revitalization industry (who invariably live in the suburbs) is that people began to live in the parts of town they felt they knew what's best for, confounding their percieved wisdom.

The reason so few people are indifferent to demolition of heritage buildings on North Main is because so few people (under the age of, say, 65) have any memory of North Main. Few have ever set foot on the corner of Logan and Main in their life. Thus, the neighborhood is deemed expendable, even to citizens and public servants who take great efforts to rally around threatened buildings in better loved districts: The Ryan block at King Street and Bannatyne; the Albert Street business block; the Church of Christian Science on River Avenue near Osborne; etc.

This is beginning to change, and opposition to lame-brained, certifiably doomed urban renewal-like tactics like Centre Venture's North Main plan, is growing as vocal residents move in. Defence of the integrity of neighborhoods like North Main is expected to grow (provided there will continue to be buildings for people to move into).

Case in point, one young woman who lives on North Main (who was featured on CBC Manitoba today), posted an exerpt of a letter to Centre Venture on the Save Heritage Buildings From Demolition by Neglect Facebook group:

"As a resident of Main Street I have seen the area undergo a promising transformation in recent years. The Artist’s Edge Gallery and lofts, the MAWA office, the Neon Factory, and new developments at the former Occidental Hotel have brought new people and new energy into our neighborhood. The artists that have begun to call Main Street their home are attracted to the street’s history and its beautiful old buildings. Main Street has problems – but it also has character. By ignoring the area’s natural strengths, CentreVenture’s latest plans threaten its potential.

"Although I welcome new development on Main Street I do not think that demolishing heritage buildings is the correct way to proceed. With so many vacant lots available in this area, why is there a need to tear down the remaining historic buildings on Main Street? These buildings should be restored not destroyed.

"CentreVenture has an opportunity to help create a vibrant neighborhood for artists that want to live and work on Main Street. Small-scale development and the preservation of older buildings will encourage this growth – just as it has in the Exchange District. Large-scale demolition and suburban-style office buildings are a wrong-headed approach to revitalization for our neighborhood.

"I hope that CentreVenture will re-think its plans for the Starland Theatre and develop a plan that embraces the wonderful historic buildings of Main Street."

A new cafe occuppies a refurbished Occidental Hotel, Logan and Main, February, 2008. Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

One cannot care for streets they've never walked on

Today, a new design for WRHA's new office and parkade at Main and Logan was unveiled that has done what was thought to be impossible: be more visually deficient than the original conceptual drawing. The architect, Stantec, appeared to have drawn inspiration from their surroundings on south Waverley Street. The construction firm is, unsurprisingly, the go-to doofuses for all public megaprojects, ManShield Construction.

Word is, one or more of the proposals submitted to Centre Venture would have incorporated the facades of the Starland and Regent Theatre into their designs.

Instead we will suffer this hulking mass, a Stalinist-inspired Noah's Ark, coming to land upon Winnipeg's most fabled street.


“In the imagination Main Street is invincible...”
-Jack Ludwig, ‘You Always Go Home Again’

In a publication from 1892, the length of Main Street that ran from City Hall to the Canadian Pacific Railway mainline was described as “Winnipeg's Bowery," a nod to that lower Manhattan street, which for more than century was notorious for it’s flophouses, bars, and cheap movie houses.

At the dawn of Winnipeg’s history as an incorporated city, it could have been reasonably assumed that Main Street would continue to be city’s pre-eminent thoroughfare. But with the development of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s vast land reserves south of Notre Dame in the 1880s, and the opening of Eaton’s department store at Portage and Donald in 1904, the pattern of growth took a decidedly different direction--south and westward.

New tree-lined neighborhoods built along Broadway and across the Assiniboine River began to draw the moneyed classes. The building boom that saw gleaming banks and office towers sprout up around Portage and Main, never extended north of City Hall, and North Main became home to thousands of newly-arrived immigrants from Eastern Europe: Jews, Scandinavians, Chinese, Ukrainians.

And while promise of prominence on North Main disappeared, the six short blocks between City Hall and the mainline--flanked by Market Square and Chinatown on the west, the sagging rooming houses that were once the proud homes of Jewish merchant princes on the east--developed into Winnipeg’s acme of cosmopolitanism and urbanity, the most colorful and fascinating neighborhood in the city.

In his memoirs Joseph Wilder recalled the Main Street of the 1900s and ‘10s: a worldly and exciting place of penny peep shows, drunks, haggling grocers, hustling young dandies. An organ grinder with a dancing monkey; a panhandler at Higgins and Main with a cup in his hand and a parrot on his shoulder.

By the 1940s, crime, gangs and homelessness were present on an ageing North Main, but the sidewalks bustled among chop suey houses, Jewish delis, clothing stores, watch repairs, and fortune tellers. Hundreds of residents lived in mixed-use buildings--apartments above stores--on Main and the streets of Chinatown. At night, the neon signs of cafes and bars lit up the street, setting the dirty snowy sidewalks aglow.

Market Square--behind City Hall where the Public Safety Building stands today--became known more as a venue of socialist rallies and soapbox preachers than for its selection of farmer’s produce. At the head of the district, looking down upon Main Street from the corner of Higgins, the grand old Royal Alexandra continued to serve as a centre of the city's social establishment.

In his novel ‘Above Ground’, Winnipeg author Jack Ludwig told of the lasting impression the vulgar, subversive, and brutal side of Market Square left on a young North End boy:

“There I saw a husband swear at his wife.
There I saw a communist blame the Depression on the bosses...
There I saw a drunk try to stop an oncoming police van with an arc of urine. A policeman swung his night-stick.”

Today, of course, that colorful North Main has disappeared. The streetscape of North Main became a gap-toothed collection of fading vestiges. Many buildings were lost to what has recently been termed demolition by neglect, but scores of other perfectly good buildings were demolished for megaprojects: the Civic Centre and Disraeli Freeway of the 1960s, the Neeginan development of the 1990s.

Modernist planning, looming over the city after World War II, sought an end to the messy, dense, and human-scaled nature of North Main. In its aftermath, poverty came to dominate the neighborhood, and commerce left almost entirely. A residential population barely exists in what was once a densely-populated quarter.

In the last couple of years, however, North Main has probably experienced more positive developments than it has in more than half a century. New property owners are refurbishing faded buildings, and a few small businesses have moved in. The Occidental Hotel, a 124 year-old hostelry at Main and Logan, which not long ago was the most notorious hotel on Main Street, has transformed into a well-kept SRO hotel, with a multi-use venue, bike repair shop, and a newly-opened restaurant downstairs.

Jane Jacobs famously wrote, "cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them." This is true on North Main, where the small size, relative plainness, and rock-bottom rents are precisely what now makes North Main perhaps better suited as an incubator of small-scale commercial enterprises than the tonier Exchange District to the south.

North Main could become new by looking to its past. Change is occurring not in its cheap “greenspaces” or at a megalithic Civic Centre, but in small, old commercial buildings where a bank has become an architecture firm; a greasy spoon has become a sushi bar; a butcher shop has become an art gallery; upstairs, affordable apartments are affordable apartments once again.

Monday, March 10, 2008


In my article 'Waverly West revealed', which appeared in the The Uniter, I did not use the contemporary spelling of Waverley Street, but spelled it how it was originally--'Waverly' without the second 'e'--which you can see in this map of Winnipeg from 1915, when Waverly was but another street lined with American Elm saplings in the growing River Heights neighborhood. I mistakingly thought that it was still spelled as 'Waverly'.


In an earlier post on Upper Fort Garry, I speculated that there would need to be some kind of parking facility in the form of a surface lot on the land that the apartment is set to go. Looking at the Friends of Upper Fort Garry's own (vague) plans for the site, one can see a parking lot to the north of their interperative centre, where the Grain Exchange Curling Club is today. Architectural renderings typically downplay surface parking lots, so one can be sure that it would end up being more large and dominating than what's shown.

Parking for the apartment building, meanwhile, would be hidden underground.

Funny, I thought that more surface parking lots downtown (at historically important locations, no less) were seen as something to be discouraged...

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Another long post on Upper Fort Garry

Comments Closed was bang on when it waded into the Upper Fort Garry discussion.

"We have a Fort Garry that is a "world-class tourist" destination. Its on the highway to Selkirk. The only people who go there are school kids on field trips. Its really cool though. And its a nice nod to our history and heritage. So, why are we talking about replicating it in the middle of what should be a modern centre of commerce?"

Indeed, were the kind of attitude that favors a parking lot over an apartment building governing the decisions of Winnipeg's ruling elite 127 years ago, the CPR would have been routed to Selkirk, and a thriving major Canadian city would stand where Lower Fort Garry is today. Winnipeg would end up being a small city with an intact fur trading fort to the south of it. Would that have been better?

(For more UFG commentary, please see: Policy Flog, the Free Press'Sausage Factory, The British North America blog, the The Great Canadian Talk Show, or this little blog called The Black Rod.)

Anyway, here is something that should hopefully appear in this week's edition of The Uniter:

Around the time that the City approved Crystal Development’s proposed 15 storey apartment building near the site of Upper Fort Garry, the campaign to develop a heritage park at the Fort’s site by a group called the Friends of Upper Fort Garry--a cabal of Winnipeg’s brahmin elite--began. The land that Crystal had won for the apartment wasn’t part of the Fort’s site, but was wanted by the Friends so they could construct an interpretative centre and parking lot there.

Given the clout that the Friends wield, it’s unsurprising that the local media sides with them on this issue. What is surprising is how the public has been so misled. There seems to be four key facts of the Upper Fort Garry development have all but disappeared from the debate. Ignoring these facts has no doubt helped the Friends in leveraging millions in private donations, and in making anyone who believes that a park and an apartment can share the same block out to be a cold-hearted philistine.

Half of the Fort’s footprint is under Main Street anyway
When Upper Fort Garry was demolished in 1882, the City of Winnipeg took the opportunity to straighten Main Street, which had up until then bended around the fort to the east. This rerouting covered over where the eastern portion of the Fort stood.

None of the Fort’s footprint was sold to developers
The land in dispute is immediately west of the Fort’s site, at the corner of Assiniboine and Fort Street, and does not include any land where the Fort stood. Archaeological digs recently completed here found nothing of historical significance. The land where the Fort stood (the part not below Main) is not going to be anything but a public park. The City’s Downtown Development Committee gave permission to the Friends of Upper Fort Garry to develop a heritage-themed park within this land in May 2007.

The cause of the Friends does not seem as noble as they make it out to be, since the preservation of the Fort site is ensured already, and they have already won the right to the develop it into a park. Their fight is not to preserve the site of Upper Fort Garry from an apartment, but to get free land in which to build an interpretative centre and parking lot.

The gate is not being demolished
No plan threatens the stone gate of Upper Fort Garry. This gate is not only the last remnant of Upper Fort Garry, but of any of the five forts that once stood in modern-day downtown Winnipeg. It is the oldest structure downtown, and the only remaining physical link to the city’s fur-trading past. It also happens to be a feature in the City of Winnipeg’s coat of arms, and of itself is a stunning, beautifully primitive structure. It is not going to be demolished, and it should not be.

There’s this little thing called Contract Law...
When the Downtown Development Committee gave the Friends until March 31st to raise the necessary funds to acquire the land next to the Fort, it pre-empted the Purchase of Sale Agreement made between Crystal Developers and the City in October 2007. However, with the growing public interest and historical significance of the Fort, Crystal decided to agree with giving the Friends this window of opportunity to raise funds. But in a letter presented to the Downtown Development Committee earlier this month, Crystal stated it is not willing to negotiate further.

Were the City to back down on this binding agreement, such as to extend the Friend’s fundraising deadline beyond March 31st, as Councillor Dan Vandal has raised a motion to do, it would “contravene basic principles of contract law,” Crystal said, adding that they are “not prepared to stand aside and agree to any further changes or to be deprived of its legal entitlements...”

Anyway, on Wednesday, the City’s Executive Policy Committee will vote on Vandal’s motion. I’m confident the outcome will favor the realities of contract law.

For years, it was OK for this immensely historic site to decline and be ignored: for litter to blow around the Fort gate; for the land around it to flood each spring because of poor drainage; for the historical plaques, the grounds, the gate itself, to dilapidate--all within mere feet from a gas station's unsightly garbage bins. This occurred over time, to the shame of the City, and incidentally right under the noses of many members of the Friends of Upper Fort Garry who are long-standing members of the Manitoba Club next door.

Why the Friends and their allies suddenly care so much for Upper Fort Garry is an enigma, but I would guess it has less to do with a genuine love of heritage, and more to do with a jealous and antiquated fear of change, particularly toward enterprising outsiders like Crystal Developers, who encroach upon the Friend’s little fiefdom called Winnipeg.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

...and knowing is half the battle

Here is an overlay of the Upper Fort Garry site that was presented to the Downtown Development Committee yesterday by Friessen Tokar Architects. The fort's footprint and the major structures within its walls, are outlined in yellow. The footprint of the proposed apartment to be built by Heritage Landing Inc. is shown at the corner of Assiniboine and Fort Street. (click to enlarge)

This shows that about one half of the fort's site is where Main Street and Assiniboine Avenue run today. No word on whether the Friend of Upper Fort Garry plan on petitioning the City to re-route these streets for the sake of the hearts and minds of future generations...

It also shows, of course, that THE APARTMENT WOULD NOT STAND ON ANY PART OF THE FORT'S FORMER SITE. It is possible that different uses can occupy one city block. The Manitoba Club, and a Petro Canada station are on this block--mere feet from the Fort's north gate. An apartment building can be built alongside the former fort without disrupting the "sanctity" of the site any more than an interperative centre and a parking lot would.

Waverly West revealed

One paragraph in in a story by Mary Agnes Welch of the Free Press, "Schreyer delivers geothermal blast", caught my attention. It read:

"The province, which owns the northern half of Waverley West, calmed fears it was promoting urban sprawl by promising to make the suburb natural gas-free."

Urban sprawl is urban sprawl. The first half of Waverly West could have been built to be a solar-powered re-creation of Brooklyn Heights and it would still be sprawl. It would still be of tremendous cost to an already thinly-populated city in the way of new services (roads, sewers, high schools, transit, etc.) and would still greatly outpace the city's population growth.

Anyway, I wrote an article about Waverly West being just another suburb, which appeared in The Uniter today:

"The news that the first houses built in Waverly West will end up not having geothermal heat came as a surprise to no one this week. With construction set to go ahead this summer, it is clear that the giant government-led subdivision, once hailed as Winnipeg’s “suburb of tomorrow,” is shaping up to be just another Linden Woods.

Geothermal heating in every house was the last of three big promises for Waverly West that the provincial NDP government touted relentlessly over the last four years. One by one, these have been revealed for what they probably were all along: hollow gambits used to placate Winnipeggers and get this massive suburb built as quickly and controversy-free as possible..." (more)

I should point out that in the three years this blog has published, I, along with any critic with an ounce of integrity, have never doubted that Waverly West was anything more than government-led urban sprawl that will end up looking like any other cheapo suburb slapped together by a private development corporation (who operate without the benefit of City and Provincial planners--go figure). Our "fears" were never "calmed", and as it turns out, we were right all along.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Assembly line-free Upper Fort Garry news

This was shared by one insider who was at the Downtown Development Committee meeting yesterday, who posted this info on a local web forum:

"It [the Downtown Development Committee meeting] was at 1:30 today. Dan Vandal made a grandstanding plea to the committee that the entire Expression of Interest process was poor and that this should go to public consultation and be redone properly. Friesen Tokar [Archiects] made presentation and stated that the Land Purchase Agreement was in legal hands, and no longer up to Council and that the land is not part of the Upper Fort Garry site. The President of the Friends then said they needed more time[,] and the lands, although not on the Fort, are a designated historical site. This statement is actually false ... the archeological dig showed nothing of value, and the site adjacent to the Fort has no historic designation.

"Committee voted on the motion to extend time to the Friends. In favor: Gebasi/Wyatt. Opposed: Steeves/Swandal ... motion defeated. It goes forward to EPC without recommendation, the friends don't have more time.

"Sinclair was there but arrived after all of the delegations spoke, so he still will not report that the lands are not part of the Fort site. CJOB, CTV and CBC were there. CBC didn't report anything, CTV dinner news stated more misleading information, that if the developer builds on the site, it would not allow an interpretive Centre."

Monday, March 03, 2008

City, meet lawsuit; Friends, meet real world

Given the positively shameless misinformation that has recently passed as news coverage on the Upper Fort Garry issue, I felt it was appropriate to transcribe in full the Executive Summary of Heritage Landing's submission to the Downtown Development Committee, which they will make tomorrow, March 4, 1:30 P.M. West Committee Room, City Hall.

This Summary can be viewed in .pdf format here
Executive Summary

Submission by Heritage Landing Inc.
100 Main Street, Winnipeg
March 4, 2008

To: Standing Policy Committee on Downtown Development ("Committee")

Re: Purchase and Sale Agreement - Heritage Landing Inc. and the City of Winnipeg

1. Heritage Landing Inc. (part of the Crystal Developers Ltd. family of companies) ("Heritage") and the City have entered into a binding Agreement of Purchase and Sale dated October 2, 2007 for the purchase and sale of Parcel A as depicted on the attached diagram. [See below]

2. The new eastern boundary of Parcel A is set back from the western wall and bastion of Upper Fort Garry in order to meet the requirements of Manitoba Heritage Resources. Parcel A is not located on the former site of Upper Fort Garry. That old fort site was principally located on Parcel B (see attached diagram), the adjacent curling club site and portions of Main Street. The development of Parcel A in no way precludes the re-development of Parcel B and the curling club site for the purpose of an interperative centre.

3. Heritage respectfully submits that when at its December 13, 2007 meeting the Committee unilaterally introduced the new conditions in favor of the Friends of Upper Fort Garry effectively pre-empting the sale of Parcel A to Heritage and granting to Friends an option to acquire Parcel A, the Committee acted contrary to the process outlined in the City's Invitation for Expression of Interest and in contravention of the terms of the Agreement of Purchase and Sale.

4. Notwithstanding the Committee's decision to introduce the Friends Conditions, Heritage decided to cooperate by allowing Friends the opportunity to see if there was the political and public will to raise the required funds to develop the site, subject always to the amounts and deadlines imposed by the Committee as part of the Friends Conditions.

5. The Agreement of Purchase and Sale was amended by the terms of an Amending Agreement between the City and Heritage dated January 23, 2008 to reflect the Committee's decision to grant Friends the right to acquire Parcel A, subject to satisfaction of the Friends Conditions, and to allow the sale of Parcel A to Heritage to proceed at the reduced purchase price should the Friends Conditions not be satisfied in whole or in part.

6. The Amending Agreement specifically provides that if the Friends Conditions are not satisfied, the sale of Parcel A to Heritage at the reduced purchase price proceeds in accordance with the terms of the Agreement of Purchase and Sale.

7. Friends' entitlement to acquire Parcel A arises out of and is subject to a decision made at the political level and there is subject to political process which well allow for motions to recind previous decisions. Heritage's right to acquire Parcel A relies upon and is subject to a legal process and legal documentation in the form of the Agreement of Purchase and Sale and the Amending Agreement which are binding upon both Heritage and the City. There is no legal entitlement on the part of the City to unilaterally rescind or amend those Agreements. To suggest that this right exists on the part of the City is to contravene basic principles of contract law and undermines the very integrity of the marketplace which can only function properly when parties to agreements consider themselves bound by them and act in accordance with their terms.

8. Heritage has in good faith cooperated with the City by allowing the City to change the deal and give Friends the opportunity to acquire Parcel A subject to Friends satisfying objective and quantifiable conditions by specific deadlines. It is not prepared to stand aside and agree to any further changes or to be deprived of its legal entitlement to acquire Parcel A should the Friends Conditions not be satisfied.

9. Heritage has expended significant time and money consulting with its architects, archaeological experts and City and Provincial officials to ensure that its proposed development of Parcel A complies with the requirements of Manitoba Heritage Resources and respects the historical significance of the Upper Fort Garry site adjacent to Parcel A. It is committed to building a first class, privately-funded residential apartment building on Parcel A that will ultimately contribute to the City's realty tax base and effectively promote the City's plans to revitalize the downtown area.

Respectfully submitted,
Heritage Landing Inc.
Per: "Rubin Spletzer" President

One thing that has yet to be brought up is the issue of parking at this world-class heritage park and interperative centre. If is to be such a destination, where would cars be parked? Nearby parking lots are small and few, which defies local sensibilities on the issue of parking, and the acres and acres of parking lots at The Forks are perhaps too far for the average Winnipegger, particularly (and understandably) in inclement weather.

Perhaps the reason the Friends--oddly appearing to be a group without deep pockets--require all of Parcel A for a mere interperative centre, while Heritage Landing Inc. is able to built a mid-rise apartment building on that same site, and not simply take the portion of the Curling Club site that is outside the old Fort's footprint, is because they will need part of Parcel A for surface parking facilities.