Saturday, May 03, 2008

Putting my mouth where my money is

There is sometimes the sentiment that I should, in effect, "put my money where my mouth is" and buy a derilict commercial building and restore them if I think its such a good idea, rather than just whine from the sidelines when someone comes along with a plan I don't like.

This argument was recently presented to me in the case of Centre Venture's plan to demolish nearly all of two blocks of Main Street to make way for an office building, a parkade, and a surface parking lot. (Main street getting multi-million dollar makeover - Global News)

I am not in the business of telling private individuals or organizations what they should or should not do with their money, but the destruction on Main Street is not market-driven. It was concieved and facilitated totally by a publicly-funded agency.

Centre Venture does have money, but it is public money. It's not theirs, they did not create it, they did not earn it. They simply recieve it--from me and other munincipal and provincial tax-payers. Citizens have every right to crticize what they do with that money, and Centre Venture has every obligation to be transparent with the designs and plans they choose, and to consult the neighborhood(s) that are going to be so greatly affected by their plans--two things that have simply not happened.

If that process is too cumbersome to undertake, then they should be dissolved. And if the City and the agencies they fund are unable maintain buildings they own in accordance to the Vacant and Derilict Buildings By-law, or ensure that the character of historical neighborhoods are kept intact as much as possible, according to Plan Winnipeg, then they should forever get out of the real estate development business. Either that or repeal these pesky by-laws.

I don't have the money to purchase and rehab derilict heritage buildings on Main Street, or to conduct other costly developments that I would love to see happen. (And even someone were willing to purchase and develop, say, the Jack's Hotel on Main, would the owner, Centre Venture, have sold it to them? Not if it interefered with their ultimate plan for the block, which included razing Jack's Hotel for a parkade.)

I was, however, able to afford the purchase of a house nearby in Point Douglas, and for two years have volunteered too many hours to improve the qualitative value of this neighborhood. I live and work nearby, and walk down this stretch of Main Street almost every day. The plan for Main Street will aversely affect the potential revitalization of the area, and, by extension, the quality of life for me and my family, and the investment I made when I purchased (and continue to renovate) this house.

Recognizing and opposing the obvious failure in this plan was never, ever just a matter of sentimentality.


One thing that I've noticed in this whole process, has been that, as far as I can tell, the people (all three of us) who have been critical of this plan in the media, all live in the Main Street area. A large, more "empowered" residential population could prove to be a thorn in the side of more bone-headed pipe dreams of men and women of the downtown renewal industry, who invariably reside in far-flung suburbs.


Thanks to Free Press city reporter Bartley Kives for the mention in his column in the Detour section today. (Comfortably numb - WFP)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since no one really gave a shit about the buildings when they were up, you really think they give a shit now that they are gone.

5:03 PM  

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