Thursday, July 03, 2008

Spare a dime?

"There is a wistful myth that if only we had enough money to spend... we could wipe out all our slums in ten years, reverse decay... anchor the wandering middle class and its wandering tax money, and perhaps solve the traffic problem.

But look what we have built with the first several billions..."

Yesterday was such a bad day for being accosted by guys asking for money--and I didn't even walk down Portage Avenue--that I found myself agreeing with Mike Davidson from CUPE Local 500:

"If Canad Inns Polo Park wants to build and operate a water facility, it should just build it on its own. It doesn't need public dollars to do it."
Letter to the Editor - WFP

Or, as Milton Friedman said once--and I paraphrase: "The reason I'm in favor of smaller government, is because when you have big governments, the industrialists take it over." I don't know how many industrialists Winnipeg has left, but I can think of a media man and a hotelier who seem to enjoy taking advantage of the perpetual nanny state approach to urban renewal.

After south Point Douglas, there will be only one significant area of downtown that has been untouched by 45 years of large-scale mega-projects: the area around Albert and McDermot--which is unquestionably the most healthy part of downtown today. Within five years, the area has flowered into a shopping district that will soon rival anything south of the Assiniboine. People who have money and/or style flock there. One building even recently sold above asking price.

It didn't get there because of one man's "vision" and three politicians' "cooperation", it became successful because of simple supply-and-demand economics of the free market. Albert and McDermot has something that people want, which is everything Winnipeg's mega-projects (real or imagined) are not, and have actually tried to destroy: lots of old, interesting and cool buildings packed together; a variety of mixed-uses; a lack of any enforced "theme" or "feel"; and--worst of all-- a lack of adequate parking facilities.

(For more on Albert and McDermot, see my article: McDermot is downtown's new retail avenue - Oct. 21, 2007, WFP


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think people want things to happen very quickly. Like a good soup all you have to do is mix the right infgedients and allow it to simmer for awhile.

The Exchange and the market are doing good. All they need is for the streets to shut down and it would flourish. Add in a few tax breaks and then you have the makings of a good brodo.

Simple things are easy to implement and don't cost taxpayers very much.

3:24 PM  
Blogger A said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:40 PM  
Blogger A N-M said...

I wouldn't say that the success of the Exchange is solely due to supply & demand. The market played a role, but I don't believe it's the panacea that you seem to think it is.

Rather, I'd argue that the reborn Exchange District represents a planning model in which the foundations for success are laid down by the government and local entrepreneurs then take advantage of the right conditions. It's a much better model then the 'mega-project as saviour' model that so many in Winnipeg seem to believe in.

Realistically, without regulatory protection for heritage buildings (most of them at least), would the Exchange be the special place it is today? The decision to locate RRC on Princess has had far-reaching (and positive) consequences, as does the support provided to the various festivals (Jazz/Fringe) that bring so many people to the area. These all helped to create conditions that allow those with a real stake in the area to succeed, instead of having something forced on them by government.

Ideally, this model should be exported to neighbourhoods like PD or Centennial. It's a much better use of tax dollars than stadiums, arenas or even ballparks. ;)

2:43 PM  
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6:26 AM  

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