Monday, December 22, 2008

The Hydro building: good from far...

Photo courtesy of, again, Adrian

The first Manitoba Hydro employees move into the new Portage Avenue tower today. Through the years of planning and building, Winnipeggers have heard from the professional boosters saying that the new Hydro building is an essential piece of the revitalization puzzle, and how employees will stick around after work to window shop new shops, and people-watch from new sidewalk cafes (or the prison mess hall that is the Portage Place food court) before actively transporting themselves back home. The unfortunate reality was summed up by one Hydro employee in the Winnipeg Sun:

"We're not going to revitalize anything. People are going to leave as fast as they can, to go home."

This of course is just one man's opinion, and this might be that of a cantankerous dinosaur that would not be happy with anything, and this individual does have co-workers who are excited to work downtown. Bu he has stated the obvious truth: the vast majority of people who work downtown leave as quick as they came.

With some twenty-five per cent of the city's workforce of 385,000 already employed downtown, can another thousand or so make a difference? Hydro employees haven't done much for Chinatown by being at James and King Street, for example, yet different results are hoped for by transferring them to Portage and Edmonton.

The James Avenue Hydro office, by the way, is among the offices already downtown that will be vacated by Hydro as the new building opens. So in this game of downtown office space Whac-a-Mole, it's hard to know how many Hydro employees will be transfered from outside downtown anyway.

*Edit* Jim at Daily Rants figures there will only be about 1,150 employees moving downtown, with the other 850 coming from James Ave. and at 444 St. Mary St.


Blogger mrchristian said...

A cantankerous dinosaur found by a cantankerous reporter at a cantankerous newspaper....

It won't be a magic bullet but will put a couple thousand more eyes and wallets downtown. Be as grouchy as they want they have to eat, need to consume and sometimes those acts will spill over into their downtown time.

A series of incremental positive steps is what helps any city centre / region / city / country. That's what Hydro is.

1:59 PM  
Blogger Jamie Isfeld said...

I work very, very close to the new Hydro building and I can definitely say I spend a lot of time at downtown merchants during the day. However, due to the number of miscreants and beggars in the area, I generally don't stay late even if transit is excellent here.

I do wish there were more opportunities and safety procedures for young professionals in the downtown - however, someone my age is far more likely to be in a barista outfit than a business suit, so I doubt it will be likely to occur.

6:38 PM  
Blogger cherenkov said...

"even if transit is excellent here." What bus do you take? My experience has been that transit is acceptable as long as you leave work by 5:00. Forget about sticking around after work to window shop.

9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jamie, what do you mean by "safety procedures"?

10:58 PM  
Anonymous kid zubaz said...

Transit runs pretty frequently, including suburban express routes, until around 6:00 p.m. Considering that the typical Winnipeg workday ends around 4:30-5:00, that does afford a decent window of time to run a couple of errands after work. It's not like it's impossible.

11:08 PM  
Blogger Jamie Isfeld said...

I end work rather late (well after express buses run), but as I'm generally travelling not too far away I have four buses to choose from (66, 60, 18, or 70). Most buses do come through the Graham bus-only street, so there are many options... even if the ride is often long.

By safety procedures, I mean removing people drinking vodka from the bus shelters, not allowing drunks to sleep in them, and actively punishing taggers and thieves rather than shrugging them off as minor crimes. My workplace was tagged _inside_ not long ago in plain view of a security camera - as the young criminal population gets more brazen, we too have to start creating heavier punishment.

It's a real pity about the sense of fear here from everyone who isn't downright frightening.

11:24 AM  
Anonymous jh said...

I spent five years at the U of W, worked for longer downtown, and have spent much of my leisure or errand-time in the area, and have not once felt threatened, abnormally scared or in danger. I'm MUCH more concerned for my safety while driving in on one of the major roads (St. Mary's, Portage, Main, Pembina) or in the parking lot of a suburban bar than I am actually out and about downtown.

2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree Jh, the peg's downtown is rather tame.

Mind you, I can understand how some would feel threatened by lack of traffic.

2:30 PM  
Blogger cherenkov said...

My buses run until 6:00 as well, but there are only a couple after 5:00. And then if I lose track of time in a store and miss the 6:00 bus, I'm not getting home until 8:00-ish. It's pretty bad. I don't risk it very often.

8:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So the problem is the Buses ? If you miss the bus, go have some supper somewhere, go to the library and read, judging from other blogs there is so much to do in the downtown its incredible, heck, if you miss the bus you can go to the River walk and have a stroll or go to IMAX , or .....wait a second, you would probably have to do something you don't want to , what you'd really like to do is get home.

You want that kinda freedom, Transit doesn't provide it nor should it. You either adapt to it, wait for it, or do something else.

Buy a car. Call a cab, Call a friend, call a parent, you have options.

I know,. I can be harsh, but some of you folk really are a bit much.

9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wowie Jamie you a little hottie. I can be your bodyguard.

10:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow an office building full of people that would rather NOT have to venture into the down town area.

oh yes, there might be more wallets and eyes on down town during business hours.. but there sure as hell wont be after!

yet another pointless white elephant in the heart of Winnipeg.. Honestly after so many failures and doing the same things over and over you would think that some one would try something different.

people are not going to stay down town as long as baggers and thugs are the most visible thing down there.

11:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live downtown. I work downtown. I don't feel terribly unsafe most days, despite a bad day or two, and yes, I have experience in other cities to compare to.

But even if I'm normally fine, I'm not deluded enough to believe that my feelings of security should apply to a mother with children or a petite 26 year old admin clerk, especially when waiting for a bite means watching gangs openly do hand-to-hand drug deals in food courts, or getting to a bus stop means navigating walkways that are literally blockaded by drunk panhandlers moving in packs.

One of the most hilarious habits of pro-downtown Winnipeggers is their / our habit of sitting and saying, "it's not so bad, really!" when the reality is, the public doesn't have to accept "not so bad," and they've voted with their feet. So what if no one got stabbed downtown today? So what if a restaurant is five minutes walk away? Five minutes extra drive in a warm car takes our suburban residents to suburban malls and theatres where there's zero risk of having to watch someone relieve themselves in a potted plant in front of you, in shopping malls that haven't reported a broad-daylight gang shooting in living memory. Guess which option wins?

It's not a matter of whether or not 'it's really harsh.' Something's wrong when your sales pitch for downtown is "the grouchy people will just have to do their duty."

11:56 PM  
Anonymous TRU said...

Haha that last anon hit it on the head. Downtown Winnipeg is ghetto and scary—and nothing less than the Wilson subway will make it any different.

7:23 PM  
Blogger CMPerry said...

WE know about the subsidized parking for Hydro employees, but has Hydro done anything about subsidized housing? For example, never mind they could have designed accommodations into the new building itself (the old Bank of Montreal at Portage and Main was built with apartments its young single male employees), but why doesn't Hydro considering buying and refurbishing some apartment blocks in the area, with suites to be made available at subsidized rentals to employees, junior or otherwise? Health Sciences Centre used to, and may still, own the adjacent apartments on Emily Street. Or how about a refurbished hotel? The ballet school bought the old Aberdeen Hotel for residences, It's another way the Crown corp could put its money where its mouth is about "downtown revitalization." This doesn't take a lot of imagination, after all, I thought of it.

12:40 AM  
Blogger MacD said...

Waiting for a bus on Portage Ave downtown is the most eye-opening ghetto experience any Winnipegger can have.

2:36 PM  

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