Thursday, March 12, 2009

Friend of the nightlife

Being Thursday, former Free Press Editor-in-chief Nicholas Hirst had an opinion article, which again supported downtown and rightfully bemoaned its lack of after-bank hours vibrancy. I like Mr. Hirst's support for downtown living, but it seems from his article today that things like "[a] pub for the University of Winnipeg" are matters of political vision; as if Lloyd Axworthy, Sam Katz and some key stakeholders should (or could) sit down and plan one.

Anyway, there is a relatively new pub "for" the U of W, it's called the Lo Pub, two blocks east of campus on Ellice and Kennedy Street. So far, it has been tremendously popular when concerts are happening there, but at any other time (that I've seen), it's been practically empty save for the employees and a friend or two sitting at the bar. The pub's apparent inability to keep students downtown into the evening most likely has to do with (drumroll please) so few of its current and potential patrons living nearby the way the Toad on Osborne does. Even if there were, there is still a lack of corresponding businesses open in vicinity (corner stores, diners), to make the impact it might have on foot traffic isn't that strong.

(Then of course there is the matter of that three-block behemoth, leftover from the last time the City "made it happen," that obstruct Kennedy Street. So even if and when the Lo Pub brings young people downtown, Nicholas Hirst would never see them walking to and from it on Portage Avenue.)

Another small measure that might help, Mr. Hirst suggests, is a shuttle for Portage Avenue. Unless by "shuttle that runs along Portage" Mr. Hirst meant "subway that runs under Portage," or even "a streetcar that runs along Portage," I don't see the point. As Jimmy Cotton wrote: "There is a shuttle that runs along Portage ave already, it's called the #11 , #24 #22 and the #21 buses [sic]."

Several comments to this article at the Free Press, including this one: "I'm sympathetic to Mr. Hirst's observations,and his recommendations are bang on, but he overlooked the most obvious solution. Get more people living downtown, not just visiting daily. When people live downtown, the rest will come naturally. As a former downtown resident (now a downtown resident in Calgary) I spoke highly of living in downtown Winnipeg. It was terrible news that Crystal Developers backed down from their apartment development [edited]. I would have been delighted to welcome new faces to the neighbourhood."

I wonder what bad word this astute commenter used that was edited. Something with four letters that starts with "F"? Like "Fort"?


Anonymous Cycling Guy said...

Sorry, I love downtown, but it's hard for me to hang around after hours in the winter. I'm off my bike, and the last feeder bus into my (60-year-old) neighbourhood leaves around 6pm. Otherwise it's a 25 minute walk from the main line. On the weekends we have no bus service at all so I'm pretty much a shutin.

10:46 PM  
Blogger Dave Shorr said...

That's a very good point that cotton made and that you published. While I'm glad that Hirst's heart is in the right place (that really does count for something), it goes to show why the "visionaries" have no vision, they have no organic connection to street level Winnipeg. Anyone who has spent much time at a bus stop on Portage Ave can tell you that there will be a bus that will take you from Port&Main to UW literally every 3-4 mins during peak hours and 5-7 minutes during non peak. Of all the troubles that plague downtown, commuting down Portage Ave shouldn't be counted as one of them. It's an easy walk, and on the odd occasion where I'm too lazy or it's too damn cold to foot it to Furby where I used to have residence, I could always rely on the bus to arrive shortly to get me there shortly.

You made another good point about Lo Pub. It's either full to the brim or vacant, which suggests that there's nothing wrong with the bar, but the location. I went to see a band last weekend, and for the first time that I can remember for any bar, there was a sign on the window that said "Sold Out" and they literally could not fit anyone else in. But if they are not able to secure a band on any given night, then there isn't enough motivation for the college kids to come from the suburbs or the village to downtown, when they can just as easily saunter down to the toad or Tavern United.

(side note: Apologies for the deleted comments above, weary eyes miss typos, twice over evidently)

Well done Rob.

11:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hirst is a blowhard with more ego than relevant opinions. Who cares what he writes?

4:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I went to UofW (albeit more than 20 years ago), my friends and I came back to downtown probably 3-4 nights per week. Even after graduation, this continued for quite a few years. We lived at places like The Pyramid, or Cinematheque, or Royal Albert, or The Blue Note or...

We all took turns driving (although most of us lived close by in the Village, or St. B.), and winter or summer it didn't matter. We'd be downtown. That was the place to be.

I think there will always be a core group of young people who come downtown. But that core will never be enough to inject any real life into the downtown area, it's just too small a group.

So while we still need to cater to that crowd, something else has to happen to expand the demographic that wants to come downtown. Or live there.

5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right you are Average City.

That is why one of Winnipeg's largest industry needs to be leveraged and shifted to downtown.

The people you defined are exactly the people who make a downtown lively.

That is the only demographic that will inject life into the core ( By core, i would say, market and Exchange for starters )

10:09 PM  
Anonymous TRU said...

Never gonna happen until Winnipeg builds a subway.

7:48 PM  
Blogger Louis Riel said...

I dunno TRU, I see lots and lots of other cities that don't have a subway but have a vibrant downtown.

(Ahem, Vancouver.)

11:43 AM  
Blogger Riverman said...

I like the Yellow Dog on Donald, it's a nice cozy place.

3:38 PM  
Anonymous kid zubaz said...

Ahem, Vancouver has downtown subway stations.

11:03 AM  

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