Thursday, April 30, 2009

Whatever happened to...

...the St. Charles Hotel redevelopment? One would think that, even if this project had any remote possibility of happening at any time in the next year, it would have been trotted out at the dreary back-pat-a-thon that was the Centre Venture AGM at the Pantages Theatre earlier today. Everything else going on, whether it has to do with Centre Venture or not, was, but no mention of this boutique motel at all.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A city with no design standards

This quick blog post-turned-article was published in the Free Press today:

The possibility that Canada Post would locate its downtown sorting facility at the corner of Higgins Avenue and Main Street came and went in a matter of days last week, and so it might now seem a little pointless to devote column space to a now-dead development. But in that time, much of the discussion of the matter was of the hope that the design of the facility would not reprise the dismal monstrousness of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's offices a block down the street, at Logan and Main.
At the beginning of the year, as the form of the WRHA's building, boxy and cheap, and its adjacent parkade, crooked and brutal, took shape, it raised much public ire and left civic politicians asking how such an embarrassment was allowed to take shape only four short blocks from city hall. Good question, but what might be more worthwhile is to ask how it can be assured this never happens again.

If Canada Post wishes to build their facility -- at Higgins, at Portage and Broadway on the so-called "field of dreams," or anywhere else downtown -- with the same degree of banality applied to the design of the WRHA office, there is little to prevent them from doing so...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cycling to work: up 18%

The the number of Winnipeggers who commuted to work by transit, bicycle, or on foot (known collectively as "active transportation") increased between 2000 and 2005, according to the 2006 census data on the City's website. The rate of people taking transit, riding in a car as a passenger (car-pooling, or getting one's spouse or room-mate dropping one off?), and--most significantly--riding a bike to work, was higher than the increase over numbers, of people who commuted by driving a car.

City-wide (2001)
302,350 (total commuters)
207,090 (car as drivers) 68.5% (percentage of total)
42,965 (transit riders) 14.2% (percentage of total)
25,825 (car as passengers) 8.5% (percentage of total)
19,375 (pedestrians) 6.4% (percentage of total)
4,570 (cyclists) 1.5% (of total)

City-wide (2006)
315,390 (total commuters) 4.1% (increase)
214,480 (car as driver) 68.0% (percentage of total) 3.4% (increase)
44,700 (transit riders) 14.2% (of total) 3.8% (increase)
28,410 (car as passengers) 9.0% (of total) 9.1% (increase)
19,505 (pedestrian) 6.2% (of total) 0.7% (increase)
5,575 (cyclists) 1.8% (of town) 18.0% (increase)

Other random facts to impress your co-workers with tomorrow morning:

- The Exchange District joined North River Heights, South Tuxedo, Woods Crescent, Linden and Wild, &c in the $100,000-plus average household income club

- Chinatown's Chinese population increased by 8%, from 330 to 415

- In West Broadway, that neighborhood with "contested space" and the gentrification problem, the average gross rent decreased from $493 in 2001 to $451 in 2006. With the savings, the hoardes of yuppies that have driven everyone else out of West Broadway are able to buy ten stalks of organic celery at Whole Foods (or 43 cups of Mr. Noodles at Pal's Supermarket)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Downtown population up, slightly

I will leave in-depth (and even remotely scientific) analysis for the amateur staticians, but it looks as though fourteen central Winnipeg neighborhoods experienced population increases from 2001 Census numbers, according to the 2006 Census. In the 2001 Census, I believe Central Park was the only central neighborhood to post an increase in population. In some of the smaller neighborhoods, the numbers might not reflect real population growth (South Point Douglas' 35% increase might simply be from the census man counted the residents of the Mount Royal and King's Hotel in 2005). In any case, these number show that, overall, downtown neighborhoods are growing, if only modestly, while the old "mid-town" City neighborhoods, like Wolseley, St. John's, or River Heights, continue to slowly decrease in population.

Still, the decline appears to be slowing in some instances. My neighborhood's decrease of -1.5% is a far cry from the -21.9% between 1996 and 2001, or the -9.6% between '91 and '96.

[Population] [+/-] [Density (if over 4,000 persons/km2)]
South Point Douglas - 230 (35.3%)
Portage-Ellice - 1,105 (28.5%) (6,520/km2)
Exchange District (west and east of Main) - 420 (21.7%)
Colony - 715 (14.4%) (5,699/km2)
Spence - 4,260 (13.6%) (8,805/km2)
Chinatown - 605 (11.0%) (9,213/km2)
Central Park - 3,555 (10.9%) (15,275/km2)
South Portage - 1,860 (9.7%) (2,816/km2)
William Whyte (Selkirk, McGregor, Alfred, Main) - 6,220 (8.3%) (5,357/km2)
West Broadway 5,325 (5.6%) (7,896/km2)
Wellington Crescent (between Academy and the River) - 1,605 (5.6%)
River-Osborne - 4,880 (3.5%)
Earl Grey - 4,410 (2.4%)
Daniel McIntyre - 9,750 (0.3%) (7,646/km2)
Riverview - 4,350 (0.0%)
Luxton - 2,565 (-0.4%)
North River Heights (north of Corydon)- 5,660 (-0.8%)
Crescentwood - 2,705 (-1.1%)
Roslyn - 4,145 (-1.2%) (13,236/km2)
St. John's (Alfred, McGregor, Carruthers, Main) 7,725 (-1.5%) (4,987/km2)
North Point Douglas - 2225 (-1.5%)
Minto (Portage, Arlington, Ellice, Maryland) - 5,795 (-1.5%) (6,804/km2)
Lord Roberts - 4,955 (-2.3%)
Wolseley - 7,610 (-2.8%) (4,396/km2 )
West Alexander - 4,000 (-3.5%)
Minto - 5,360 (-3.9%)
Centennial - 2,225 (-6.7%)
Broadway-Assiniboine (downtown between Broadway and the Assiniboine River 5,080 (-6.7%) (14,895/km2)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Getting what one pays for

Thank you, government of Manitoba, for allowing universities to increase tuition fees. With that decade of insanity out of the way, here are a few things my alma mater, the University of Winnipeg, can spend the increased revenue on:
-one of the lights at the entrance to Bryce Hall has needed replacing since at least January
-the leak in the ceiling in the main library (in the economics aisle, interestingly) might be served by a solution more suitable than a plastic garbage can placed below it, which, again, was there since at least January
-Still on the library, I can appreciate regularly finding books on the shelf that are the "Property of Wesley College" (with the oldest I have found in the main stacks being published in 1832), but a greater attention to the library, perhaps
-My favorite professor from this past term was brilliant and effective, and has a doctorate from the University of St. Andrews. He is also unsure if he will be re-hired for the Fall term. Keeping individuals like him around, might go a long ways in ensuring students recieve a quality education
-Offset the increased tuition fees somewhat by making Student Association fees non-mandatory. Please

...or, the University could just increase the pace that it quietly drives out nearby residents and property owners to build more Llloyd Axworthy legacy projects.

Related: "UMSU! However will I afford it?" - ProgressiveWinnipeg


Southbound Waverley Street from Wilkes to McGillivray this afternoon, clogged with idling cars (almost exclusively occupied by one person), queued up to turn into the Investor's Group to drop off electronic waste for Earth Day.

Keep fighting the good fight, eco-warriors.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Is the dream dead?

The Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation Department will not be saving downtown after all, much to the heartache of the cabal of the developers who were as giddy as teeny-boppers at a Jonas Brothers concert last month at the thought of Department moving downtown.

(The reason MIT gave for cancelling the move was that rental rates are too costly downtown--interesting coming from a Department currently in the St. James Industrial Park/Polo Park area.) Anyway, I think downtown will get along just fine without a few less Chrysler minivans parked in a garage from Monday to Friday, 8:30 to 4:30.

But to many, this is a setback. How many other government department and nationalized corporations are there that have not yet moved downtown? The list grows shorter and shorter, and still the Avenue building still sits empty.

Perhaps some government departments like working in suburban areas and don't want to work downtown--much the same way every downtown booster disappointed by this news likes living in the suburbs, and doesn't want to live anywhere remotely central?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Someone has to do it

I don't get to the Wagon Wheel Lunch much these days, and so there is not much reason for me to go down Hargrave St. north of Portage. Today I did, as I walked home from school, having noticed a sign saying "Bollywood." Turns out Bollywood is a small place selling pizza by the slice and chicken wings--common fare in the nearby West End, but this place stays open until 5:00 AM seven days a week. Anyone who enjoys late-night walks or bike rides with a flask of something in the back pocket, going to downtown nightclubs, or simply sitting at home bemoaning the city's lack of nightlife, could certainly appreciate this.

Elsewhere in this building, which sits SE corner of Hargrave and Ellice, retail spaces are occupied with a variety of businesses that no doubt lend themselves to the influx of immigrants in the neighborhoods: a hair salon, an Ethiopean restaurant, and a soon-to-be-opened rug store.

The building, completely non-descript and standing only a single storey, is great for its usefulness: full of small commercial spaces; lots of windows and doors. For downtown to be a normal district that people walk in, it needs about 100 more buildings like this--with two to six stories of residential floors atop them--built on surface parking lots.

Albert Street gets all the hype, deservedly so, for being what my wife calls 'the most un-Winnipeg place in Winnipeg,' but there is much to be said for the small immigrant entrepreneurs who waste no time, and wait for no hand-outs, visions, or magic wands, to make something of downtown's forgotten corners.

Rites of Spring

With today being the first certifiably warm day in Winnipeg, one thing is certain: Free Press and Sun photographers are making the annual trek to Assiniboine Park this afternoon, and unless the Red River rises 20 feet this evening, or Obama's dog gets run over by a truck, the front page of the Free Press will show a photo of teenage girls playing frisbee, while the Sun will feature the first woman they find roller-blading in a bikini top.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

We believe in Winnport

A holy trinity for a godless city--Ss. Doer, Toews, and Harper (who may or may not let Cardinal Katz tag along...) are set to take a break from sand-bagging today and pay a visit to the airport this afternoon. That wouldn't be for an announcement regarding the creation of a world-class intermodal transportation hub that Doer, the Mayor, and their underlings in big-government capitalism like to talk about, would it?

We here at the Rise and Sprawl are short on details, but what we have learned about the transportation development at Richardson International will create more than 6,000 new jobs in Manitoba, 4,300 elsewhere in Canada, will handle 590 million kilograms of international freight, and an increase of almost $600 million in gross domestic product. It will be part of the plan to develop international air cargo handling facilities, and incorporate facilities capable of efficiently handling air, truck and rail cargo. The plan is sure to be a success because Winnipeg has a 24-hour airport (I mean it ain't just any city that has one of those), is in the centre of North America, has lower land and operating costs, and a talented, hard-working workforce. Best of all, the three levels of government and the local business community will strongly support it...

Wait a second, that's not from tomorrow's announcement, that's from the Winnipeg Development Agreement from 13 years ago--the last time the government tried to get into the transportation industry and turn Winnipeg into a transportation hub.

But that was then, this is now. That was Winnport, this is Centreport. That was multi-modal, this is intermodal. That was me wearing army-green corderoys and spending my evenings taping songs off the radio and slow-dancing to Toni Braxton at Portage la Prairie high school dances, this is me growing old and listening to Fleet Foxes on iTunes. It will work this time, you'll see... these guys have a plan, power, and a triple scoop of other people's money. It's gotta work this time, it's just gotta.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Just getting started

Average City blog notes that the City is accepting bids on the demolition of the small commercial block at 668-72 Main Street.

Funny how the City of Winnipeg is hiring a demolition company (the best business in town!) to demolish someone else's building. According to one source at the development end of the City, this building is currently owned by owners of the nearby Sun Wah Supermarket. Their plan has been, for several years now, to demolish as much of that stretch of Main Street between Henry and Higgins as possible, to expand the supermarket's parking lot onto Main.

Main Street from Higgins Ave., 2006

That may sound repulsive for reasons that do not need explaining, but far from a new precedent. The City Hall of that progressive planning sage Glen Murray had no qualms with the same owners 'building' a large fenced-off surface parking lot on Main one block south for another of their holdings, the Kum Koon Gardens restaurant. And then there is, of course, last year's blameless blunder known as the WRHA's hulking parkade, that fronts onto Main Street.

The City will reportedly be slapping the cost of demolition onto the owner's property tax bill (way to play hardball), but what would the City be doing paying someone else's demolition bill in the first place if Centre Venture Development Corp. was not assisting Sun Wah with their parking lot expansion plans.

Assisting the Sun Wah with demolishing this strip (including the 110-year-old Bell Hardware building at 666 Main) has been the second phase of Centre Venture's "Heart of Gold" plan for Main Street (the WRHA building was phase one). Last year, a small commercial building on the SW corner of Main and Henry was owned by the same people before being "assembled" by Centre Venture for the WRHA parkade. It worked out great for them: they could let a building they didn't want rot from inside-out over the years, and the City bought it for above market value and paid the demolition costs. They are clearly showing the same care for property at 668-72 Main, as this photo shows:

668 Main, Summer 2008

Friday, April 03, 2009

[clever use of football term here]

To me, the best thing about the new Blue Bombers stadium is that it will not be in Point Douglas.

Between the unsightly warren of gang and drug activity built at Euclid and Austin St. a few years ago, a large drug treatment centre to be built at the foot of Magnus Avenue, and South Point Douglas set to become even more of an obnoxious freeway, Point Douglas has enough positive and exciting publicly-funded developments to worry about.