Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Glory days, they'll pass you by...

Winnipeg's Main Street being a shamefully void and unwelcoming desolation row was once seen as a source of civic shame and concern. This was so much so, that several generations of big public ideas were pushed down on the neighborhood. First came the plan to restore its as downtown's secondary business strip by building a civic centre nearby. Then came the vision to create Neeginan an Aboriginal cultural and business centre.

Now it seems the vision for Main Street is a one-stop-shop (lifestyle centre?) for the socially dysfunctional, addicted, and mentally ill. The Civic Centre and Neeginan failed for obvious reasons, but if nothing else, they had the ability to excite a good chunk of the public that footed the bill for them.

Who's going to be excited about the new Welfare District?

Main Street Project executive director Brian Bechtel told the media he likes how the WRHA's Access Centre "is that it is not displacing local residents." (You know, like a for-profit venture would.)

Funny thing is, the WRHA's hulking parking garage (that the City gave a $500,000 tax credit toward in order that the professional "service-providers" could park their Hyundai Tuscans in safety and ease), was built where Jack's Place stood. Jack's was a four-storey building constructed as a hotel in 1912, and was completely retrofitted and stood in excellent condition when it was torn down in 2008. It served for 30 years as housing for the local population, most recently as the Neeginan Emergency Shelter. Also lost on Bechtel was how the first few nights after the Bell Hotel closed in 2008, residents of that establishment slept outside its locked doors in the rain. All for a good cause... one day.

Family Services minister Gord Mackintosh, who apparently is driven to work down Main Street blindfolded every day, says the WRHA signals a return to the street's glory days. "I think we'll see more private sector support services (is that Social Worker for cafes?) for all those who work here."

The glory days

Not the glory days

Long before new commercial development on the strip happens (how many private enterprises have opened after the WRHA was built, versus before?), I think Gord Mackintosh will see more of what his neighbors back in the tree-lined enclave of Luxton east of North Main are seeing: more of the downtown homeless population migrating further and further north on Main and into Luxton during the day and evenings. And at night, the old Legions and fraternal halls up on Main north of Mountain Avenue are increasingly becoming the favored spots of what a decade ago would have been the rough Main Street bar crowd: back before all this public non-displacement happened. Unforeseen circumstances.

Continued decline and suffering on Main Street is just fine for public officials and for the Captains of the Poverty Industry. Just as long as they get their cut.

3 Comments:

Blogger Bryan Scott said...

Wait a second. I just bought a house in Luxton.

Uuhhhhhgh.

11:40 PM  
Blogger The Rise and Sprawl said...

Better sell now, Bryan. You might be living in the new -- shudder -- North Point Douglas.

Just kidding, I think you're totally fine up there.

2:04 AM  
Blogger Jay said...

F that. North Point Douglas is the new SoHo. Just bought a place on Scotia. Keep up the great work Rob.

J Leslie.

4:02 PM  

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