Winnipeg Skyline

Sunday, February 4, 2007


The problem with most of the redevelopment strategies is that they are focused on attracting people that have little reason or interest in going downtown, while almost totally ignoring those that are downtown. For decades, downtown Winnipeg has been a constantly evolving place for the immigrant whether from Europe, Asia, Africa or aboriginal reserves.

Portage Place sought to attract the suburban housewife who never came. Meanwhile it tries to keep out the unsavory people who are there every day: the disadvantaged and the aboriginals. It’s time that downtown began to be planned for its actual residents. Housing, entertainment, education facilities should be planned for those who are there. This might be a hard for city fathers and planners to accept as it might seem like giving up.

Closing Portage and Main was about getting suburbanites home faster, and enticing a developer to invest in underground parking and shopping so that the workers didn’t really have to leave their Portage and Main cocoon. The towers of Portage and Main are an isolated enclave of people who come to work and then beat a quick path home. Should downtown continue to be planned for them when they really refuse to be its street citizens?

All downtown development began with a sense that in the late 1950s early 1960s that Winnipeg was an unprogressive wasteland that had seen virtually nothing new since World War 2. The wish to do something was great. So Winnipeg aped what other cities had done without considering its unique cultural mix or how quickly suburban growth would permanently change the future potential of downtown.

So here we are again. Planning for people who have since fled the downtown, while ignoring its real citizens. Time for a reality check. Unless we are happy “trying to make holes in water.”

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