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Downtown trending up

Report breeds optimism, but there's still work to be done

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A new report says the revitalization of Winnipeg's downtown has been successful so far, but it still needs amenities such as a full-service grocery store.

BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

A new report says the revitalization of Winnipeg's downtown has been successful so far, but it still needs amenities such as a full-service grocery store. Photo Store

Winnipeg has come a long way in its efforts to revitalize its downtown, according to a new market research report to be released today, but a spokesman for the group that compiled the report admits there's still much more to be accomplished.

"There is no doubt that when we talk to our colleagues across North America and tell them the numbers and the volume (of new development), we raise eyebrows," Stefano Grande, executive director of the Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone, said in an interview on the eve of the release of the BIZ's 2014 Downtown Trends Report.

"But having said that, we still have a long ways to go to get to our end game, which is a vibrant downtown seven days a week," he added.

Two-years in the making, the Downtown Trends report is chock full of facts and figures about the downtown and the people who go there to work, live, learn and be entertained.

It updates several earlier market-research reports, and was compiled in partnership with CentreVenture Development Corporation, The Forks North Portage Partnership, Economic Development Winnipeg and the University of Winnipeg's Institute of Urban Studies.

Although some of the information is already a matter of public record, the aim was to pull all of the information together into a single, easy-to-access report which will be available online at www.downtownwinnipegtrends.com and will be updated monthly.

"We quickly understood that this kind of information is fundamental for anybody doing business downtown," Grande explained in an interview Wednesday.

"It (the report) is a kind of a one-stop shop for all of that information," added Jason Syvixay, managing director of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ and the man who spearheaded the research effort.

The report notes that in the last eight years more than $2 billion has been invested in 111 new downtown development projects, with another $265.5 million worth of investment planned for the next few years. It also catalogues each development based on its value, size and stage of development.

It also notes that more than 1,800 new residential units have been built in the downtown in the last five years, with another 845 planned, and nearly 15,500 people now live downtown, which is a gain of more than 2,500 since 2007.

"This report demonstrates with concrete baseline numbers just how our downtown has been turning around," Grande said.

He, Syvixay, and Economic Development Winnipeg president and CEO Marina James hope the report serves as a catalyst for more downtown development.

"Research like this equips decision-makers with up-to-date data that yields a succinct yet powerful appreciation of prevailing market conditions within the city centre," James states in the news release announcing the launch of the report.

Grande predicted some more of the smaller pieces of the downtown revitalization puzzle -- such as more new restaurants and retail shops -- will begin falling into place over the next five years with the help of things such as the proposed new sports, hospitality and entertainment district (SHED).

But for that to happen, he said downtown proponents must continue their efforts to attract more multi-family residential development and more workers and visitors to the downtown.

He said the SHED should help in that regard by providing residents and visitors with a central place "to hang out."

Another important piece of the downtown development puzzle will be attracting at least one new full-service grocery store, Grande added.

He said BIZ officials have their fingers crossed one will be included in the $200-million, highrise office/retail/condominium tower Toronto's Fortress Real Developments Inc. and Mady Development Corp. plan to build on Graham Avenue.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 27, 2014 A16

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