Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The Forks ushers in new era

Opening of museum to transform destination

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Paul Jordan isn't about to let the grass grow beneath his feet, although if it did, he'd know exactly what to do.

The newly minted CEO of The Forks North Portage Development (FNPD) has some bold plans for the city's most popular tourist destination but first he's preparing for the most highly anticipated grand opening in its history -- the arrival of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights on Sept. 20.

He is working with the museum's team to ensure the integration goes as smoothly as possible and brings as much benefit as possible to the area.

"The Forks is a fully functional neighbourhood. This new baby is about to be born and we need to make sure it complements and fits into The Forks' family," he said.

'We've become a showcase for the creative impulses out there' -- CEO Paul Jordan

The museum is expected to attract between 200,000 and 300,000 individual visits annually, which will represent a traffic increase of nearly 10 per cent at The Forks.

"We're doing 3.5 million (visits) already. It's a nice number but it's not a scary number. We know how to do crowds and we know how to do traffic," he said.

In response to the expected increase in visitors, Jordan said food services at The Forks will be "refreshed."

"Food destinations are becoming big all over the world. We need to put more energy into that. You'll see more restaurants, fast food and vendors. There will be changes," he said.

"(The museum) will definitely have a positive impact on the shops. When your traffic numbers go up by 10 per cent, hopefully, revenues will go up by the same amount. It's up to us to make sure we're ready for that kind of traffic."

Aside from the museum, Jordan's priorities include developing about 5.6 hectares on its rail side and the adjoining piece of land known as Parcel 4, working with the city and province to create another waterfront access project (such as The Forks) and keeping The Forks accessible for the creative people in town to showcase their wares.

Jordan has been the face of The Forks from pretty much the beginning. He was the chief operating officer from 2004 until he assumed his new post Aug. 1, and before that he was both the site manager and the gardener.

"I was hired in May 1991, when the market building and port had just opened. They needed somebody to look after the grounds. I needed a steady paycheque with our fourth kid having just arrived. I took on the job, thinking it was temporary," he said with a laugh.

Despite all the other distractions, Jordan doesn't want to lose sight of what The Forks has become during the past quarter-century -- a popular meeting place for both Winnipeggers and visitors.

"We've become a showcase for the creative impulses out there. You'll see more from the arts, architecture, music, food, fashion and sports and recreation (sectors), all those creative ideas that people have. The Forks is the perfect place to showcase that," he said.

While The Forks is obviously his priority, Jordan isn't forgetting about North Portage. FNPD owns much of the land bordered by Portage and Ellice Avenues and Memorial Boulevard and Carlton Street.

This property contains several large parking garages, which net about $2 million in annual revenue. This money, in turn, is used to fund development at The Forks.

FNPD doesn't own the bricks and mortar, including Investors Group's headquarters, Portage Place, Place Promenade and the ISM building. And because the area is fully developed, Jordan said the challenge is how to refresh the area, primarily Portage Place, and operate it.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 2, 2014 B6

History

Updated on Tuesday, September 2, 2014 at 6:43 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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