THE East Exchange District — Main Street to Waterfront Drive on the east, Provencher Boulevard to the Disraeli Freeway on the north — deserves a Sunday drive and a picnic on the riverbank. Has it changed! Even in the last two or three years, the transformation has been so dramatic, you really must take another look.
Condos at 133 Market Ave.
FREELANCE photographer Lyle Stafford clearly loves books. There are artful stacks of them everywhere in his ground-floor warehouseto-condo conversion that he shares with partner Katherine Kosowan. To display the books, Stafford created a climbing series of wall shelves that zigzag up a brick column covering warehouse infrastructure.
Adjacent to that tower is a church pew that serves as a bar with drawers tucked underneath. As a photographer who goes where the work is, Stafford has an artist’s eye. He used be based in Vancouver, where prices for condos are astronomical — like $600,000 for a 925-square-foot condo within walking distance of downtown Vancouver.
"Winnipeg is a great location, a great geographic centre for me. It’s just a couple of hours to Vancouver, Chicago and Toronto." The couple’s one-bedroom condo is at street level, giving Stafford one of the few opportunities for an outdoor patio. Across the lane is a strip of mud and gravel by a fence.
"The lady who used to live here grew sunflowers up that fence, so I’m going to plant something too." Nothing like guerrilla gardening!
Like many downtowners, Stafford likes to use his bike to get around — but where to put it when he’s home? Instead of cluttering up the hallway, he hoists his bicycle up to the ceiling, where it hangs in the living room. Its black tires and the black window shades make a kind of hanging modern art piece.
Stepping into the bedroom, it feels like a different season of the year on this hot spring day. Suddenly it becomes 10 degrees cooler in a part of the former warehouse built of brick where the sun does not reach until later. You should feel it in the winter," Stafford says. A warm, thick Hudson Bay blanket covers the bed.
While it’s called a one-bedroom condo, Stafford points out they really have a "one bedroom with a flex room" for multiple uses.
"We’re using it as an office right now, but this is a clique-claque bed," he says pointing to a modern sofa bed that clicks out in a jiffy for guests.
Condos at 110 James St.
"WE call it Crown Royal purple," says Kristin Walker of the sprawling velvet sectional in the living room of their condo conversion warehouse at 110 James Ave. "We got it at Bricks Fine Furniture and we decided we could either have a big dining room table or a big couch.
The thing could embrace you and eight very good friends. She points to a corner and says, "That was the original service elevator, which had a few oil spills." The building was once used for grain storage, as well as restaurant supplies and other uses.
The sofa is not the most amazing piece of furniture in the onebedroom condo she shares with her wife, Gail. Walker, a Starbucks manager, said they bought into the condo before the building had been converted. They stood in the remains of the building and used their imaginations.
She takes us outside, where there is a list of old business names painted on the original dusty brick wall with initials carved into them, names and dates such as "Dan" and "1943." "That’s what really made me fall in love with this place and want to live here." One of the smartest condo investments they made was a $3,000 washer-dryer unit. It is one machine that does both washing and drying in the same drum, and you plug it into a regular socket.
"You put your dirty clothes in when you’re leaving in the morning and come home and they’re clean and dry." Nothing like economy of space and time. Another amazing touch is their large wall unit computer desk/bed in the living room. The desk unit is the tall, strong-looking kind that converts at the click of a button into a double bed, the length of the desk. The desk top with your computer printer and messy papers stay level and then glide underneath before the bed pops out. Who knows where it goes, but the desktop comes out in exactly the same mess as you left it. Perfect.
CIBO Waterfront Café:
THIS trendy new restaurant and bar with windows on three sides used to be a pumphouse, and later housed the Winnipeg Police Service river patrol. It is now hidden from the road by MERE boutique hotel on Waterfront Drive.
The demographic is "experienced diners age 29 to 59." Says manager Stephen Pawulski: "In 1951, this pumphouse fed water from the river to Amy Street to work the steam plant, which heated the downtown. In 1990 it became the harbour master building. When we got here everything was all boarded up. We made all the windows larger and any of the brick that was too decayed got replaced with faux vintage. The workers painted out the graffiti and the last to go was a large pink head." Cibo opened Dec. 20, and business grew steadily.
The outside of the restaurant has a patio facing the Mere hotel, and a walkway around the other three sides with a view of boats coming down the river, the trains crossing a bridge and the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. The walkway is part of the Trans-Canada Trail.
Guests have included business guru Mark Chipman, artists Wanda Koop and Jordan Van Sewell, and musician Fred Penner. And Cibo already has some regulars. "We have a guy who comes in five times a week for breakfast."
BLUE MOON (109 Pacific Ave.)
MANY people remember the Blue Moon furniture emporium from its last location on Corydon Avenue, which featured exotic furniture, but no room to move.
"It was a great location, but too small," says Sylvia Bock. "If we sold a piece of furniture, we had to move five other pieces to get it out." The new space, located in a giant warehouse conversion, is 8,000 square feet, with oodles of space for towering statues of Balinese guards, 12-foot slices of hardwood for two-person desks or long dining room tables, oversize sofas, exotic curtained beds, Hollywood-style wrap-around couches and more.
The four-metre warehouse windows create a great ambiance.
Bock says their building was erected in the 1940s as a machine shop and was later the Children’s Museum and then the Costume Museum.
Maureen Scurfield is an urban explorer with her eye on the unique areas of Winnipeg, old and new.