The opening of Winnipeg’s downtown off-leash dog park has been delayed to allow civic officials time to placate concerns raised by the owner of a nearby 25-storey apartment tower.
Mayor Brian Bowman confirmed city officials are reviewing plans for the off-leash park planned for a portion of Bonnycastle Park after the owners of Heritage Landing, at 300 Assiniboine Ave., complained about the project.
Bowman said civic officials are considering landscaping and design changes in a bid to deal with the concerns of Crystal Properties, which constructed the $70-million, 25-storey apartment tower.
The dog park was one of Bowman's campaign promises, and was expected to open by the end of 2016.
"I’m hopeful that some of the design could potentially be amended in order to mitigate the concerns that have been raised," Bowman told reporters.
The city chose Bonnycastle Park at the end of June, following an online public consultation process in which six other sites were also considered. Council approved $300,000 for the project. About one-third of an acre of the Assiniboine Avenue park will be set aside for dogs.
The park will include a perimeter fence and an internal fence to separate small and large dogs. Other amenities will include agility elements, lights, signage, park furniture for people, waste receptacles, a granular path along the park interior and tree and shrub planting around the edges.
A spokeswoman for a coalition of local dog park clubs said Crystal Properties has misjudged the value the park will bring to its tenants.
"Everywhere in North America, there is a positive correlation between increased housing prices and the presence of a dog park," said Donna Henry, president of Windog.
Henry said when she first moved to Winnipeg 15 years ago, she lived in the apartment complex across the street from Bonnycastle Park, and the area then was known for the after-hours sex trade. The presence of the off-leash park will bring people to the area, creating a vibrant neighbourhood where people will congregate and socialize.
"Where dog parks are established where they didn’t exist before, they reduce crime and they do it simply by increasing (foot) traffic in the area," she said.
Not all developers share Crystal Properties’ attitude towards dog parks, adding Genstar included a similar sized off-leash park in its new Devonshire Village development in Transcona, she said.
"The first thing (Genstar) did even before they put a spade in the ground was they identified space for a fenced, off-leash area and they’ve been really proactive about this. There’ll be park benches, it will be treed – all this at the developers’ expense," she said. "Where Genstar embraces dog parks, it looks like Crystal Properties sees this as a real threat."
Bowman said he regretted that city staff had not consulted any of the adjacent property owners before the site was chosen, adding however, he was also troubled that representatives of Crystal Properties had not expressed concerns to the city sooner.
Bowman said there is little chance the building owner’s concerns will prompt the city to find a new location.
"The location of the park itself… was a recommendation of a broad consultation with Winnipeggers and downtown Winnipeggers, and I still believe it’s the best location," he said.
"We are thinking about downtown as a whole and not just for one particular property owner," he said. "I do think we need to be sensitive to and try to mitigate the concerns, but having an off-leash, fenced-in, protected dog park in downtown is one of many things we're doing to provide more amenities... council has provided the funds for it, so we want to see it proceed."
Bowman did not provide a revised timeline for construction of the park.