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Draft plan for finishing The Forks

'Vision and plan' coming for undeveloped land

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The Land at The Forks known as Parcel 4. Changes could be made to the plan for its development depending on feedback, officials say.

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The Land at The Forks known as Parcel 4. Changes could be made to the plan for its development depending on feedback, officials say. Photo Store

LOTS of green space, some housing, some retail and two parking structures -- it's all there in the initial draft of a new development plan for the last piece of undeveloped land at The Forks.

The president and CEO of The Forks North Portage Partnership (FNPP) isn't ready to reveal all of the details yet, saying they still need to fine-tune the plan for redeveloping Parcel 4 and Rail Side surface parking lots at the north end of The Forks site.

"But we do have a vision and a plan that we do want to take out to the public" in the next four to six weeks, Jim August said.

"We know that some people will really endorse it, and that some people will... well, we'll see," he added. "But we want to go out with something we feel comfortable with, that's doable and that's acceptable to the public. I think we've got a very good plan here, and I think the community will be engaged by it."

'I think we've got a very good plan here, and I think the community will be engaged by it'

-- Jim August, president and CEO of The Forks North Portage Partnership

August emphasized further changes could be made to the plan, depending on the feedback the partnership gets from the public and other interested parties, including the City of Winnipeg.

"But we know the parking is a given, and we know the public spaces are a given."

August hopes to have a final plan approved this year and to begin working with designers and developers by late this year or early next year. Construction also could begin sometime in 2015.

He said the draft plan calls for about 60 per cent of the two properties to be devoted to public spaces, including lots of green space, a plaza linking the north and south ends of The Forks site, and the two public parking structures. The remaining 40 per cent is earmarked for the residential and retail/commercial components.

The housing units will likely include both rental apartments and condominiums, August said, although he wouldn't say how many of each.

One parking structure will likely have about 400 stalls and the other about 300 to make up for the surface parking spots that will be lost when the two parking lots are redeveloped. The retail space could include things such as a coffee shop, a small gym and a daycare centre, which are some of the suggestions that came out of the initial round of public consultations.

The draft plan also calls for some kind of walkways linking the new development to the corner of Portage and Main, the Via Rail station on south Main and the Upper Fort Garry historic site at Main and Broadway.

"We think that (linking The Forks to Portage and Main) is an important linkage," August said. "But we see that as kind of a longer-term, big-idea piece."

Stefano Grande, executive director of the Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone, said anything that encourages more pedestrian flow between The Forks and other parts of the downtown would be welcome.

Once the walkways are established, developers can begin filling in surface parking lots and other vacant spaces along each walkway with new retail shops, restaurants, outdoor patios and other attractions that will encourage more pedestrian traffic, he said.

Grande admitted it's going to take time to do all that, but it's what's needed to create a more vibrant downtown, he added.

The FNPP was asked to come up with a plan for redeveloping the city-owned Parcel 4 land on the southwest corner of Waterfront Drive and William Stephenson Way after city council rejected a proposal by a private developer to build a hotel and water park on the site.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 5, 2014 A3

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