Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/11/2010 (2365 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Exchange District is in grave danger -- of becoming a self-sustaining, independent neighbourhood.
The city's heritage site has long been the epicentre of Winnipeg's arts and cultural communities but it lacked all of the amenities found in the suburbs, often requiring its residents to drive for miles just to pick up basic necessities.
Now, a flurry of new activity has it on the cusp of standing on its own. Perhaps the most significant move will come next month when All City Modern Convenience plans to open its doors at 223 McDermot Ave. The 1,400-square-foot store is slated to feature a mixture of grocery items, such as milk, eggs and cheese, prepared foods such as lasagna, tacos, soups, sandwiches and desserts as well as convenience items such as garbage bags and dish soap.
"The Exchange has so desperately needed a grocery store for so many years," said Talia Syrie, co-owner of All City. "I've lived there on and off for years. It's the most frustrating thing in the world. You run out of toilet paper and there's nowhere to go, especially if you don't have a car."
Syrie, who also owns the Tallest Poppy restaurant on Main Street, said people who live in the Exchange District are "very" committed to the neighbourhood.
"Despite having no library, no laundromats, a convenience store or really basic services, they still live there. People love it there that much. Most of them would prefer never to leave. It would make them really happy to run downstairs (to the convenience store), grab what they need and run back upstairs. We hope to make it a more livable neighbourhood for everyone," she said.
Just around the corner, personal trainer Lindsay Hamel is preparing to open a boutique studio. The 800-square-foot space at 468 Main St. features some of what you'd expect -- a treadmill, free weights, some skipping ropes and a stereo -- and a little of what you wouldn't: a cappuccino machine, herbal teas and fresh fruit.
"It's a really non-intimidating gym space," she said.
Hamel, who worked in the film industry for five years in the Exchange, said she never doubted where she wanted to set up her space.
"I love the Exchange District, they're my people. I love the architecture. It's the area where I feel most at home," she said.
"The addition of a grocery store and other businesses will make it more palatable to live in. Right now, it's people who are being a little risky who are (living here). We can see the changes that are happening."
That risk-taking demographic is about to get a boost, too. James Avenue Holdings is joining the growing list of condominium developers in the area. Before the end of the month, it plans to start renovating 128 James Ave. for both commercial and residential purposes. The plan, according to Kurtis Sawatzky, JAH's president, calls for the engineering firm he also leads, KNH Sawatzky & Associates (1995) Ltd. and Northern Sky Architecture to move in by next summer, the same time as 10 condos will be ready for occupancy.
Two years from now, he wants to start phase two: the construction of five additional floors on top of the four-storey building.
Next door at 120 James, Sawatzky said he wants to demolish the current warehouse and build an eight-storey residential tower housing 60 condos and underground parking.
Park 'n' fly?
One of the lynchpins of future growth in the Exchange District will be a 450-space parkade, set to begin construction behind the Centennial Concert Hall next spring. Ross McGowan, CEO of CentreVenture Development Corp., which is building the more than $10-million parkade in conjunction with the city, said he considers it an economic development tool.
"The time for the Exchange District is now. The bones are in place, the market is strong, interest rates are low, the residential grant programs are in place and people are buying," he said.
McGowan said his dream is for the Exchange to one day resemble Toronto's Yorkville, which features a high-density population, a good mix of uses during the day and plenty of restaurants and entertainment options at night.
"It will be a sustainable community that functions 24 hours a day," he said.