Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Seniors fight city move to remove loading zone

Alley behind building regarded as unsafe

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A group of downtown-dwelling seniors is petitioning against a proposed move that could hinder access to their shared home.

Peggy Lindsay is among 80 residents of Fred Douglas Place at 333 Vaughan St. who oppose the City of Winnipeg's plan to change the area in front of their building to metered parking from a loading zone.

If the loading zone in front of the 55+ building is removed, Fred Douglas residents will have to arrange their transportation to and from the back of the building.

A very narrow hallway leads to the back entrance of Fred Douglas, which is only accessible via a one-way back alley.

"The back door, it's dangerous. There are a lot of strange people hanging around back there... and that door is very heavy," said 86-year-old Lindsay.

Diane Walker, president of the Residents Council of Fred Douglas Place, said the proposed switch was not considered with the seniors in mind.

"The back alley is considered an integrated loading zone, but there's no wheelchair access, no way to release the door from the front and no windows to look out back," said Walker.

The loading zone in front of the building is also where the seniors access Handi-Transit rides and the bus that takes them to the grocery store once a week.

The strip of Vaughan that is under city scrutiny is a high traffic area between Portage Avenue and Ellice Avenue.

Within the three-block radius is an entrance to Cityplace, two 55+ living facilities and the downtown YMCA, which houses a daycare. There are three loading zones within the three-block space, which are widely used and legally required in front of the daycare.

The residents of Fred Douglas received a letter from the city alerting them to the street change via The Forks North Portage Partnership on June 15.

The Forks North Portage Partnership owns the land under Fred Douglas Place, but has no say in any changes the city might make to the adjacent street, said Clare MacKay, vice-president of marketing and communications.

"It had nothing to do with us in terms of decision-making. This was a letter that we just received and forwarded to them," said MacKay.

There was no effective date on the letter from the city saying when the loading zone might be converted to parking stalls.

In an emailed response to the Free Press, city spokeswoman Michelle Bailey said the Winnipeg Parking Authority has received more than 80 responses from Fred Douglas residents about the proposed change. Bailey said the responses "...will be taken into account during the review, as well as further consultation with the property manager."

"The ongoing review of loading zones, in conjunction with the Downtown BIZ, is intended to improve access to short-term parking at on-street locations in the downtown. It has resulted in the creation of at least 50 additional on-street spaces, many of them in high-demand areas, primarily through the reduction in size of loading zones," Bailey said.

Though the Fred Douglas residents enjoy living downtown, Lindsay said they are worried about the changes in the area.

"It's a good location -- or it was until they took the grocery store away and now the cinemas are closed. They want people to move downtown and yet we have no amenities," Lindsay said, referring to the closure of the Zellers below the Hudson's Bay store on Portage and the Globe and Imax theatres in Portage Place.

Lindsay's daughter, Linda, is mostly worried about her mother's safety.

"I don't know who decided this, to have 86-year-old grannies in their walkers getting picked up at the back door," she said.

"It's a quality-of-life issue, being able to get to the bus to go shopping. It's not fair to take that away from them."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 7, 2014 A7

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