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Wolseley comes full circle

Sticking it to The Man in a Cadillac Escalade Blog of the Week: The Donald Street Collective

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Westminster Avenue runs through the heart of Wolseley. The neighbourhood's residents are becoming increasingly well-heeled, one blogger writes.

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Westminster Avenue runs through the heart of Wolseley. The neighbourhood's residents are becoming increasingly well-heeled, one blogger writes. Photo Store

A few decades past, the Winnipeg Woodlot (a.k.a. Wolseley) was an enclave for artists and the socially active or progressive.

However, I am uncertain as to whether it is going to continue. Today as I look out my window, under the grey sky, I am given to reflection because in these past five minutes I've seen a Cadillac Escalade, a BMW 700 series, and a Mercedes sports coupe. Normally, I do not associate these vehicles with sticking it to the Man.

The Woodlot has a reputation as being a leftist hippie enclave, the well-intentioned granola belt and the site of the romance of the starving artist, but the times they are a changin'.

The Woodlot has become a place of the well-heeled left. A cursory look at the prices of goods and services in the area confirms these suspicions.

The local merchants are not catering to the lower-income artists, writers and musicians (there are very few of those living here). Their clientele are the architects, business managers, lawyers and government bureaucrats (and their offspring) who now populate the area.

House prices and rental rates are increasing, just as they are downtown. Recently, a local apartment building was sold to a developer who intends to renovate the suites and double the rent.

The former residents are given first dibs at renting, but as the monthly rates will be beyond their means, they will move elsewhere. This has happened more than once these last few years.

As the gentrification continues, the Woodlot has become the antithesis of its more recent past. It is turning back into the neighbourhood it was in the 1920s and '30s; a time when the place was less diversified. The future lies in the Woodlot's past.

Many college-aged kids who work in this area and, perhaps, live here, have taken on some of the values their parents once professed (before they went to school and sought stable middle-income jobs).

These folks can be seen advertising their bands, riding bicycles built 40 or so years ago, encouraging attendance at a speaker's event and dressing as urban peasants. Perhaps they are destined to repeat their parents' trajectories.

I believe the hippie movement in Canada was a failed project, as there were no plans formulated to move ahead once resistance to the mainstream was articulated.

To make the transformation to live outside the context of the quest for capital and the accumulation of goods would require a significant shift in economic and political priorities. Convincing themselves and others of the viability was never on the agenda.

Maybe there was never an agenda. So, they grew their hair, wore sandals, strummed guitars, wrote poetry and yearned for a different world.

The Winnipeg Woodlot was never a social experiment or alternative model of how to live a life of resistance. It was a stodgy neighbourhood whose inhabitants vacated to the suburbs after the war and left these large homes which could be remodeled into multiple rental units.

Economics led the young and artistic here and economics again is driving them out. We have come full circle. We witnessed a transitory moment. Just like this lament.

 

Herr Doktor is a resident of the Winnipeg Woodlot. He is a regular contributor to the Donald Street Collective and spends his time writing about his experiences as a mid-western urbanite. Follow this blog at thedonaldstreetcollective.weebly.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 11, 2014 A10

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