The University of Manitoba is one step closer to redesigning its Fort Garry campus and developing one of the largest uncontaminated plots of vacant land in Winnipeg.
The university has chosen a group of Winnipeg and Toronto architecture and planning firms to guide the future development of its 279-hectare Fort Garry campus and create a planning framework for the former Southwood Golf Course, a 48.5-hectare parcel of land that sits on its northern flank.
The U of M acquired the Southwood land in 2011 and then launched a competition to chart the development of the former golf course and create a new master plan for the entire Fort Garry campus.
After sifting through 45 entries from 17 countries, the university selected a proposal by a group led by Toronto landscape-architecture firm Janet Rosenberg & Studio, best-known in Winnipeg for winning a previous competition to redesign Portage & Main.
The Rosenberg-led group, which also includes Toronto consulting firm Arup and Winnipeg firms Cibinel Architects and Landmark Planning & Design, proposed to make riverbank redevelopment and open spaces more important than land-use concerns when the university develops Southwood and adds amenities to other portions of its Fort Garry campus.
"They, more than anyone, got the concept of 'landscape first,' " said Michelle Richard, director of the U of M's planning office, referring to the Rosenberg-led team.
Generally, land use is the chief concern during the development of a planning framework. The university, which has a city-planning school, placed a greater emphasis on landscape design in an effort to raise the bar for development in Winnipeg.
"We're strongly committed to that. It will be part of the project definition," said David Barnard, the U of M's president and vice-chancellor. "We have these expectations we like to meet."
But at this stage, both the new master plan for the Fort Garry campus and the Southwood-area plan are strictly in the conceptual phase.
The Rosenberg-led group has proposed to develop the U of M campus riverfront, place a mix of new residential housing and commercial buildings on the Southwood lands, create a new mixed-use development near the centre of the campus, redesign campus entrances and transform the Smartpark area into something other than "a homogenous business park."
Concept art created by the group includes utopian drawings of residences perched above grasslands on stilts, a Chancellor Matheson Avenue enshrouded by a forest and a paddlecraft dock along the Red River.
The actual plans to guide the campus redevelopment, meanwhile, will take at least another year to create and may not be presented to the public until the spring of 2015.
At that point, the idealism of "landscape-first" planning principles will be tested against the reality of development costs.
"Often, the reality of budgets has to constrain those things," Barnard said. "I think we'll be looking to private-sector partners on large parts of this."
Private-sector investment is expected to drive the creation of as many as 4,200 new housing units and commercial development in the Southwood land. The university is also working with Winnipeg Transit to develop a transportation corridor through Southwood that will extend the forthcoming second phase of the Southwest Transitway from Pembina Highway to Investors Group Field and the rest of the Fort Garry campus.
At this point, a transitway link is one of the few certainties in the university-campus redevelopment. It is almost just as certain new commercial development will spring up alongside Pembina Highway on the west side of the Southwood land -- and new active-transportation corridors will be placed along the Red River, on the east side of the parcel.
"This gives us the opportunity to think about how the University of Manitoba should orient (itself) to the community," Barnard said. "We're planning here for decades of development, not just a matter of years."
The University of Manitoba area will be transformed once 120 acres that used to be Southwood golf course is developed. What are some features and amenities you would like to see for the area? Join the conversation in the comments below.