Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

City must go downtown or downhill

  • Print

In a city as diverse as ours, downtown truly matters. It's full of activity and welcomes people of all backgrounds and is the economic engine of our city. With continued strategic investment and attention, it will once again be the pride of Winnipeggers. The success of our entire province rests on this understanding. And there are many partners and stakeholders who are committed to this goal.

So, it's important to ask, after years of progress, how healthy is our downtown today?

Trends suggest the downtown's health has improved significantly over the last several years. This newfound health, however, is as fragile as it is encouraging -- and it needs continued and sustained commitment from the public to nurture it.

A pledge of funding from the province's Winnipeg Regeneration Strategy and continued use of tax-increment financing will help the area become a vibrant neighbourhood. Rapid transit and policies that provide a more sustainable alternative to urban sprawl are also desperately needed because they help to direct market forces and development inwards. These are but some of the broad conclusions formed at the Health of the Downtown Summit, an assembly convened by the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ and its partners. Some of the city's most influential urban minds gathered to not only celebrate current and emerging downtown successes but to discuss our downtown's future. Some of their recommendations will be presented to the candidates of this year's mayoral election.

More than $2 billion of investment and over 100 development projects are making a significant contribution to the revitalization of our downtown. Residential growth of over 16,000 people has been supported with 1,800 new housing projects. A focus on creating complete neighbourhoods, like The Waterfront, Exchange District, The Forks, and the Sports, Hospitality and Entertainment District (SHED), and how to physically connect them has emerged. The MTS Centre, Shaw Park, and educational institutions have been drivers of increased pedestrian traffic. More than 69,000 workers continue to contribute to the local economy. And the expansion of the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg and opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights will add to the millions of local and national tourists who experience downtown -- serving as a springboard for further restaurant and retail attraction.

Winnipeggers are closer today to seeing a fully revitalized downtown than ever before.

So how do we continue and strengthen this momentum?

While many ideas percolated at the summit, there was one resounding thought among the participants: the need for civic leadership. This fall, we will have a new mayor and city council. If progress is to continue, they must continue to make downtown a priority. And plans are already in place, such as the city's guiding policy framework, OurWinnipeg, but they require less political interference, appropriate resources and oversight to see it through.

Summit participants also noted the need to change our current approach to development. Density, mixed-use development, accessibility, and rapid transit are but few of the necessities required in our city and downtown, which can help to generate more taxes per hectare and lower the city's operating costs, while creating the vibe and excitement Winnipeggers want. Development supported by public investment should be prioritized in strategic areas within the downtown, as seen with the SHED.

Poorly designed facades and surface-level parking lots should also be prohibited through stringent design guidelines.

While people say downtown is cleaner than ever before, sidewalks are still broken and in disrepair. Sidewalks need to be safe for people to walk and lined with appealing places and stores to visit.

Downtown is a special place where history, culture, and incredible architecture come together -- these assets need to be celebrated. Creativity and ingenuity leads to the rebirth of our downtown, not regulations and minimalism.

Lastly, we must recognize our city and our downtown are places place that belongs to everyone -- the rich and the poor, people who help and those who need help. Downtown can prosper economically when it enables everyone to contribute socially. It's time for Winnipeg to adopt the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, recently created by the United Way.

We've travelled far on the road back to health for our downtown over the last 10 years, but the journey continues. Let's keep moving forward.


Stefano Grande is the executive director of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 2, 2014 A13

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

On the job with sea lion researchers

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • An American White Pelican takes flight from the banks of the Red River in Lockport, MB. A group of pelicans is referred to as a ‘pod’ and the American White Pelican is the only pelican species to have a horn on its bill. May 16, 2012. SARAH O. SWENSON / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 090728 / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS White Pelicans belly up to the sushi bar Tuesday afternoon at Lockport. One of North America's largest birds is a common sight along the Red RIver and on Lake Winnipeg. Here the fight each other for fish near the base of Red RIver's control structure, giving human fisher's downstream a run for their money.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

How much does the premier's apology mean to you?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google