Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Education key to Merchants revival

  • Print

Young North End activists hailed it as the latest example of "North End rising." That was the response when Premier Greg Selinger announced recently the provincial government will invest more than $9 million in the redevelopment of the old Merchants Hotel and six adjoining lots on Selkirk and Pritchard avenues. At the heart of what will be called Merchants Corner is an innovative educational strategy, prompting Minister of Children and Youth Opportunities, Kevin Chief, to use the phrase "beer bottles to books." Whatever slogan is used, this is an exciting initiative.

The Merchants Hotel, for years a magnet for criminal activity and a symbol of what was negative in the North End, was shut down in April 2012. People in the neighbourhood are still talking about how peaceful the area is now. With the premier's announcement, there is much more to come.

Merchants Corner will include 30 units of rent-geared-to-income housing for students with children. This alone is enormously important given the severe shortage of decent, affordable housing in the inner city.

On the main floor of Merchants Corner, the University of Winnipeg's Department of Urban and Inner-city Studies will share space with the North End high school support program, CEDA-Pathways to Education.

For North End high school students, this means the idea of attending university will increasingly become "normalized." This is not the case today. In some North End neighbourhoods, only 25 per cent of young people are graduating high school, and university is seen by many as not being for "people like us."

Merchants Corner will also include a community space where, among other activities, literacy programming for neighbourhood preschool children will be offered by Frontier College.

Urban and Inner-City Studies will continue with our successful community outreach campaign, directed at the wide variety of community-based organizations and high schools and, in future, junior high schools in the inner city.

Merchants Corner, while significant in its own right, will also be part of an emerging North End Community Campus, which includes the University of Manitoba's Inner-City Social Work Program, the outstanding aboriginal adult education program, Urban Circle Training Centre (which works in collaboration with Red River College), and the recently constructed Makoonsag Intergenerational Childcare Centre, which offers first preference to children whose parents are attending one of these educational institutions. All of these institutions are situated in a one-block area on Selkirk Avenue. The student housing and child-care initiatives respond to two major barriers to higher education. The educational methods used differ from those in mainstream educational institutions and have proved to work well. This means graduation rates are higher and lives are being changed.

The redevelopment of the old Merchants Hotel into Merchants Corner is a good example of what works well in the inner city. The beauty of the initiative is provincial investment will be paid back in full -- and then some -- thanks to higher taxes paid by those who benefit from improved education and reduced expenditures on social assistance and criminal-justice costs, as ever more people graduate from high school, pursue higher education and move into the labour force.

Merchants Corner is a genuine partnership between a community determined to work hard to improve the opportunities available to its members, and a provincial government far-sighted enough to see that investment now will produce returns far into the future. The redevelopment of the old Merchants Hotel makes good sense and is good news for all of us.


Jim Silver is chairman of the University of Winnipeg's Department of Urban and Inner-City Studies, and a member of the Merchants Corner steering committee and executive committee.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 7, 2014 A9

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


  • 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 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 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.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Key of Bart - Four Little Games

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • The sun peers through the fog to illuminate a tree covered in hoar frost near Headingley, Manitoba Thursday- Standup photo- February 02, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A young goose gobbles up grass at Fort Whyte Alive Monday morning- Young goslings are starting to show the markings of a adult geese-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 20– June 11, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


What do you think of the government's announcement that there will be no balanced provincial budet until 2018?

View Results

Ads by Google