Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

It takes people to raise a Village

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Osborne Village, the greatest neighbourhood in Canada. The Canadian Institute of Planners said so after counting more than 200,000 ballots that were cast across the country.

According to them, Osborne Village has "a memorable or unique character, architectural features that are visually interesting, it is accessible by different modes of transportation, reflects local culture and history and promotes social and economic activities."

What that translates to in the Village needs a fuller explanation.

In the Village, it means you can greet the sunrise with a peaceful, contemplative stroll down the Riverwalk to The Forks and end the day with a walk down pedestrian-packed Corydon and Osborne sharing a gelato, or a wine or a beer on a patio.

The shops here sell the most interesting, one-of-a-kind T-shirts and sunglasses to Village people (visitors are the "cream," according to one shopkeeper).

Once the panhandlers know you're a "local," they don't bother you.

Weekend evenings are packed with dining, dancing and music.

I'm sure the Osborne Street Canada Day street celebration would be voted "best in Winnipeg" (and you can see the fireworks from the Osborne bridge or from one of the many balconies hanging off the apartment towers that make the Village one of Canada's most densely populated neighbourhoods.

That population includes students, seniors, professionals and working-class and low-income citizens from every ethnic group in Canada. And we all get along, for the most part.

Every time your feet tire of concrete, they find a patch of grass, and when the abundant nightlife on the weekend overwhelms you, there are churches within walking distance of both Osborne and Corydon.

Despite the fact one convenience store has to revert to passing cash through a glass in the middle of the night, there is no safer place in Winnipeg for an early-morning, daytime or evening stroll. There is safety in numbers.

There is a certain cachet to saying "I live in the Village."

One supermarket, one super-pharmacy and one super-discount store. And that is all one neighbourhood needs.

No super-hardware store. Or even a mom-and-pop hardware store. Market forces always dictate, so I guess it means most Villagers rent and aren't looking for hardware (and the condo owners finally learned to hire a professional to do it right the first time).

From my apartment on the 26th floor of Evergreen Place, I get to play fire ranger (I have even called in some suspicious billows of smoke spotted down below). I also get to look down my nose at all those big-shot politicians at the legislature.

The best window shopping in the world is in the Village, especially since residents and visitors alike can do this from the comfort of their cars as we creep down Osborne during rush hour (and especially since the city decided turn the Osborne Bridge back into the horse-and-buggy crossing it used to be).

And, yes, the shops. You can buy hydroponics and tie-dye T-shirts here, Gucci and Versace there, kitsch and vintage here. Specialty really means special in the Village.

It's a 10-minute walk to downtown but more and more people are building home offices here (business in your bathrobe 'til noon is incredible).

The amenities of Osborne Village are plenty obvious and we can even escape that age-old image of cold and mosquitoes because many of us don't have to travel far from home to work, and pesky insects generally avoid high-traffic areas and can't reach highrise balconies.

The Canadian Institute of Planners can use all sorts of fancy words and concepts to describe why Osborne Village is No. 1. Quite simply, to have a Winnipeg neighbourhood chosen the best in Canada while our city is also called "the gang capital of Canada" is a welcome relief to all of us.

The major thing that makes the Village No. 1 is what makes any neighbourhood a great place to live.

It's people. Lots and lots of people live in the Village.

 

Don Marks doesn't know if he's going to heaven or hell but this transplanted North Ender knows he'll be going to either from the Village.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 28, 2012 A18

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