April 27, 2017


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The road to IKEA

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/12/2008 (3053 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

INCREASINGLY it seems all roads lead to south­west Winnipeg, particularly the shopping mecca that straddles both sides of Kenaston Boulevard at McGillivray Boulevard. The fact that IKEA, the hugely popular maker of flat-pack furniture, will open a 350,000-square-foot store in the area means it’s a safe bet that those roads will continue to be among the most heavily travelled in the city. The question, then, is whether the shopping and retail district has the transportation infrastructure to cope with the inevitable surge in traffic mayhem.

Unfortunately, the city really doesn't know what impact the new mega-store will have on the area, but then the evolution of the entire district has been something of a surprise for city planners. When city-owned land at the corner of Kenaston and McGillivray was sold to a private developer 10 years ago, it set off a frenzy of rapid growth that was never anticipated by even the most optimistic official. As a result, the planning process was inadequate. Service roads, which would have helped ease traffic into the shopping districts, were left out of the plans. Winnipeg Transit was also behind the curve and did not develop a blueprint for properly servicing the explosion of retail development.

The planning was so bad that the city designated the area where IKEA is to be located as industrial land in Plan Winnipeg, the not-so-sacred document that is supposed to govern development in Winnipeg. It will now have to be amended to make room for IKEA on land that no longer is appropriate for industrial uses. While the city failed to envision the need, it now recognizes that there must be significant improvements to the area's transportation infrastructure.

A traffic study, for example, will be commissioned to determine where Kenaston and Sterling Lyon Parkway should be expanded to accommodate traffic in and out of IKEA, but it will also analyze the transportation needs of the entire region. Winnipeg Transit will also sit at the table when civic officials consider all the changes that should be made to ensure that south Kenaston doesn't become a traffic nightmare comparable to the unacceptable situation around Polo Park Shopping Centre.

IKEA's decision to open a store in Winnipeg is a sign of confidence in the community. It is a particularly positive signal at a time when the economy is faltering and fear of failure is everywhere. It is also an endorsement of the absolutely incredible success of the retail and commercial sector that has risen, almost overnight, along Kenaston.

The city can help ensure the area's continued success by developing a transit and road system that will encourage traffic without causing the kind of appalling congestion that raises blood pressure, tempers and exhaust fumes. Low expectations 10 years ago account for the shortcomings in the area today, but there is still time to plan for a brighter future.


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Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press' editorial board.

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