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Summit comes up with creative ideas to redevelop CP Rail’s central yards

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A linear park, rapid transit, public art, much more housing, light industry to provide jobs and even an area for urban farming and bee keeping.

Those were some of the ideas that emerged Tuesday night at an informal design summit meant to brainstorm ways to redevelop CP Rail’s central yards.

Roughly 120 people, including North End residents, urban planners and policy-makers, packed the Winnipeg Free Press News Café. In all, participants produced more than 30 concept designs for the neighbourhood, sketching out where parks, housing, amenities and even new toboggan hills could go. Those drawings will be posted on the Free Press website in the coming days, and some will be published in Tuesday’s paper.

Walkability and access to trails and transit were two key themes.

"We don’t need another Waverley West development downtown," wrote one group.

Among the more innovative ideas to emerge was large-scale urban farming as well as community gardens where new immigrants could grow produce they have trouble buying in Winnipeg. Several people suggested the city ought to launch an international design competition for the neighbourhood.

Some groups created remarkably details plans. One laid out where bus routes should be. Another suggested high rises along Jarvis Avenue with commercial space on the main floor and green space in front similar to the Graham Avenue entrance of the new Manitoba Hydro building downtown.

Groups also raised questions. Many wondered whether a new neighbourhood nestled between the city’s poorest districts would ever appeal to the Linden Woods crowd -- the middle and upper-class residents needed to create a genuinely mixed neighbourhood. And, there were questions about what to do with the main CP Rail line and how to avoid pushing the railway and its jobs out of Winnipeg while still creating a needed infill project.

Fernando Velarde suggested that, with the success of the provincial nominee program, the new neighbourhood ought to include services for new immigrants, such as affordable rental housing, a health centre and easy access to transit, including a rapid transit line. The main focus point of the neighbourhood would be a green belt that connects to the area’s existing parks, including the Old Exhibition Grounds.

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