May 22, 2015

Off The Rails

Local ideas for rail change

Brainstorming session maps out neighbourhood on CP yards

The Canadian Pacific Railway yards could be transformed into one of Winnipeg's most innovative neighbourhoods, complete with bike paths, a rapid transit line, a variety of high-density housing, local jobs and even an outdoor movie theatre.

That was the consistent vision at a brainstorming session held last week at the Winnipeg Free Press News Café. About 120 people -- urban planners, retired railway workers, neighbourhood activists, North End business owners and residents -- gathered to figure out what the 195-hectare parcel could look like if CP ever agreed to move its yards and shops.

Participants sketched several maps, including this one, at  the forum.


Participants sketched several maps, including this one, at the forum. Photo Store

North End activist Michael Champagne says the Canadian Pacific rail yards are a physical and psychological barrier between the North End and the rest of Winnipeg.


North End activist Michael Champagne says the Canadian Pacific rail yards are a physical and psychological barrier between the North End and the rest of Winnipeg. Photo Store

In all, participants drafted more than 30 possible plans for the yards that focused on ways to integrate a new neighbourhood with established ones that already hug the yards.

In recent months, the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg has made a pitch to all three levels of government to fund a $1.5-million feasibility study that would explore the pros and cons of moving the railway yards in order to free up land for what could be a marquee urban redevelopment project.

So far, no government has agreed to the study and CP has said the 130-year-old yards meet the company's current operational needs.

video player to use on WFP


Many plans created at Tuesday's design summit used the shape of the tracks to create a central east-west green corridor that included commuter bike paths and recreation nodes. Participants also sketched out a rapid transit line through the neighbourhood and better north-south bus routes. The Arlington Bridge is one of only three or four routes into the North End, but it cannot accommodate buses.

"One of the neat things was that the community felt they were already a carless neighbourhood, a neighbourhood of the future, and perhaps this is something they could build on," said landscape architect Monica Giesbrecht, who helped facilitate a discussion at a table of North End residents.

That group tossed around ideas for a sustainable neighbourhood, such as using geothermal energy to heat and cool homes and making sure people could live and work in the neighbourhood without hour-long commutes.

Several plans envisioned the extension of the North End's easy-to-navigate grid system and advocated for more small businesses, light industrial and high-tech enterprises to create jobs and bolster what remains of the businesses lining the rail yards.

North End activist Michael Champagne laid out some of the ideas floated by young people involved in the North End Opportunity Network, including a central recreation and meeting hub to connect residents from surrounding neighbourhoods. It could include an outdoor movie theatre, a toboggan hill and a dog park.

Every design included huge parcels of land for housing, which is in short supply in Winnipeg's core. Participants called for housing at all price points and more innovative ideas, such as co-op housing and "granny flats."

Particularly important for several people was housing for new immigrants arriving under the province's successful nominee program who may have big families and need more than one- or two-bedroom units.

Other ideas were for a satellite campus of Red River College, community gardens for individual households as well as large-scale urban agriculture, and expanding the BUILD program, which trains and employs struggling residents to retrofit old houses to make them more energy-efficient.

FOR the last month, the Winnipeg Free Press has explored the idea of moving the Canadian Pacific Railway yards that define the North End and free up that huge parcel of land for redevelopment. We've looked at what other cities have done with their rail yards, where CP might move, how much remediation might cost and what North Enders would like to see built. The project culminated in a public forum and design summit on July 31 at the News Café, where 120 gathered to brainstorm ideas for a neighbourhood.

To see dozens of their designs and catch up on the stories, videos and photos, click here.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 7, 2012 B1

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