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This article was published 9/4/2015 (2055 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Longtime food services providers at The Forks are looking forward to the jolt that new competitors will bring but they’re hoping the playing field remains level at the city’s most popular tourist destination.

If everything goes according to plan, a makeover of the food court area will be complete by the fall and some of the recently abandoned spaces will be filled by young food entrepreneurs.

But don’t expect more of the same food counters. Chelsea Thomson, manager of marketing and communications at The Forks, said the goal is to bring in people with a food-truck concept — but without the food truck — and sign them to short-term leases.

"We’re going to set it up so they can come in and get their start and give it a go. In a couple of years if it doesn’t work out, they can move on," she said.

Gus Tsouras, owner of Fergies Fish ‘N Chips & Seafood Market, said he has been told the empty spaces, which were vacated by underperforming stores, will soon be filled.

"The place has become a little stale. We’re pretty excited about some new operators coming in. The public, which has been supporting us for years, wants to see some variety and they’re going to get it. There’s nothing worse than people walking around and seeing vacancies," he said.

James Bastian, whose family has owned Taste of Sri Lanka for 23 years, agreed the food court could use some spicing up.

Changes are coming to The Forks.

BORIS MINKEVICH/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Changes are coming to The Forks.

"I would like to give an opportunity to the younger generation but at the same time, you don’t want to step on the (existing tenants). We have people who have been coming to us since we opened," he said.

Marta Reys, owner of Chilean Corner, said she’s looking forward to hearing the plans from her landlord. An influx of new operators could go one of two ways — it could either split the existing customer base among more kiosks or it could increase the total number of people at The Forks and boost everybody’s business.

"If we have more customers, that would be nice," she said.

A couple of kiosk owners, who didn’t want to be identified, said their only concern with the pending changes was that the newcomers could be given preferential treatment which could allow them to undercut the prices of long-term operators.

Thomson said current food services providers don’t need to worry about a two-tiered leasing policy.

"It will be standardized. When the leases of our existing tenants are due they will be renegotiated in the same manner as the new tenants," she said.

"The tenants do know that something is happening. When we finalize the construction plans and have them in place we’ll meet with the tenants and let them know what the plans are."

There are currently about a half-dozen or so empty spaces in the food court. They have been covered up with banners declaring "Delicious Things are coming to The Forks Market."

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca