Brent Bellamy

Brent Bellamy

Columnist

Brent Bellamy is senior design architect for Number Ten Architectural Group.

Recent articles of Brent Bellamy

Board impairs civic decision-making

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Board impairs civic decision-making

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Monday, Nov. 28, 2022

When Manitoba’s provincial government passed Bill 37 last year, it was lost in the headlines of a global pandemic, but its potential impact on the city of Winnipeg was not lost on then-mayor Brian Bowman.

He made a rare appearance at the legislature to speak in opposition, calling the bill “an erosion of local democracy, moving decisions on land-use planning out of the hands of democratically elected representatives.”

Bill 37 gave the Manitoba Municipal Board, a provincially appointed tribunal, jurisdiction to hear appeals to development decisions such as re-zoning applications which have been previously approved by Winnipeg city council and other civic departments, thereby giving the board the power to overturn approvals and block projects from proceeding.

The municipal board appeal stage is a new layer added to the city of Winnipeg’s already-comprehensive process for re-zoning and other land-use applications, which often takes between 12 and 18 months to complete.

Monday, Nov. 28, 2022

SUPPLIED IMAGE

Aerial image shows the proposed site of an eight-storey, 55-plus apartment building, which received civic zoning approval but was rejected by the provincially appointed municipal board.

Gaboury favoured organic, regionalist style

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Gaboury favoured organic, regionalist style

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Monday, Nov. 7, 2022

When Étienne Gaboury died a few weeks ago at the age of 92, Manitoba lost one of its most prominent, most beloved, and arguably its greatest architect.

Over his 50-year career, he was driven by a passionate connection to this place, leaving behind a legacy of buildings that speaks proudly to who we are as a community.

Gaboury defined architecture as “space structured for human needs.” This somewhat pragmatic description doesn’t seem to fit with a man whose architecture was so richly connected to artistic expression, but digging deeper, it reveals greater meaning. He saw the third component of the definition, human needs, as being intellectual, emotional and spiritual.

He believed architecture, like all art, should evoke a personal reaction, and that people should sense there is an inherent message in a structure, connecting to each of us in different ways.

Monday, Nov. 7, 2022

Brent Bellamy photo

The Esplanade Riel was Étienne Gaboury’s final prominent commission.

A new mayor and council need visionary city-building policies to fix Winnipeg's challenges

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A new mayor and council need visionary city-building policies to fix Winnipeg's challenges

Brent Bellamy 12 minute read Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022

The approaching election is coming at a time when the world seems filled with uncertainty. The future feels unpredictable and our path forward less defined. In the past, civic elections have often been distilled down to police, pipes and pavement, but today we are facing broader city-building conversations. Issues that have been building for many years are converging with more recent challenges to create obstacles of generational impact. As we vote, now more than ever, we must remember that the decisions we make today will define the city we pass on to our children.

The global pandemic has ripped open the severe social divisions that have long existed in our city. The challenges of poverty and homelessness have never been so acute or so visible, with bus shelters serving as temporary homes and riverbanks as temporary encampments.

The pandemic has also devastated small businesses across the city, most significantly downtown, where more than 50 storefront shops have permanently closed and 1.5 million square feet of office space now sits vacant. The pre-COVID momentum of downtown growth and renewal has been set back decades, with major streets, such as Portage Avenue, now lined with hollowed-out buildings and vacant storefronts.

As we move out of the pandemic, we are seeing inflation rates soar, with historic cost-of-living increases that are creating even wider economic schisms in our city. Since 2020, the cost of gasoline has doubled, the average price of a used vehicle has increased by 35 per cent, and the average cost of a house in Winnipeg has increased by 25 per cent.

Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022

MIKE SUDOMA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES.

The pre-COVID momentum of downtown growth and renewal has been set back decades, with major streets, such as Portage Avenue, now lined with hollowed-out buildings and vacant storefronts.

Blank walls diminish pedestrian experience

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Blank walls diminish pedestrian experience

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Monday, Sep. 12, 2022

The cannabis shop has quickly replaced the corner store as a symbol of Canadian neighbourhoods. Only four years since legalization, cannabis storefronts have become pervasive fixtures on city streets, with more than 3,200 stores now open across the country, an increase of about 1,400 over last year.

Manitoba’s nearly 160 cannabis stores outnumber Tim Hortons and McDonald’s outlets combined.

Strong revenues have enabled cannabis shops to lease prominent locations on commercial high streets in every Canadian city. This visibility, coupled with the sheer volume of stores, has begun to influence the character of urban neighbourhoods across the country. The greatest impact has come from blacked-out storefront windows that respond to government requirements for cannabis and cannabis accessories to not be visible from the outside.

Many provincial regulators are now questioning the resulting blank exterior walls that are proliferating along sidewalks and adversely affecting the safety and pedestrian quality of city streets.

Monday, Sep. 12, 2022

Brent Bellamy photo

Blanked-out windows on a Winnipeg cannabis shop create a bleak exterior that discourages pedestrian activity.

The time is right for LRT transition

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The time is right for LRT transition

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Monday, Aug. 22, 2022

Winnipeg was built on light rail transit. At its peak, 400 streetcars rode 200 kilometres of track, carrying 60 million riders per year. And almost immediately after the streetcars were replaced with buses in 1955, the debate began over bringing back light rail transit (LRT).

From a proposed subway in the 1960s to a monorail dream in the 1970s to both phases of the Southwest Transitway in the last 30 years, debating light rail transit has been a Winnipeg tradition for almost seven decades. Last week, Coun. Brian Mayes (St. Vital) added his voice, suggesting the rapid transit lines proposed in the Winnipeg Transit Masterplan be light rail instead of bus.

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) was chosen for Winnipeg’s Southwest Transitway largely for its lower cost and increased flexibility, with buses being able to run along the dedicated corridor and then move seamlessly to regular on-street routes. BRT is efficient, faster to implement and more affordable than light rail.

So why the never-ending discussion about a more expensive rail system? The simple answer is that a train is not a bus.

Monday, Aug. 22, 2022

BRENT BELLAMY PHOTO

Riders board the C-train light rail in Calgary. That city, like Edmonton and Kitchener/Waterloo, implemented its first LRT lines with a population of about half a million, significantly less than the 800,000 people in Winnipeg today.

Moving forward requires looking back

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Moving forward requires looking back

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Sunday, Jul. 24, 2022

For its first century, downtown Winnipeg was a vibrant and diverse urban neighbourhood. Streets were lined with elegant red-brick apartment buildings, terrace housing and grand Victorian homes. Canopies of elm trees shaded the sidewalks of a neighbourhood peppered with schools, corner stores, churches and parks.

Portage Avenue and Main Street were busy urban shopping streets, and the stone buildings of the old warehouse district were filled with commerce and industry.

The 1960s saw the beginning of downtown’s slow transition from a neighbourhood into a sterile business district designed for nine-to-five commuters. The population shrank, and the shopping streets were turned into traffic conduits that attracted cars and repelled shoppers.

Boulevard trees were cut down and the streets widened to accommodate more vehicles. Large office buildings replaced apartment blocks, and the houses were razed to make parking lots beside them.

Sunday, Jul. 24, 2022

(Stationpoint Photographic) Innovative redevelopment of 433 Main St. turned an underused 1970s office building into a vibrant mixed-use property that combines retail, office space and rental apartments.

Bold thinking created affordable housing

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Bold thinking created affordable housing

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Monday, Jun. 13, 2022

In the late 1940s, Canada’s post-war economy was booming, but corresponding global supply-chain disruptions, scarcity of skilled labour and material shortages resulted in skyrocketing inflation. Competition for new housing drove the real-estate market to record highs, leaving low- and middle-income tenants experiencing severe housing need across the country.

These challenges are familiar in our current post-pandemic world, and the bold action taken by the federal government back then provides a provocative point of discussion for today.

As the Second World War began, the country experienced a significant wave of urban migration, with servicemen and war workers moving to cities to be near military bases and industrial employment. This created high demand for affordable urban housing.

The federal government responded to this immediate need by creating Wartime Housing Limited, a Crown corporation that participated directly in the residential construction industry, building thousands of small, wood-framed houses across the country for military and trade workers participating in the war effort.

Monday, Jun. 13, 2022

BRENT BELLAMY PHOTO
A row of similar structures in Elmwood stands as an example of the ‘strawberry box houses’ constructed by the Crown corporation known as Wartime Housing Limited.

More city than we can pay for

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More city than we can pay for

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Monday, May. 16, 2022

As people in Winnipeg emerged from a long, frigid and snowy winter, they found a city with roads bearing a striking resemblance to the surface of the moon. This, despite the City of Winnipeg having had its highest road renewal budget in history for each of the last three years. With drought followed by flood, freezing followed by thaw, Manitoba gumbo has been having its way with our city’s roads.

We can’t change the weather, or the soil, and significantly raising taxes wouldn’t be popular, so how will we ever manage our worsening pothole problem? There is one straightforward answer — build fewer roads and get more people to live on the ones we already have. The solution to managing potholes is simple math that reads like a Grade 9 pop quiz.

If 10 taxpayers live on a street that is one kilometre long, each one pays to maintain 100 metres of road. If 10 taxpayers live on a street that is one and a half kilometres long, each one pays to maintain 150 meters of road. Every tax dollar being stretched more thinly by lower density means reduced maintenance and more potholes. It’s a simplistic example, but this is precisely what has happened in Winnipeg, and in most sprawling North American cities, over the last 50 years.

Since the 1970s, Winnipeg’s low-density, suburban growth patterns have resulted in the population increasing by 37 per cent while the built area of the city has almost doubled. Each taxpayer today is responsible for about 40 per cent more land area and its corresponding infrastructure. Looking at infrastructure such as water pipes, according to the city, each Winnipegger today is responsible for nearly 2.5 times more length of pipe than they were in the 1940s, 70 per cent more than in the 1970s.

Monday, May. 16, 2022

Potholes in Wolseley in May (Brent Bellamy photo)
Brent Bellamy photo
The inability to maintain streets properly is the result of low-density suburban growth patterns that require expensive new infrastructure on the edges of the city.

EVs not a ‘silver bullet’ solution

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EVs not a ‘silver bullet’ solution

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Monday, Apr. 25, 2022

As governments across the world struggle to meet quickly approaching climate change targets, electric vehicles have begun to find their way into the spotlight. The “Build Back Better” plan in the U.S. and Canada’s 2022 federal budget both focus efforts to decarbonize the transportation sector on incentivizing “zero-emission vehicles” (ZEVs).

Transportation is Canada’s second largest source of GHG emissions, responsible for 25 per cent of the country’s total. In cities such as Winnipeg, vehicle tailpipes are the source of half of all emissions.

It is also clear, however, that electric vehicles are not an “easy button” solution to climate change. A 2,000-kilogram machine transporting an 80-kilogram human cargo for almost every trip made outside of the home is not a sustainable solution, regardless of the machine’s powerplant.

There are many studies that try to quantify ZEVs’ emissions, and the consistent conclusion is that no car is truly a zero-emission vehicle. For a more complete picture, the current focus on tailpipe emissions must be broadened to include the carbon footprint of all facets of a vehicle’s life cycle.

Monday, Apr. 25, 2022

Sean Gallup / Getty Images / TNS FILES
The transition to electric vehicles is only one step in the necessary shift toward alternative modes of transportation.

Selkirk a model of progressive planning

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Selkirk a model of progressive planning

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Monday, Mar. 28, 2022

Just north of Lower Fort Garry, stretching along the banks of the Red River, is Selkirk. A city with about 10,000 residents, the seventh-largest in the province, it has in the past been largely known for its catfish and its steel mill. Today, however, a new image is being crafted. Through several innovative and forward-thinking planning policies, Selkirk is beginning to stake a claim as the most progressive city in Manitoba.

About a decade ago, Selkirk started down its path of city-building focused on social, economic and environmental sustainability when a group of dedicated residents and political leaders identified the need for more accessible and inclusive mobility options in their city. After years of hard work, Selkirk became only the fourth city in Manitoba to introduce a public transit system. Operating as a non-profit community organization, Selkirk Transit today provides equitable and sustainable transportation.

Since conquering the challenge of public transit, the City of Selkirk has never looked back. In recent years, a long list of strategic plans has been introduced in Selkirk, informing everything from climate adaptation to downtown renewal, recreation and economic growth.

Last year, a five-year Active Transportation Strategy was introduced, building on the sustainable mobility that public transit began. The strategy is a comprehensive action plan that will connect neighbourhoods to downtown, recreational facilities, schools, employment and shopping, through walking, biking and accessible transportation like scooters and wheelchairs.

Monday, Mar. 28, 2022

Scatliff + Miller + Murray main street of the West End Mixed-Use Village. (Supplied)
Graphic by Scatliff + Miller + Murray
Artist’s conception shows plan for Selkirk’s West End Mixed-Use Village, a neighbourhood of 5,000 homes that would double the city’s current population.

Ukrainian influences are everywhere

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Ukrainian influences are everywhere

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Monday, Mar. 7, 2022

In the face of unspeakable adversity, the world is currently witnessing the resilient and courageous character of the Ukrainian people.

A century ago, these traits would prove vital for the thousands of hard-working peasant farmers who came to the inhospitable Canadian west in search of a new beginning. As partners in a shared story, we on the Prairies have forged a deep connection with the people of Ukraine.

Today, this legacy shapes our towns and cities, physically manifested most prominently through Ukrainian religious architecture that has become an intrinsic part of many communities. Drive across the Prairies between Winnipeg and Edmonton, and you’ll find the characteristic domes of Ukrainian churches piercing the sky as often as the iconic grain elevators.

When the early settlers arrived in the 1890s, a small chapel that combined local construction techniques with traditional Ukrainian shapes was often one of the first buildings to be constructed. Amazingly, three of these tiny chapels still stand in Manitoba, including St. Michael’s Church at Trembowla, near Dauphin, the oldest remaining Ukrainian church in Canada.

Monday, Mar. 7, 2022

SUPPLIED
The ‘Tin Can Cathedral’ was constructed in the early 1900s using old lumber and assorted scrap materials.

Old buildings unite neighbourhoods

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Old buildings unite neighbourhoods

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Monday, Feb. 7, 2022

At about 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, fire alarms went off at 575 Portage Avenue. A few hours later, the sky over downtown Winnipeg was filled with black smoke as firefighters battled through frigid temperatures to contain a massive blaze.

The familiar little building that stood on the corner of Langside Street for 110 years was lost forever.

Generations of Winnipeggers passed by that building every day, but few people knew its name — the Kirkwood Block. It was a “you’d know it if you saw it” kind of place. A nice little building, with a cornice and some red brick. Older people might recall spending evenings dancing at Club Morocco upstairs. Some might remember the hobby shop at the corner. Maybe it was your neighbourhood convenience store, or your office.

The Kirkwood Block was not a prominent heritage structure. It was just a quaint old building, a little crooked and kind of falling apart, sitting on a block seemingly ready for an urban renewal scheme. A big new building could bring more residents and more jobs — the goal of any downtown plan.

Monday, Feb. 7, 2022

Firefighters stand outside the ice-encrusted remains of Kirkwood Block, which was destroyed by a fire on Feb. 2. (Brent Bellamy)

Bold steps to redefine downtown

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Bold steps to redefine downtown

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Monday, Jan. 17, 2022

The first half of the 20th century brought war, pandemic, drought and depression, and in Winnipeg, a catastrophic flood. As cities emerged from these challenges in the 1950s, they were buoyed by the optimism of a better future and were not hesitant to make bold, forward-thinking moves for the next generation.

In 1955, fueled by the vision of Winnipeg as a modern metropolis, a public transit system that moved more than one hundred million passenger trips per year — twice what Winnipeg Transit currently carries — was completely dismantled. More than 400 streetcars were taken off the road and rails torn up to make room for a future with private automobiles and gasoline buses.

Eleven months later, the city doubled down on this vision, announcing that downtown streets would be converted to one-way circulation, accommodating through-traffic to the growing suburbs. Elm trees lining the downtown streets were cut down, boulevards were removed, sidewalks narrowed, and the streets were made wider to accommodate more cars. In the space of less than a year, downtown Winnipeg was changed forever.

Of course, we now know that the overwhelming prioritization of cars over all other modes of transportation, and the creation of a network of surface highways across downtown, would become a dagger in the heart of our once-bustling city centre. The fearless implementation of such bold and transformative ideas, however, is enviable, and almost unimaginable in today’s Winnipeg.

Monday, Jan. 17, 2022

Fort Street is an example of a downtown thoroughfare that was widened and converted to one-way traffic to increase vehicle capacity, thereby diminishing the pedestrian experience. (Brent Bellamy photo)

Perfect storm of construction disruption

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Perfect storm of construction disruption

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Monday, Dec. 27, 2021

Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced several new expressions into our everyday vocabulary. We are learning the Greek alphabet (Alpha, Delta, Omicron), and terms such as herd immunity, vaccine efficacy and flattening the curve have become part of regular conversation.

And more recently, we have been learning a lot about the global supply chain.

We live in a highly connected world. The homes we live in, the smartphones in our pockets and the cars we drive are the product of labour and materials brought together from around the world, through an interconnected web called the global supply chain.

The global pandemic has exposed the fragility and interdependence of the connections in this web, and the construction industry has been on the leading edge of its challenges.

Monday, Dec. 27, 2021

(Brent Bellamy photo)
This residential building under construction in St. Boniface is an example of a project that changed from wood studs to steel studs in response to fluctuating material costs caused by supply-chain disruption.

A chance to redefine transportation

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A chance to redefine transportation

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Monday, Nov. 29, 2021

Over the next two weeks, the City of Winnipeg is looking for public feedback on Transportation Master Plan: 2050, a 30-year blueprint to guide development of Winnipeg’s transportation network.

In the past, transportation planning has focused primarily on strategies to move cars, but today it’s seen as a central tool for building healthy, sustainable and prosperous communities. Urban mobility is fundamental to economic viability, environmental sustainability and social equity, making Transportation Master Plan: 2050 a key document for the city.

The first step in developing a new transportation strategy will be to learn from the past and accept that current economic challenges, including Winnipeg’s $3 billion infrastructure deficit for roads and bridges, are largely the result of previous planning decisions.

We have spent decades building a city almost singularly focused on automobile transportation, resulting in a sprawling, low-density urban form that has become economically unsustainable. Despite record-breaking road maintenance spending, our current pace of renewal means new roads built today won’t be replaced for more than 100 years.

Monday, Nov. 29, 2021

Manitoba vehicle owners should be getting a bigger rebate from MPI, says the Consumers' Association of Canada (Manitoba). (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Designing pedestrian promenade

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Designing pedestrian promenade

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Monday, Nov. 8, 2021

As we emerge from a global pandemic and move into the headwinds of a global climate crisis, change has become the only certainty for the world’s cities. Civic leadership that embraces bold ideas to overcome these evolving challenges, specifically in highly impacted downtown areas, will find the most success in the future.

Unveiled last year, but somewhat lost in the headlines of the pandemic, the new Winnipeg Transit Master Plan presents the city with an opportunity to lead this urban evolution. By marrying transit planning with creative urban design, we can leverage transit investment to create generational change in downtown Winnipeg.

There are three important downtown placemaking opportunities identified in the new plan. Major rapid transit stations will be built at Portage and Main and in old Union Station, establishing two significant nodes of activity. These can be leveraged through creative planning to create a gravity that attracts retail, housing and cultural amenities to support new and existing downtown residential neighbourhoods.

A third impactful move, the closing of the Graham Avenue Transit Mall, will create a kilometre-long opportunity to dream. With buses gone, and cars having been removed 30 years ago, Graham Avenue will become a blank slate upon which we can draw our vision for the future.

Monday, Nov. 8, 2021

BRENT BELLAMY PHOTO
Calgary’s Stephen Avenue, closed to vehicles in 1973, abounds with shops and restaurants, creating an important critical mass of activity.

Car co-op a progressive success story

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Car co-op a progressive success story

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021

Your car is likely your second largest household expense, and studies show that it’s probably parked 95 per cent of the time. The typical Canadian vehicle is driven for just over one hour per day on average, and according to the Canadian Automobile Association, the SUV that most people drive for that time costs an average of $33 per day to own, with all expenses included.

Imagine if you could, sharing a car with your neighbours, and only paying for it when you are actually using it. No more loan payments, or trips to the mechanic, and as a bonus you would be doing something good for the environment.

Ten years ago, this was the dream for a small group of people in Winnipeg who saw the growing car-sharing trend in larger cities across the world and wondered if it could work here. The group organized, found 40 people to pay $500 membership deposits and, in June 2011, Peg City Car Co-op was born. The idea started small, with three cars in Osborne Village; keys were stored in lockboxes and transactions recorded on paper.

As Peg City celebrates its 10th anniversary, it has grown to more than 2,000 members with 60 vehicles parked across 11 central neighbourhoods, and has hopes of growing to 100 vehicles in 2023. Members can now conveniently make bookings online up to a year in advance, for as little as an hour at a time, and they are automatically billed for their time and distance.

Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021

BRENT BELLAMY PHOTO
Peg City Car Co-op is a Winnipeg success story, growing to 60 vehicles and more than 2,000 members in just 10 years.

Lifestyle expectations influence housing

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Lifestyle expectations influence housing

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Monday, Sep. 20, 2021

With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting global supply chains, and consumer demand rising as the economy rebounds, inflation rates are being pushed to their highest levels in almost 20 years. The federal election campaign has seen affordability emerge as a central issue concerning Canadians, and with home prices skyrocketing across the country, much of the discussion has naturally centred on housing.

Any solution to what is being called Canada’s housing crisis will require close examination of both housing and transportation. These two key drivers of inflation are intrinsically linked, and together represent 50 per cent of Canadian household spending.

Comparisons are often made between the baby-boomer generation and millennials to demonstrate how today’s cost of living has increased. Relative to income growth, average house values, the purchase price of a vehicle and the cost of a litre of gasoline have all more than doubled since the 1970s. These are striking increases, but looking more closely, our lifestyle expectations may be having an even greater impact.

Since 1975, the average size of a new home in Canada has doubled, from 1,050 square feet to 2,100 square feet, despite today’s average household size being one person less. Neighbourhoods in the 1970s were typically 30 per cent more dense than today, with fewer peripheral suburbs requiring long driving distances.

Monday, Sep. 20, 2021

BRENT BELLAMY PHOTO
Development such as basement suites or laneway housing — sometimes referred to as ‘granny flats’ — gently increases neighbourhood density while creating affordable housing options.

An opportunity to re-imagine downtown

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An opportunity to re-imagine downtown

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021

The pandemic has been devastating for downtown Winnipeg. An abundance of “For Lease” signs in storefront windows has provided an intuitive glimpse, but a new report titled “State of Downtown: The impact of the pandemic to date” has quantified the profound challenges facing the economic, social and cultural heart of our city.

With the exodus of students and office workers, storefront businesses downtown have lost an average of $2 million per week in gross revenue since the pandemic began. This has led to more than 2,000 people losing their jobs and almost 50 storefront businesses permanently closing. The conference, hotel, hospitality, and arts and culture industries saw devastating declines, and more than 1.5 million square feet of office space are now vacant.

The pandemic has also exacerbated long-standing challenges of poverty and homelessness, with social agencies struggling to meet the needs of downtown’s vulnerable population.

The report paints a dire image, but we have been here before. Twenty years ago, downtown Winnipeg was in a similar situation. Population was at an all-time low as people moved to the suburbs, retail shops relocated from Portage Avenue to distant shopping malls, and office space was in decline. In the face of this challenge, government and private industry came together to rebuild downtown.

Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021

Brent Bellamy PHOTO
The exodus of downtown workers during the pandemic might create longer-term opportunities to re-imagine and redevelop Winnipeg’s commercial and cultural core.

Design must account for climate change

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Design must account for climate change

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Monday, Jul. 12, 2021

I don’t often write about personal experiences, but the last few weeks have been impactful. We all learned the new phrase “heat dome” and watched temperatures in the western half of the continent skyrocket to historic levels. The unrelenting heat is believed to have killed as many as 500 people in the province of British Columbia alone, along with millions of marine animals along Canada’s Pacific coast.

The small village of Lytton, B.C., recorded the highest temperature ever seen in Canada on three consecutive days, and on the fourth day, it was destroyed by wildfire.

As this climate-change-driven disaster unfolded across the West, I spent the week helping a client apply for a federal government green building grant through Infrastructure Canada. Called the Green and Inclusive Community Buildings Program, it asked for many of the typical requirements — energy-use reductions, lowered greenhouse-gas emissions targets — but the last half of the application focused on how the project will be resilient, how it will survive, in the face of the climate reality.

No longer is sustainability solely about carbon reduction to prevent or mitigate climate change; it is now also focused on adapting to what is already here and what is unavoidably coming toward us. It was a powerful realization.

Monday, Jul. 12, 2021

Brent Bellamy photo
Green roofs, such as the one on the Qualico Family Centre in Assiniboine Park, can help to reduce energy use, moderate temperatures and improve air quality.

Reimagining Wellington Crescent

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Reimagining Wellington Crescent

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Monday, Jun. 21, 2021

“We heard birds” exclaimed Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, France, in an interview with Time magazine last summer. She was describing her city, all cities, during the first COVID-19 lockdowns, when, with fewer people driving, we were provided a glimpse into what the future of cities could be. She vowed that Paris would not return to a pre-pandemic world, pledging to learn from the devastating challenges of the last year and emerge as a more socially equitable, environmentally sustainable, cleaner, healthier and happier city.

The changes that have swept across Paris since have been far-reaching and impactful, driven by a policy framework called the “la ville du quart d’heure,” or the “15-minute city.” The strategy focuses on building more diverse, integrated, and mixed-use neighbourhoods that provide residents access to all of life’s core services and amenities, within a 15-minute walk, bike or transit ride. Designing communities with integrated supports such as shops, restaurants, gyms, groceries, offices, schools and parks is in direct contrast to most modern neighbourhoods, where housing is separated by a vehicle trip from employment, shopping, entertainment and industry.

The pandemic has forced many people to work from home and spend more time in their own neighbourhoods. The 15-minute city concept builds on this evolving social and employment landscape, offering an opportunity to improve local economies and deliver lasting health, equity and environmental benefits.

In Paris, incentives are being provided to support development of small businesses and community facilities in targeted areas, emphasizing equal access to services, amenities and green space that strengthen neighbourhoods and actively reduce social divides and inequalities. A new policy has been developed to create pockets of “urban forest” and community gardens for local urban agriculture, in school yards, parks, plazas and other public spaces like city-owned surface parking lots.

Monday, Jun. 21, 2021

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
A person in a wheelchair makes their way down Wellington Crescent alongside two cyclists earlier this month. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free press files)

Alberta cities excel in urban change

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Alberta cities excel in urban change

brent bellamy 5 minute read Monday, May. 31, 2021

For many years, the fast-growing cities of Calgary and Edmonton have been the stereotype for sprawling, car-dominant urban planning, but recently they have begun to shed that image and are in many ways becoming North American leaders in progressive urban design and city building policy. Other cities might take note.

Private vehicles have shaped our cities more than anything else over the last century, but the environmental, economic, urban quality and social equity impacts of cars has progressive cities looking to diversify mobility options. Calgary and Edmonton both made the investment in light rail transit more than 40 years ago, when they had less than two-thirds of Winnipeg’s current population.

Today, broad public support is fuelling transit investment and expansion in both cities. Backed with significant federal funding available to all cities, current construction of the Valley Line in Edmonton will more than double the city’s 24-kilometre-long LRT system by 2026, and Calgary will soon begin construction on the 20-kilometer-long Green Line, adding to its current 60 kilometres of rail transit. In Calgary, 45 per cent of people who work downtown commute by train. The network is used by more than 300,000 people per day, making it one of the busiest LRT systems in North America, second only to Guadalajara, Mexico.

Calgary has also demonstrated leadership in active transportation development. In 2014, the city installed a complete, temporary downtown grid of protected bike lanes, all at once. The network has since been made permanent and the results have been significant, with more than 18,000 cyclists entering or leaving downtown daily, an increase of more than 300 per cent over 20 years.

Monday, May. 31, 2021

City of Edmonton PHOTO
Edmonton plans to double its 24-kilometre Light Rail Transit system by 2026, thanks partly to federal funding.

Infill guidelines offer prudent way forward

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Infill guidelines offer prudent way forward

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Monday, May. 3, 2021

The average cost of a detached single-family home in Winnipeg is $384,773, an increase of almost 20 per cent over last year. More than 40 per cent of Winnipeg’s population does not live in a house, and with demographics aging, ownership costs rising and new lifestyle preferences emerging, that proportion is growing.

Less than 30 per cent of all new homes being constructed today are detached, single-family structures. In the year 2000, that number was almost 90 per cent.

Despite these trends, the priorities of those with the means and desire to purchase a house dominate how we build our neighbourhoods. The word “condo” is used as a pejorative, renters are often characterized as less important members of the community, and when anything more than a new house is being proposed, Facebook groups rally to protect the “character’ of their neighbourhood.

Walk through the old neighbourhoods in Fort Rouge, however, and you will see small apartment blocks, new and old, sitting comfortably on tree-lined residential streets. Three-storey houses, now broken into multiple apartments, have been neighbours with small bungalows for more than a century, and duplexes go unnoticed in the middle of a block.

Monday, May. 3, 2021

BRENT BELLAMY PHOTO
A tree-lined street in Fort Rouge shows how different housing styles can comfortably coexist.

Research supports reduced-speed initiative

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Preview

Research supports reduced-speed initiative

Brent Bellamy 5 minute read Monday, Apr. 12, 2021

Over the last 10 years, six million vehicles have been added to Canadian roads, an increase of almost 20 per cent. Since the 1990s, the average vehicle horsepower has almost doubled, average vehicle weight has increased by 26 per cent, cars are 17 per cent larger and 80 per cent of vehicles sold in Canada today are trucks and SUVs.

In Manitoba, more vehicles and larger, faster vehicles has led to a 50 per cent increase in collisions resulting in injury during the past decade. On Winnipeg streets in 2019, the last available statistics, every second day a pedestrian or cyclist was struck and injured by a driver seriously enough to be reported. Every third day a pedestrian or cyclist was sent to hospital, and almost once a month one was killed.

Across the country, nearly one out of every five people killed or seriously injured in vehicle collisions is not in a vehicle.

All these statistics are inspiring a wave of change across Canada, as cities are one by one lowering speed limits on residential streets to make neighbourhoods safer for all road users, and more comfortable for pedestrians and cyclists.

Monday, Apr. 12, 2021

Brent Bellamy
Support is growing for reduced speed limits on residential streets.