New plan to save downtown

Portage divided into themed zones; Tax district eyed for new development


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University of Winnipeg classes in Portage Place, a redeveloped Bay building and a special tax-incentive zone around the MTS Centre are part of CentreVenture's plan to revitalize the downtown portion of Portage Avenue.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/07/2010 (4593 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

University of Winnipeg classes in Portage Place, a redeveloped Bay building and a special tax-incentive zone around the MTS Centre are part of CentreVenture’s plan to revitalize the downtown portion of Portage Avenue.

After spending much of the past three years trying to renew a blighted portion of Main Street, the city’s downtown development agency will come before council’s executive policy committee today with a long-term plan to kick-start the Portage Avenue’s revitalization by dividing a 13-block stretch between the University of Winnipeg and the Fairmont Hotel into four zones.

At the west end of the strip, a university zone would encourage the U of W to expand east into Portage Place instead of continuing to sprawl west into the Spence neighbourhood. A new skywalk could connect the U of W to the downtown mall, the plan proposes.

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At the east end of the strip, a commercial zone around Portage and Main could be enhanced by new residential projects such as the new apartments planned for the Avenue Building.

A retail zone alongside the rest of Portage Place could include a redevelopment of the Bay.

Most ambitiously, an 11-block sports, hospitality and entertainment district, or SHED, would encompass the MTS Centre, the Winnipeg Convention Centre, the Metropolitan Theatre and the Burton Cummings Theatre. It would be designated a tax-increment financing zone, which is an area where property tax revenues from new development can be used to help fund even more development.

"What this is all about is a vision for the downtown," Mayor Sam Katz said Tuesday. "You’ve seen some significant improvements along Main Street and some announcements on Portage Avenue. We’re finally getting to what other successful downtowns are like in other cities."

The sports, hospitality and entertainment district is the key component of the plan, as revenue could help Canad Inns complete the long-delayed renovation of the Metropolitan Hotel, help the Burton Cummings Theatre finance its own renovation and possibly aid the Winnipeg Convention Centre’s still-tentative expansion.

But the plan would require the city and provincial governments to agree to create a tax-increment financing zone around the entire area for five to 10 years.

One sizable deal that could provide seed money is close to being completed. CentreVenture has been working with Longboat, a property-development company owned by Winnipeg’s Chipman family, to convert a block of Portage Avenue across from the MTS Centre into a future mixed-use development that could include a boutique hotel, some upscale shops and a parkade.

The Manitoba government says it must consult school boards about the special tax district.

"This is a very similar scenario to what the province announced with the football stadium," said Katz, referring to new taxes from a retail development at the existing Canad Inns Stadium site near Polo Park helping to finance the new stadium planned for the University of Manitoba.

The Portage Avenue plan also calls for zoning changes and for the city to work with hotel owners and the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission to reduce the negative impact of downtown alcohol sales.

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