Broadway, Main Street key to downtown recovery plan
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This article was published 30/03/2022 (244 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Main Street revitalization, park upgrades and a revamped Broadway are among the many projects being eyed to help downtown recover from COVID-19.
A new proposal lists projects that could benefit from $10 million in federal gas tax funds from 2021 that was set aside by the city for downtown.
“A big component of it is definitely public space… and opportunities to connect and provide a welcoming positive experience in the public realm is really important,” said Kate Fenske, chief executive officer of Downtown Winnipeg BIZ.
Fenske said her organization and many others were consulted about how best to revitalize downtown. They helped craft the proposal, though more consultation is expected on some projects.
For example, community feedback is still needed on a $600,000 amenity plan for Main Street that would spruce up the landscaping around Thunderbird House where a new public washroom is being built at its property. Some of that cash would aim to help “restore” Thunderbird House itself and better manage waste in the area.
“It’s important that the public space we provide in our downtown looks like someone cares about it. I also think it is an important step towards reconciliation (to repair Thunderbird House),” said Fenske.
Thunderbird House was designed to be an important cultural gathering place for the Indigenous community but has been vandalized.
Other downtown recovery work is geared at helping to create attractive destinations to lure residents, workers and visitors. That effort includes a Broadway renewal project that would create a park-like atmosphere on the prominent street, with possible additions of street furniture and bike racks.
“(Broadway is) a beautiful asset that we have in our downtown, in terms of that tree-lined street, the history there… We know there are going to be some challenges, in terms of the vacancy rate throughout downtown, so it’s really important for our key corridors to look their best, in terms of attracting businesses to set up downtown, as well as residents to live here,” said Fenske.
She expects more welcoming spaces that allow people to reconnect with each other would help attract folks to the area, including plans to better connect the Exchange District and Sports Hospitality and Entertainment District with new public spaces.
Fenske noted one proposal would turn Albert Street into a so-called “shared street,” which would be designed to safely allow folks to bike, walk, or drive and could easily be shut down for pedestrian events.
While the city report lists how the $10 million would be spent, it notes the city will seek more funding from senior governments.
“We’re coming out of a pandemic right now and downtown recovery is really vital for all major downtowns. Supporting these things, I think, is critical (for) all levels of government,” said Coun. Cindy Gilroy, the head of council’s property and development committee.
The scope of projects could be revised, depending on the amount of money available, a city report notes.
The projects should help make the downtown a safe and welcoming place, including for homeless Winnipeggers who are more likely to rely on the public washroom, Gilroy said.
“When we’re building our downtown, we need to make sure that it’s fair and equitable for all… and that includes our homeless population,” she said.
Council’s property and development committee will discuss the report on April 5. Council approval is needed for the projects to go ahead.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.