Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/5/2012 (2734 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
My neighbour Hubert Kleysen, the retired trucking-company owner, stopped me on the street this week to ask a question.
He wanted to know what could be done to essentially mask and beautify the unsightly chain-link fence and exposed back-lane stretch of Route 90 between St. Matthews and Ness avenues.
The same stretch Leonard Asper once suggested was an embarrassment to drive through after picking up visitors at the old Winnipeg international airport.
Now, of course, Leonard counts himself among the visitors, but that's another story.
Anyway, I told Hubert there had been talk of creating a good first impression by building berms and tree-trimmed landscaping, along with sculptures featuring bison and signage that would capture the city's culture, from the ballet to the Bombers.
But that had been six or seven years back.
And the highly travelled stretch to and from the airport still looks as ugly as ever.
What happened to all that hype and hope?
I called someone who is so plugged in at city hall, he should be wearing a lampshade.
My plugged-in pal told me there had been blue-sky planning, spearheaded by the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, with a proposed $3-million public and private partnership project. Maybe $5 million at the outside.
Local corporations lined up to donate money, the city kicked in $50,000 for a study. They even came up with a name for it: Chamber Way.
But after the architects presented the design, the engineers dug down on it — almost literally dug down. They learned there was a sewer main that couldn't take the weight of what they had planned, at least not without spending a lot more money reinforcing the area.
And the overhead hydro wires they wanted to bury for aesthetic reasons were also going to drive the cost way up.
More than $2 million way up.
Soon, what had originally been envisioned as a $3-million beautification project had swollen to an ugly $8 million.
Suddenly, Chamber Way had hit a dead end.
Or so my plugged-in pal thought.
He wasn't alone.
For a time, Dave Angus, president of the chamber, thought so too.
But when I spoke with him on Wednesday, he sounded more than hopeful the Chamber Way idea was back on the road.
They have a revised, somewhat scaled-back plan, that still includes the concept of having businesses sponsor artfully presented signage that salutes the ballet, the Bombers, the Jets and, of course, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
"We are close to having something that is doable," Angus said.
He means close to presenting the less ambitious and less pricey version of that good first impression to city hall, the province and Ottawa, which the chamber is asking for help with the public works and infrastructure portions of the project.
Angus said they may even present the original grand-plan option.
He said they might be able to do that by tying it into an upgrade of that stretch of Route 90, which isn't slated for widening and doesn't need it, but might be ready for some sort of resurfacing and sprucing up.
Angus has his sights set on starting whatever they can do as early as next spring, and having it completed by the summer of 2013.
Chamber Way is just the beginning of the chamber's plans for improving the streetscape that leads from Richardson International Airport to the south and west sides of the city, and downtown.
But first, the first impression of Chamber Way.
"We're hoping it will be something Winnipeggers will be proud of," Angus said.
There was something I hadn't asked Angus.
How did the chamber bring Chamber Way back to life?
"We just wouldn't let it go," Angus said.
In other words, as long as there was the will, they'd find a Way.
And that kind of determination is something that should definitely make Winnipeg proud.