Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/2/2009 (4894 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Inner-city residents, uneasy about a plan to build a biomedical hub around the Health Sciences Centre, met Saturday to voice their concerns over the possible transformation of one of Winnipeg's oldest neighbourhoods.
The streets between the province's largest hospital and the National Microbiology Laboratory on Arlington Street could become home, over the next two decades, to a cluster of businesses -- called Bio-Med City by its proponents -- aimed at elevating Winnipeg into a world-class centre for biomedical research.
To many neighbourhood residents, though, such plans mean just one thing: eviction.
"What about all the people who live here? Aren't we important?" asked Cathy Collins, who chairs the West Alexander Residents Association, the group that organized the meeting that attracted about 50 people to Pinkham Elementary School.
"Most of the people who live outside the area call it 'Murder's Half Acre,'" said Harold Martinos, who has lived on Elgin Avenue for 47 years.
"But you talk to anyone living in the area and they're happy to own a home here or to rent."
While plans for Bio-Med City might seem far-off, Martinos said anxiety is growing in West Alexander because people are unsure whether their homes will be bulldozed in the name of scientific -- and economic -- progress.
"I say it's very real," Martinos said when asked about the depth of neighbourhood worry. "The biggest problem is the uncertainty."
The meeting was the first real opportunity for people on different sides of the Bio-Med City plan to hear each other's hopes and fears.
Last year, the city completed a so-called secondary plan for the area that set out the rules and regulations for possible expansion of the major health-care institutions: the HSC, the microbiology lab and the University of Manitoba medical school.
Public consultations to assemble the plan were limited, some residents said.
The city has made it clear any area health-care institutions proposing expansion will have to ensure no net loss of housing.
Senior city planner Michael Robinson stood up and tried to assure the crowd the next step would have to be a detailed plan of the entire area from an institution such as the HSC.
"There will be no more ad hoc development," Robinson said, referring to past projects that were built one by one. "That's over with."
Terry Duguid, a former city councillor and mayoral candidate and one of the people who hatched the Bio-Med City concept, tried to show understanding for residents' concerns.
"We can have our cake and eat it, too," said Duguid, now president and chief executive of the International Centre for Infectious Diseases, a non-profit organization that brings together Canadian and worldwide bio-medical interests.
"I believe this has to be a community-led process," Duguid said of the possibility of combining Bio-Med City with the residential neighbourhood. "But we should make every effort to retain housing stock and keep residents where they are."
An official with HSC said he was only at the meeting as an observer and declined comment.
Point Douglas Coun. Mike Pagtakhan, who represents the area, said he was encouraged by the meeting's emphasis on dialogue between institutions and residents.
"I feel the anxiety of the neighbourhood and I respect that because there's a whole lot of questions to be answered," Pagtakhan said.
"It's about respecting the community and not wiping it out."