Helping Winnipeggers find their way back downtown

Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, World Trade Centre Winnipeg and CentrePort Canada are leading by example and jointly moving to Portage and Main tower


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The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, World Trade Centre Winnipeg and CentrePort Canada are putting their money where their mouths are and are jointly moving to Portage and Main.

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The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, World Trade Centre Winnipeg and CentrePort Canada are putting their money where their mouths are and are jointly moving to Portage and Main.

At a news conference to announce a new advertising campaign to draw Manitobans back to the city’s core Tuesday, the three organizations are leading by example with their intention to move to 200 Portage Ave.

“We didn’t want to just find an office space — we wanted to find a statement of our commitment to the future of downtown,” said Loren Remillard, president of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce.


Members of the Find Their Way Back Downtown campaign: Loren Remillard (from left), president and CEO of Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, Coun. Sherri Rollins, Chamber chairman Mark Jones, Coun. Vivian Santos, Mayor Scott Gillingham, Downtown Winnipeg BIZ CEO Kate Fenske, West End BIZ’s Joseph Kornelsen and Exchange District BIZ’s David Pensato.

As for the ad campaign, “I think people just need a nudge,” said David Pensato, executive director of the Exchange District BIZ.

He was among the downtown organizers and politicians on hand to announce the new advertising campaign, dubbed Find Your Way Back Downtown.

“I think once people are reminded of all the great stuff that’s here, they’ll come back — and they have been,” Pensato said.

Downtown visitation increased 41 per cent this October compared to last, said Kate Fenske, CEO of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ.

Billboards, bus shelter signs and radio ads are among the tools three business improvement zones — downtown, the Exchange District and the West End — are using in their campaign.

The initiative will seek new ways of attracting office workers, Fenske said.

“I don’t know if everyone’s going to be dressing up in pyjamas on a Tuesday, but maybe that will happen,” she said.

A downtown spirit week is on the agenda. The business improvement zones will co-ordinate with offices in the area, Fenske said.

They haven’t nailed down all details of the campaign yet, she noted.

“This is just an extra push,” Pensato said. “Suddenly, (people) remember how much they enjoy being with their colleagues, how much they enjoy being able to step out for lunch… or have a drink after work.”

The $300,000 campaign should end in March, Fenske said. Funding comes from the Building Business program, which provincial and federal governments have given a collective $5 million to.

The campaign money is a small portion of the overall program fund, which goes to businesses looking to expand, renovate or move downtown, Fenske noted.

“I would like people to understand that if the core… dies, the whole city dies,” said Kari England, the manager of Exchange District-based Toad Hall Toys. “Having these little pockets around doesn’t make a city. It makes little villages.”

Better planning of downtown streets — like reconsidering how bike lanes are structured — and more downtown events and grocery stores would be helpful, England noted.

Bringing workers back to the office makes a sizable difference in lunchtime revenue, added Chris Graves, owner of the King’s Head Pub.

Remillard stood in the main floor of 200 Portage on Tuesday, steps away from a demolition zone. The three organizations plan to occupy the building next September, Remillard said.

“A big part of our plans for the space is to animate it 24-7, to bring that continuing sense of vibrancy,” he said.

It means having a bustling office while all three organizations offer hybrid work. The trio will coordinate schedules, penciling staff in for certain days.

“We look at this space as a great example of the new, modern workspace,” Remillard said, adding it cuts down on costs for the three involved parties.

“If we can achieve productivity in a hybrid model, that should be the goal,” Remillard said.

Around 41 employees will circulate through the space, along with other business workers dropping in for meetings or using the workspace near the front doors.

The aim is to create a vibrant environment, using interior lighting that radiates to the outdoor sidewalk and placing workstations near windows, Remillard said.

CentrePort Canada has shared office space with the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce for nearly a decade, said Aimee Goyer, CentrePort Canada’s managing director.

“(We) are excited to join them in this move,” Goyer wrote in an email. “Being located right in the centre of it all makes it easy for us to connect with the local business community.”

The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce owns 50 per cent of the World Trade Centre Winnipeg licence, Remillard noted. Collaboration will be easy at 200 Portage, he noted.

He said he’s confident the Chamber’s current office at 259 Portage Ave. will be sold.

Gabrielle Piché

Gabrielle Piché

Gabby is a big fan of people, writing and learning. She graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in the spring of 2020.

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