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This article was published 1/4/2019 (297 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A senior Winnipeg councillor has called out what he sees as hypocrisy behind efforts to declare Armstrong’s Point the city’s first heritage neighbourhood.
While St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes praised the efforts of locals and the administration in developing Winnipeg’s first neighbourhood heritage district, he said residents in other parts of the city are routinely ridiculed for wanting the same things — adding it reveals a class and wealth divide.
"Let’s be blunt here," said Mayes, chairman of the property and development committee, where the Armstrong’s Point plan was approved Monday. "If you bought (a home) in the working-class neighbourhood of Glenwood, well, you are to be condemned as a NIMBY (not in my backyard) if you’re trying to defend your 100-year-old house, but if you buy a 100-year-old house (in Armstrong’s Point), you are to be celebrated."
Despite his criticism, Mayes joined with the three other councillors on the committee to support the initiative.
Area resident April Kassum praised the committee for approving the plan.
"This recognition is for the 100-year-old structures and the labouring artisans who produced some of the most beautiful work of their time," Kassum told the committee. "At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I’m not wishing to appear as we’re trying to save the pyramids, but these amazing structures in this area of the city just happen to be Winnipeg’s pyramids."
Armstrong’s Point is dotted with large, century-old, stately homes, built on spacious lawns in a self-contained neighbourhood on a peninsula created by a bend in the Assiniboine River, south of Cornish Avenue.
The heritage designation was spurred by neighbourhood residents, which required city hall to first adopt the bylaw. While the city routinely designates older buildings as heritage structures, this would be the first time a designation would be applied to every home in an entire neighbourhood.
Braden Smith, Winnipeg’s chief planner, said residents from two other neighbourhoods have approached city hall for a similar designation, adding his department is preparing a report on how to deal with the applications.
If ultimately approved by council, the designation would require any demolitions and new development in the neighbourhood to be subject to a heritage review process, which would ensure "new buildings are visually and physically compatible with the neighbourhood."
Mayes said there are efforts to increase residential density closer to downtown, explaining while the heritage designation for Armstrong’s Point — 3.6 kilometres from Portage and Main — doesn’t technically prohibit residential infill, it would make the kind of intensive development occurring in Glenwood (5.4 km from Portage and Main) unlikely.
While the vote on the committee was unanimous, Mayes said he couldn’t let the moment pass without pointing out how the residents of Glenwood and other communities are ridiculed for wanting to protect their neighbourhoods against what they believe is incompatible development.
"There is a class element to this, there is a wealth element to this," Mayes said. "Let’s not dance around this.
"We’re making decisions about infill in a lot of neighbourhoods, and saying, ‘Shame on you for coming out here and opposing.’ But we have people with 100-year-old houses here who are lionized because they want to protect their neighbourhood," he said.
"It’s an interesting comment about wealth and class in my view."
Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.
Updated on Monday, April 1, 2019 at 6:58 PM CDT: Full write through