December 14, 2018

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Predicted boom for Portage and Main up for debate

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/9/2017 (454 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The debate over the re-opening of Portage and Main to pedestrians took an interesting turn this week when a U.S.-based software firm proclaimed that Winnipeg can expect to generate $18 in private sector investment for every dollar spent on opening Portage and Main to pedestrians.

But commercial property appraiser Rocky Neufeld said he doesn’t understand how the firm reached its conclusions, adding he believes opening the intersection will lead to lower property values for the buildings on the intersection’s corners.

“I love to sit outside and have a drink whenever I can but I won’t do it anywhere in areas where it’s too windy and hot,” Neufeld said. “Portage and Main is windy as hell. It’s a sun-focused area. It’s either windy and cold or stagnant and hot.”

The Boston-based firm, State of Place, said it used its own, unique forecasting model to conclude the city can expect to see a dramatic increases in property values and rental rates in the immediate area adjacent to Portage and Main.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/9/2017 (454 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The debate over the re-opening of Portage and Main to pedestrians took an interesting turn this week when a U.S.-based software firm proclaimed that Winnipeg can expect to generate $18 in private sector investment for every dollar spent on opening Portage and Main to pedestrians.

But commercial property appraiser Rocky Neufeld said he doesn’t understand how the firm reached its conclusions, adding he believes opening the intersection will lead to lower property values for the buildings on the intersection’s corners.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Opinions differ as to whether reopening the Portage and Main intersection to foot traffic will be good for business.</p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Opinions differ as to whether reopening the Portage and Main intersection to foot traffic will be good for business.

"I love to sit outside and have a drink whenever I can but I won’t do it anywhere in areas where it’s too windy and hot," Neufeld said. "Portage and Main is windy as hell. It’s a sun-focused area. It’s either windy and cold or stagnant and hot."

The Boston-based firm, State of Place, said it used its own, unique forecasting model to conclude the city can expect to see a dramatic increases in property values and rental rates in the immediate area adjacent to Portage and Main.

Mariela Alfonzo, founder and CEO of State of Place, said simply removing the barriers will have little impact on the intersection, adding her firm’s work demonstrated that enhancing the area through urban design changes can have a dramatic impact on the public perception and enjoyment of the area and that will translate into increased property and rental values.

"I don’t think you should only just take the barriers away and call it a day," Alfonzo said. "You really need to think more holistically about the kind of design changes needed there." She said her firm’s analytical model changed the look and use of the intersection with the addition of trees, outdoor dining, attractive pavement designs, on-street parking and other improvements.

"There are many other things that have to happen at that intersection, from a design perspective, to achieve the goal that you’d want in doing this," Alfonzo said.

State of Place said if Winnipeg were to invest $7 million to re-open the intersection and make the necessary design changes, property owners could expect to see the following benefits on a one-block stretch of Main Street, between Portage Avenue to McDermot Street:

  • increase office rents by $5.52 a square foot;
  • increase retail rents by $6.73 per square foot;
  • generate additional retail revenues of $50.22 per square foot;
  • increase overall property values by $126 million over a 10-year period;
  • a return of investment of $18.07 for every $1 spent;

Neufeld can't imagine any of the benefits predicted by the State of Place model. He said diverting pedestrians from the underground to the street will cause permanent damage to the underground businesses, leading to vacancies and lowering the property values.

Alfonzo said the opposite: underground retailers and property owners will be motivated to make their space more attractive and end up getting more customers as more people are attracted to the intersection.

Neufeld said when he looks at the intersection, he doesn’t see there is enough physical space to make the design changes Alfonzo said are necessary for the intersection. Without that space, he said the building owners will be hard pressed to make the changes to make the area more attractive.

John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press Files</p>

John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press Files

"There is a little bit of space in front of 201 Portage, a little bit of space in front of the Richardson building, that’s just about it. If you have people there, what are they going to do? Is Hy’s going to put an outdoor café there, I don’t see it."

Alfonzo said her firm is not a design or consulting firm but is a software firm that developed predictive, analytic software that’s used by municipalities, developers and transportation agencies to "guide, design and (make) planning choices and to justify them from a business case perspective."

She said her firm chose Portage and Main to coincide with the International Downtown Association conference taking place in the city.

"This was really compelling and it would be an interesting exercise to see if it would really be worth that investment and what would be the potential impact," Alfonzo said.

"We’re capturing how movement from lower quality space to higher quality space, how that could move the needle from an economic development perspective," Alfonzo said. "It’s based on a robust statistical model where we had an almost infinite combination of different urban design qualities across many different neighbourhoods."

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

 

Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin
Reporter

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.

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History

Updated on Saturday, September 16, 2017 at 8:10 AM CDT: Edited

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