Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/4/2018 (1089 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When University of Manitoba planning and architecture students recently suggested a halt to highrises, a few eyebrows were raised because the trend in large cities is that higher is better. But the young minds made a strong case that deserves to be considered.
City councils across the country are being lobbied to raise height restrictions on buildings and let developers increase the density of office and residential space in downtown cores.
A building under construction in the centre of Edmonton and a second Edmonton building in the planning stages, will both be taller than 250 metres, overshadowing a building in Calgary that has long been Western Canada’s tallest. A proposed 250-metre building in Quebec City would be the highest in that province. The skyline of Toronto has 86 buildings taller than 150 metres.
Winnipeg’s tallest building is 201 Portage Avenue, at 128 metres, with the Richardson Building second-tallest at 124 metres. A planned new tower near Portage and Main is expected to have 40 storeys, which would make it Winnipeg’s tallest building, although its precise height is not yet known.
It’s in this reach-for-the-sky climate that the U of M students took the opposite tack when meeting last Wednesday with Winnipeg city planners, councillors and developers. They said more of downtown could be revitalized if Winnipeg focused less on highrises and more on low- and mid-rise buildings.
They said gathering much of the downtown population in towers might not be best for Winnipeg, a city with relatively slow population growth, because towers replace the need to fill vacant buildings and build on surface parking lots.
The students suggested a downtown that is more for people and less for vehicles, with a supermarket and elementary schools within walking distance.
Their buildings would have colorful façades and would be designed to preserve sunlight and reduce wind. Their downtown would have more green space and fewer paved surface lots.
Many of these ideas are not original, which the U of M students would be first to acknowledge because their studies of planning and architecure will have informed them how the revitalization of downtown Winnipeg is already well under way.
Government action that helped open the downtown for business has included the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) zone and the Sports, Hospitality and Entertainment District (SHED) in 2010.
Construction that has brought more people downtown includes the opening of the MTS Centre (now Bell MTS Place) in 2005, the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in 2014, the expansion of the Winnipeg Convention Centre in 2015 and the relocation of academic buildings, particularly the University of Winnipeg.
The construction of thousands of condominiums in recent years has more than doubled the core population downtown.
And the revitilization is expected to get a big bump with next year’s opening of True North Square, a four-tower project at Carlton and Hargave streets that will feature more than a million square feet of residential, retail, hotel, office, parking and public-plaza space.
The U of M planning and architecture students know that when they graduate, those who choose to work in Winnipeg will be joining the local industry at an exciting time of growth and opportunity.
Still, not all of the urban challenges have been ironed out. So here’s an optional assignment for those students who are commendably interested in the future of this city’s downtown: discuss the different ways in which reopening Portage and Main to pedestrian traffic will impact downtown Winnipeg.