If you build it, will they come?
That’s the idea behind a pilot "parklet" project that has popped up on Watt Street, at the intersection of Harbison Avenue.
In consultation with City of Winnipeg staff and area Coun. Jason Schreyer, the ReImagine Elmwood group has installed a temporary patio/mini-park in the northbound curbside lane next to Kool Deelites.
"What we’re trying to do is look at how we can make Watt Street safer, more pleasant, better for business (and) for people walking, biking, or waiting for the bus," said Michel Durand-Wood, co-chair of the Glenelm Neighbourhood Association, one of nine groups involved in the ReImagine Elmwood coalition.
"We’re giving this a try to see what works, what doesn’t, and what can be repeated elsewhere."
"One thing this project is for is to let people know that we’re here and trying things, and that we really want to hear what their ideas are," added Leilani Esteban Villarba, executive director of the Chalmers Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation.
The project, along with ReImagine Elmwood’s Henderson Highway pop-up project last summer, came out of the Chalmers Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation’s recent five-year plan. After consulting with over 1,500 area residents, the CNRC identified a number of priorities.
"What came out of that was getting around the neighbourhood is difficult and unsafe, especially for seniors and youth," Durand-Wood said. "We want to hear what works, what doesn’t, to show that Elmwood is a place that’s pleasant and happy and good to live and work in. It’s by and for the neighbourhood."
Typically, a parklet would not be allowed on a regional street like Watt. But ReImagine Elmwood worked with the City of Winnipeg to see if it could work in the neighbourhood, as all major businesses in Elmwood are located on regional streets like Henderson Highway, Watt, and Talbot Avenue.
"This will allow us to test to see how this can work and whether or not we can build on this and do more of these in the neighbourhood," Durand-Wood said. "We’re trying to show that we don’t have to take how things are for granted; we can change anything that we want and see if it’s better."
Feedback from residents is being sought, to determine whether or not to add more ‘parklets’ to the neighbourhood in years to come.
"This has been super exciting, super fun, and super great to see the community come out and actually have comments where they weren’t talking before about streets," Esteban Villarba said. "These are conversations that weren’t had before."
"Eventually, we’d like to get to a point where these changes can be permanent," Durand-Wood said. "But before that, we try them out, see what works (and) perfect them before doing anything permanent."
For more information, or to provide feedback on the project, visit reimagineelmwood.org
Sheldon Birnie is the reporter/photographer for The Herald. The author of Missing Like Teeth: An Oral History of Winnipeg Underground Rock (1990-2001), his writing has appeared in journals and online platforms across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. A husband and father of two young children, Sheldon enjoys playing guitar and rec hockey when he can find the time. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Call him at 204-697-7112