One of the city’s most unique neighbourhoods is now the topic of a new book that examines its history over the past 50 years.
Divided Prairie Neighbourhood: West Broadway’s Story of Hope, Challenge, and Resiliency, published by the Institute of Urban Studies, delves into the evolution of the West Broadway area with a focus on complex urban issues such as income inequality.
Dr. Jino Distasio and Mike Maunder wrote the book, with help from researchers Dr. Sarah Zell and Dave Quanbury of the Institute of Urban Studies.
The publication is part of the Neighbourhood Change Project (www.neighbourhoodchange.ca), funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and Distasio is also involved on that research team.
"The book is part of a long connection with the neighbourhood that I have developed over the last two decades. Among Canadian neighbourhoods, my view is that West Broadway is among a few that are truly distinctive beyond, say, a simple place experiencing gentrification and renewal," said Distasio, former director of the Institute of Urban Studies and vice-president of research and innovation at the University of Winnipeg.
"To me, West Broadway embodies a spirit of community resiliency and hope more than any place in Canada. It has been an area driven by activism, change, poverty and optimism — a place where many came and went, but many more stayed to work on strengthening the community."
The researchers used the Neighbourhood Collective Agency Framework and conducted interviews to inform their study, which spans from 1970 to 2020.
"To me, the story of how people came together over 50 years is simply remarkable and unlike any other place in Canada," Distasio said.
"While the neighbourhood may not be perfect, it does exemplify how people can come together, sometimes for varying reasons, but with a common goal to make their home better."
Greg MacPherson, executive director of West Broadway Community Organization, expressed enthusiasm for the publication.
He points out that West Broadway is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city, featuring a vast majority of housing stock that’s more than 120 years old and with renters occupying more than 92 per cent of households.
"The best thing about the neighbourhood, in my mind, is that it offers people of any income a very high standard of living. Even if you don’t have a car, you can get around here very well and that’s not something you can say for every community in the city," MacPherson said.
"It’s a very cosmopolitan community, with people from a lot of backgrounds, and I think that’s the magic of the book. It looks at challenges that people face and how that’s brought the best out of us. I think the fun of the book is how it chronicles people and how we’ve all responded together to this interesting period in our city’s history."
Divided Prairie Neighbourhood: West Broadway’s Story of Hope, Challenge, and Resiliency is available online at www.uwinnipeg.ca/ius/