Main Street revitalization, park upgrades and a revamped Broadway are among the many projects being eyed to help downtown recover from COVID-19.
A new proposal lists projects that could benefit from $10 million in federal gas tax funds from 2021 that was set aside by the city for downtown.
"A big component of it is definitely public space… and opportunities to connect and provide a welcoming positive experience in the public realm is really important," said Kate Fenske, chief executive officer of Downtown Winnipeg BIZ.
Fenske said her organization and many others were consulted about how best to revitalize downtown. They helped craft the proposal, though more consultation is expected on some projects.
For example, community feedback is still needed on a $600,000 amenity plan for Main Street that would spruce up the landscaping around Thunderbird House where a new public washroom is being built at its property. Some of that cash would aim to help "restore" Thunderbird House itself and better manage waste in the area.
"It’s important that the public space we provide in our downtown looks like someone cares about it. I also think it is an important step towards reconciliation (to repair Thunderbird House)," said Fenske.
Thunderbird House was designed to be an important cultural gathering place for the Indigenous community but has been vandalized.
Other downtown recovery work is geared at helping to create attractive destinations to lure residents, workers and visitors. That effort includes a Broadway renewal project that would create a park-like atmosphere on the prominent street, with possible additions of street furniture and bike racks.
"(Broadway is) a beautiful asset that we have in our downtown, in terms of that tree-lined street, the history there… We know there are going to be some challenges, in terms of the vacancy rate throughout downtown, so it’s really important for our key corridors to look their best, in terms of attracting businesses to set up downtown, as well as residents to live here," said Fenske.
She expects more welcoming spaces that allow people to reconnect with each other would help attract folks to the area, including plans to better connect the Exchange District and Sports Hospitality and Entertainment District with new public spaces.
Fenske noted one proposal would turn Albert Street into a so-called "shared street," which would be designed to safely allow folks to bike, walk, or drive and could easily be shut down for pedestrian events.
While the city report lists how the $10 million would be spent, it notes the city will seek more funding from senior governments.
"We’re coming out of a pandemic right now and downtown recovery is really vital for all major downtowns. Supporting these things, I think, is critical (for) all levels of government," said Coun. Cindy Gilroy, the head of council’s property and development committee.
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If approved by council, the city will spend $10 million to support the following downtown recovery projects (some of which have secured or requested additional funding):
• Main Street: $600,000 to revitalize the landscape around Thunderbird House and a new downtown public washroom at the same property, while adding a waste management strategy.
• Air Canada Park: $2.5 million to revamp the public space “while advancing truth and reconciliation objectives.”
• Broadway renewal: $600,000 to plan a park-like atmosphere and install amenities like “street furniture,” waste receptacles and bike racks.
• Market Lands: $2.5 million to design and construct plazas, sidewalks, trees and furniture at the site of the former Public Safety Building.
• Sidewalk renewals: $1.8 million to enhance walkways in strategic areas.
• SHED Exchange Gateway: $600,000 to better connect the Sports Hospitality and Entertainment District with the Exchange District, which could include work on a new space for outdoor programs in front of Burton Cummings Theatre, creating a shared street on Albert Street and improved intersections.
• Central Park enhancements: $300,000 toward work to upgrade the park, which may include better lighting, a volleyball court and hockey rink, updated washrooms and better paths.
• Alexander Docks: $600,000 toward a design to rehabilitate or replace the docks and the surrounding area, including the conversion of an upper bank gravel lot into a park.
• Downtown secondary plan: $200,000 to create a plan with infill targets, modernize design guidelines and align public investments.