Sunday, April 12, 2015

Capital Grill and Bar Opening Soon

Formerly Asahi Japanese Restaurant
It sat empty over the winter but spring has seen some construction at the former Asahi Japanese Restaurant. The signs have gone up and a Facebook page started to promote the opening of Capital Grill and Bar. By all accounts it will be a place to get a beer on tap.

The Asahi was a fine restaurant and a gorgeous space but struggled to stay busy every night of the week. Prior to being a Japanese restaurant it was the long time home of KFC in Charleswood. The entire mall had a makeover and the only survivor was Subway. A Starbucks took over the former Robin's location.

The closure of the Charleswood Hotel had left a real gap in the watering hole department. The arrival of the Winnipeg Jets has also created real demand for a place to watch the game, have a drink and share some food. Some people have migrated to Sorrento's at the Charleswood Mall. Others have probably gone further afield.

The closure of the Asahi has made room for the sportier crowd. It will be race to see who opens first as there is another restaurant about to open just down the street. More on that in a future post.

There is a limited supply of rental space in Charleswood. For the last few years, the vacancy rate has been generally good but to be sure, there are not as many places for dinner and drinks. Pappas, a Greek restaurant has been a mainstay. Just recently White Tower restaurant closed. For the older crowd, some might remember Matheos on Roblin Boulevard near the west park entrance. Nowadays  it is occupied by company offices.

So welcome Capital and hope that new traditions in the neighbourhood are formed.

Friday, April 3, 2015

What Next for Target Location and Polo Park Plaza?

Outlet Mall and Hotel for Polo Park Plaza?
The Polo Park Plaza Target might be closing on April 12 but plans were already afoot for the 600,000 square foot complex north of Polo Park. The retail present currently located there is Marshalls, Bed Bath & Beyond, Mark’s, Atmosphere and Destination Maternity. In recent month's a Cora's has opened up adding to the amenities.

The loss of the Target is a blow to be sure but interest in the site the building stands on has to be high. It is a modern building with a parking lot protected from the elements. Some suggested Lowe's Home Improvement but I don't see that happening as most lumber yards require a drive in area to pick up supplies and unless substantial changes are made to the site, it seems unlikely. More possible takers might be Nordstrom's or la Maison Simons from Quebec that is expanding their department stores across Canada.

Even if the Target building has to come down before it is palatable to to another operator, I suspect the location will be too goo to pass up indefinitely.

Interestingly enough, other spots inside Polo Park Plaza may help solidify the whole mall as a hot spot. Shindico as developer wants to put an office, hotel, other bigger retailers and a 150,000 factory outlet mall with underground parking on the site.

Given that Outlet Collection of Winnipeg is well underway at Seasons of Tuxedo, this could be a foot race to to see who gets done first. My bet is that there is no way to catch up with Tuxedo although the appeal of being close to Polo Park might be a siren call for some.

It is a tough time for retailers to be sure. Several retailers have stumbled and failed or had to re-organize. All things considered Winnipeg could have been much worse hit by the closure of Future Shop. Winnipeg only lost two stores in the 60 plus stores shut down. A Regent Future Shop closed several months ago as well. Online sales from giants like Amazon are changing the market. Is it no wonder that Amazon is looking at drone delivery of product? At some point, when does the market reach saturation point on the roads for delivery service?

The one thing that the Polo Park area would probably like to put in in his housing. That option is off the table due to the nearby airport. If the rules had been in effect a few years ago, no apartments would have gone up in that area of St. James. The rules pretty much make the option difficult of not impossible to do today.

Target might be closing by Polo Park Plaza is probably going to be successful and once the location of the store becomes available, there are likely to be retailers bidding for it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

What Next for Winnipeg's Old Target In Southdale?

Southdale Target Winnipeg Closed
The first of the Targets closed in Winnipeg at the Southdale location on Lakewood. The site had been a former Zellers and now it is being cleared of anything not nailed down. The option of what goes in the location seem to vary.

The stores unlikely to locate there are Canadian Tire or Giant Tiger which already have locations just down the street. Also in the area is a Shopper's Drug Mart. The thought of a grocery store as well seems limited with a Co-Op right next door.

The word is that Goodlife Fitness might be interested in the location but it might not be the entire store footprint which is around 100,000 square feet. This might actually be a good use if people examine how busy the Regent and Kenaston locations of Goodlife are.

There is a Pizza Hut in the corner of the lot and a McDonald's on the other corner. A Shell station and other retail borders the Target. It is unlikely the entire site will merit a re-design so the Target location itself will be what is changed.

Southdale Centre is an important commercial district but it is not a mall or a power center and the number of retailers who might be interested in the site will be small.

In the month of May all of the Targets will be closed and it will be a battle between landlords to fill spaces. In some cases that won't be difficult. In other cases, it will not be easy at all. Locations like Polo Park are probably not going to have a problem getting tenants. Southdale will have to think outside the box.

Two years ago the retail sector was on the upswing and the Canadian economy looked good. A downturn in oil revenues and consumers pulling in their spending and we see Target running back across the border. How fast the Target landlords find new tenants will be an indication how resilient the Canadian economy is.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Greg Selinger - Return of the King

I can't be the only one confused about the NDP leadership convention. In my mind an actual leadership race should take place only when the position is open or being held by an interim leader not running or campaigning for any party. It's simply really. Anything else is an unfair advantage.

It is shocking that any challengers agreed to the terms that Greg Selinger and his supporters placed on the leadership race. The wearing of two hats in the leadership race of premier and leadership candidate continued the confusion and cemented the advantage of the man who seemed to have all the cards in the game.

It gets worse though. The unique aspects of select delegates for unions meant that slots would be reserved for people the union chose to fill them. Once again the strongest advantage lay with the man who remained as active premier of the province.

In the end, two candidates emerged to run for the leadership despite everything being gamed against them. Steve Ashton possibly thought he could simply overwhelm the odds against him by selling even more memberships and having a few unions support him.  It would simply not be enough against even larger Winnipeg unions. Theresa Oswald entered the race thinking that there was possibly enough opposition that would congregate around her to win the leadership if it came down to two people.

The raw anger at the dissidents was a defining characteristic of Selinger's support. The feeling was that the outspoken MLAs were damaging the brand and that their tactics were odious and against democratic principles. The truth obviously was and is a little more fuzzy.

When Sunday was all said and done, Greg Selinger was affirmed as leader and Premier by the thinnest of margins. The purge began the very next day as staffers were let go. The outcomes for the six MLAs outside caucus remains undecided. But here is one fact: If all the MLAs resign immediately, we could be having an election right now.

The NDP would probably like nothing better than to hide for the next year and have people forget these last weeks but that is just not in the cards. A budget is required and work is required across a spectrum of ministries. And somehow the party has to come together.

Nothing is impossible but the NDP party did not come of the leadership race unified and motivated to fight an election.

It is often said governments defeat themselves. If this is not an example of that, I don't know what is.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Outlets of Seasons

Outlets of Seasons well under construction
Key to map above
The construction across from the Seasons of Tuxedo on the Outlets of Seasons site continues to go on at breakneck speed. So far most of the work is prepping the site for above ground construction but residential components are already three and four floors high and look to be done sometime in the next several months.

Some of the apartment work is adjacent to Outlets of Seasons but should ensure that the area has a population day and night. In and around Polo Park, it can be pretty empty once the stores close.

In the aftermath of so many retailers closing across Canada, it is important to know that many continue to open. Location, location, location is the old axiom in business retailing. As Target found out, the old Zellers locations were not great, their approach to the Canadian market even worse and despite much anticipation and good will, they failed and mightily.

The location at Kenaston and Sterling Lyon should offer a huge advantage to retailers and restaurants. However, it is not a panacea. Just ask River City Sports which is closed in Seasons of Tuxedo. Once IKEA and Cabela's went up, the retailing side stalled and the home improvement center site remains vacant as does the planned addition retailing beside the former River City Sports location.  I have no doubts those areas will fill up but sometimes there is a price that is paid for being the first to be on a site.

So what will be in the Outlets of Seasons site? Well, the developer is still keeping that under wraps but the site outline is revealing. It shows a hotel and two luxury car dealerships facing out to Kenaston. This would seem to be second hotel in the planning phase along Kenaston and the second and third car dealerships. Already down the street Mercedes is building their luxury car dealership to replace their Portage Avenue location.

Also of note are the dozen or so restaurants scattered about the Outlets of Seasons site. To be sure there are a few restaurants across the street at Seasons of Tuxedo but they are lite on sit down casual dining. In short, where are the Earl's, Moxies and Keg's? It is highly likely something new will locate in that area that the city has not seen before. Mayhaps it could be a Milestone's.

The centerpiece to the Outlets of Seasons site is an indoor factory outlet mall. To be sure this is more suitable for our climate. Size-wise, it looks as if 100 stores will be located inside. Outside there will be a mix of smaller and larger retailers. Four are listed as anchors.

In light of the many jobs lost as a result of Target's closing, we can hope that this new mall will add that many jobs and more. Development appears more balanced as it incorporates far more residential than we have seen in decades. It is has already eased a terribly low vacancy rate, created pet friendly rental units and ones where all five appliances and storage is included.

The city needs to continue to push for sidewalk and bike path connectivity to surrounding areas. One missing component could be a grocery store.

Stay tuned for further developments.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Parker Avenue Mess Up

Bulk of Parker Avenue Needed for Water and Bus
How did it happen?

Some time ago, I suggested resistance by people along Parker to any change was not likely garner much sympathy. Declarations that the area was a park and then shielding access to the area by blocking roads so that only those living in the area could enjoy the land wasn't in the cards.

The land in question was never designated park land. It has always been zoned industrial and some of the area was used to move high powered hydro lines.

The Fort Rouge Yards/Parker Land Swap was a mess up from start to finish. These over clever moves never properly assessed the value of the lands in question, the future needs of those lands or the environmental concerns. And now we have city officials coming cup in hand with expropriation needs for water retention and bus rapid transit.

What a screw-up.

The bulk of the land around Parker Avenue is now needed for water retention to protect from flooding immediately north in Fort Rouge.  The rest of it is needed for bus rapid transit. If there is any land left for townhouses as was first suggested by the Gem Equities land swap, you've got me. Given the slow or non-development approach of Gem, it is possible we might all be in the old age homes before we ever saw houses in the Parker area.

In any event, the city has to use expropriation for land that just a few short years ago that it could have done this work of water retention and transit for nothing. Is the crazy or what?

Once again Parker Avenue people are not likely to be happy. Many of them will still want nothing to do with the city plans but the bugger my neighbours to the north and their flooding issues is not kosher. Likewise the BRT plans and expropriations everywhere is probably going to make for many sour faces.

A place to hold water
It is difficult to know why we get into these messes. It undermines the faith people have that projects can proceed the make sense logically, are researched, presented for discussion, modified and then carried out. There will always be some resistance but sometimes people buy in afterwards as in the case of Safeway in Osborne Village. There were many that wanted no change in configuration of the store but now there is wide acknowledgement that the vitality of that grocery store has been essential to the success of the residents living in that community.

A ferocious response can be expected when this move hits the council floor this week. I don't blame anyone for throwing their hands up in the air.

For the moment my support lies for those in the Fort Rouge area who may be getting flooded basements over water storage. They have every right as anyone in the city to protection of their properties. To that end, I support water retention if indeed the environmental assessments declare a need.

For the people of Parker Avenue, there is still a possibility of land to enjoy if pathways and the like come as part of the project.

As for the BRT expropriation, I still don't know enough about it to get a handle on it. Every time I think I am close to figuring it out, it seems I know nothing.

Everyone take a deep breath. It is going to be a long week.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Wendy's Coming to 3095 Portage Avenue

Old A&W on Portage, future Wendy's
At one time A&W was headquartered in Winnipeg and its first location was at 3095 Portage Avenue built in 1956 as a drive-thru. For some time that location has been empty as A&W moved elsewhere. The old restaurant was dotted with photographs marking its history.

It appears the last vestiges of the old A&W will disappear as the city has approved demolition of the building and the land will be cleared and prepared for a new Wendy's drive-thru.

Wendy's, the third largest burger chain in Canada after McDonald's and A&W, is no stranger to Portage Avenue. The Hakim Optical shop still bears the colours of the former Wendy's on the south side of the street.

Wendy's ended up closing several locations in Winnipeg but in recent years the company has committed itself to building their brand again as well as their branches. In the last few years they built a new Wendy's opposite St. Vital Shopping Centre.

Few people will remember when burger joints were few and Winnipeg was the first to have this kind of new fangled drive thru. A little bit of history disappears. However, time marches on and it is good to see new use for a site that has been for sale for some time.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Redbox Canada Closing all Locations

Just announced today is Redbox will be shutting down all Canadian locations. Last day for rentals will be February 13 and returns back by March 5.

Like Blockbuster, the American owners saw no future in Canada And so ends any national organization renting DVDs in Canada.

Monday, February 2, 2015

New River Heights Fire Hall Daycare

Site of the controversial fire hall and now daycare
The plans for the new daycare
Ask any parent what there is a shortage of and they will say daycare spaces. Any daycare spaces affordable or not.

The disposition of the old fire hall has not been one of the finer moments for the city. It still may be years before we find out what the final tally is for trying to swap land.

There were two bids for the building for daycare spaces. In the end one of the plans appeared better planned out although for a bit less money to buy the building. The Rady Jewish Community Campus will be the new owner and operator of a daycare inside the confines of the old fire hall. The 48 childcare spaces will be available to any child in the area.

The Rady Centre already operates a daycare on the Jewish campus for around 100 kids. They come to the Sir John Franklin site with a reputation already in the field.

The city's main concerns asides from finding a buyer  was to ensure the bus loop remained forever. It will.

The other concern was parking. Two small spots will be where the fire truck main doors were and staff parking is on the side. It isn't a lot of spots. It remains to be seen if traffic becomes an issue.

In the end, this was a good use of a city property. One wonders what a private developer would have come up with. Perhaps it would have been a daycare, maybe a home/light industrial spot.

The new daycare will be a welcome addition to the area and another plus for River Heights families when considering what neigbourhoods are good for families.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Original Pancake House Coming to Kenaston

The first Original Pancake House Pembina
The city has approved for a 5500 square foot Pancake House to be built on the west side parking lot of the Odeon VIP Theatre at Kenaston and McGillivary. Over the years the Original Pancake House has expanded to Polo Park and The Forks.

The Kenaston area has been sadly lacking good breakfast and brunch places for a sit down meal. IKEA and Perkins have been built in the last years but many other places don't really get started till noon hour.

A few years back there was a bit of a commotion when it looked like House of Pancakes was going to move into Seasons of Tuxedo. The company adamantly said there were no plans for that despite a map showing that this was precisely what was proposed. No doubt that Winnipeg's love for pancakes in the Kenaston area spurred Original Pancake House into action.

Pancake House site across from Costco
The proposed site across from Costco on Columbia Road and in the parking lot beside the Odeon VIP Theatre is likely to be successful. St. Gianna's Catholic Church is right across the road as well.

It is a known fact that churchgoers love pancakes.

The big question is how will be people in Whyte Ridge react? When there was a proposal for apartments just a short distance away, they reacted with anger and signed a petition in the thousands.

Several years back the people in Linden Woods were up in arms about a Keg restaurant going up across the street from the housing development. The fear was that the smell of steak would make dogs nuts in Linden Woods.

Could the smell of pancakes waft into Whyte Ridge and turn non churchgoers into churchgoing people? I hope city council remembers to examine this issue closely as they did when they rejected the first plans for The Keg on Waverley.

I say good luck to The Original Pancake House in their quest for their Kenaston location!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

What Uniform Will Chief Clunis Wear?

I'm here for the honours
I once asked but really never found out an answer what the standard is and how decisions are made on what uniforms senior officers of Winnipeg Police service wear and when they wear them. Watching Chief Clunis, I am still curious what uniform comes out and why.

Some uniforms are obviously worn for days when honours are given and not for just showing up for a work day. Expect a high collar and buttons up to the top in a true blue military style shirt with black pants and red stripe down. When Chief Clunis was announced as chief, the high collar came out.

Fancy meal dress
If a fancy meal is order, the tux is under a very dressy blue police jacket with lapels and epaulettes. If the Chief Clunis is to be in attendance at an awards banquet, he pulls the tux out.

Just one of the guys in blue today
Sometimes Chief Clunis wants to just appear as one of the guys in blue. One can never be sure of what day that will be. However, when that happens, it is a dark shirt and black tie.

If the Chief thinks it a day to be a boss, the white shirt and black tie come out.

I'm the boss today
When does the decision come that senior officers like the chief are the boss and when are they just guys in blue? Not quite sure. I assume that they call each other at home and ask: is it blue or white today?

Hey, it's summer...we're not crazy
Sometimes you need to appear as the brass but it's summer. Well, senior officers are not crazy, they have white and blue short sleeves shirts and no ties. But who decides? If it is cool in morning and deputy wears long sleeves and black tie and chief wears short sleeves and no tie, does the deputy get sent home to fix the problem? What if one wears blue and the other white? Oh my.

This is business or religion or one of my guys has done bad
There are times the chief ditches the uniform altogether. This doesn't mean he is not chief anymore.

If Chief Clunis talks to the mayor about budget, it is manno et manno in business suits. If the Chief talks about religion and policing, it is back to suit as well.

And especially if an officer has done bad, expect the police uniform to be hanging in the closet and the suit is on.

How do these decisions get made? Beats me but someone makes them every day. It is been happening for a while if one looks at past pictures of chiefs.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Target Shutting Down All Canadian Stores

Target Canada announced today that their expansion into Canada has been a total failure and they will be shutting down all stores.

The 133 stores and over 17,000 employees will be affected.

In Winnipeg, the Polo Park location just barely opened.

It has been known for some time that Target was struggling in Canada. The losses have mounted to over $2 billion. The liquidation of the stores will cost upwards of $600 million.

The reasons for Target's failure is numerous but high prices, empty shelves, poor locations and comparing poorly to their American cousin are generally accepted as being the top complaints.

Target was initially welcomed in Canada with huge enthusiasm but soon disappointment set in. The company's response was that they were competitive in Canada and it was unfair to compare Canada's Target to America's stores. The problem is that Canadians didn't think they were competitive and it was hard not to believe that they couldn't get what was seen in U.S. stores.

Job growth in Canada in 2014 was very slow. And with oil prices dropping, there is some indication the economy is going to be tough in 2015 for some provinces. The massive failure of Target will be just added salt to an economy still not recovered from one slide after another since 2008.

It is difficult to imagine just what will happen to all the closed stores. It is possible Walmart might pick up some of the best locations. But then again, why would they if there were bad spots to begin with.

Target might not be the only daprtment store to die in  2015. By all accounts, Sears Canada is also circling the drain. The U.S. Sears shuttered a large amount of Kmarts and Sears just in the last days. This is on top of all the other closures.

Another store in Canada announced their liquidation this week as well. Mexx will begin the process of selling off all their stock.

What did it all mean? This is hard to tell. However, any sense of triumph about the Canadian economy going forward is sure to be muted.

Fear is now replacing confidence in many regions and many sectors.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

City TV's Breakfast Television Blown Up

Breakfast TV on City TV Winnipeg was the first to really do local content on early morning TV in Winnipeg. They had the market to themselves. CBC, CTV and Global were all latecomers to the game.

The first version of the show was called The Big Breakfast and started on the old A Channel way back in 1997 and featured Jimmy Mac and Jon Ljungberg. The Craig family-owned stations mimicked Toronto's CityTV program The Big Breakfast started back in 1989.

CityTV used to be a very cutting edge television enterprise and Winnipeg's A-Channel used quite a lot of their programming to fill their Canadian content regulations. However, for their local broadcasts, they had The Big Breakfast which did very well and seemed to not attract any notice from the big players in the market.

For years CKY was content to play Canada AM from Toronto in the Winnipeg market. The ratings were probably sufficient to justify it. CBC also used Newsworld programming in the early hours.

In 2004, the Craig family sold their interests in A-Chanel to CityTV and The Big Breakfast was replaced with Breakfast Television in 2005. Not much really changed as the format was pretty much identical. Aside from hosting changes, BT had the local market to themselves.

However, in 2011 and 2012 CTV and Global Television  entered the local breakfast television market and it appears the first one to blink was CityTV's Breakfast Television.

This week 14 or the 25 staff were given the axe and 11 were assigned to a new radio and TV format hosted by 92 CITI FM star Wheeler and his co-hosts Phil Aubrey and Rena Jae. Two CITYTV hosts Drew Kozub and Jenna Khan have survived the cut and will join the new 6 to 9 program.

It is hard to know how this program will look and feel. It will be shot in the studios of CITYTV at The Forks. The understanding is that when music is played for the radio show, the cut away will be to the CITYTV hosts. If this sounds confusing them you're not alone.

CBC Manitoba will also be doing a radio and TV hybrid where their morning radio hosts will be seen on TV. This is more akin to what we saw with Q, the big CBC radio product formerly hosted by Jian Ghomeshi. The show was routinely broadcast for television as well as radio.

The big difference for CBC's entry into the market is that it really is just a radio show being televised.

It is very difficult to know what this new radio and television concept will look like for CITYTV. However, it is obvious that it has fewer staff, it won't be doing any location work and probably will conduct less community content.

My big question is for 92 CITI is: what do you get out of this? The Wheeler show is one of the top rated radio programs in Winnipeg. Will this help or hinder your status as being on top.

My big question for CITYTV is: Are your costs that much higher that you have to dump so many staff from one of your marquee local programs? Is Rogers looking to get every dollar they can from committing to $5 billion for NHL hockey?

I guess we will also see next week how this plays out.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Old Charleswood Library Closing, New One top Open Soon

Location of new Charleswood Library
Before 2011, Canada Post and Rogers Video here
In 2011 there was some angst in Charleswood about Charleswood Square at Dieppe and Roblin about multiple closings in Charleswood Square. The mini-retail and service area in the middle of the suburb had seen a Canada Post and a Rogers Video close in addition to other retailers. Empty storefronts abounded.

The call for something to be done went out but what can the city do when businesses leave a retail site? Well, the answer apparently is build a new branch library for Charleswood.

Built in the corner of Charleswood Square
The question of what to do with the old Charleswood library was a big one. It was old, small but centrally located. In the case of the old fire hall, the decision was to knock it down and built on the old site. It was probably possible to do that on the old site but only if the old Charleswood Municipal building came down as well. That part of the building houses the Charleswood Historical Society as well as the Charleswood Seniors Centre.

The building of such a complex would have been costly and there is no question that parking was already at a bare minimum what with a bus circle in the lot.

The struggling Charleswood Square immediately next door seemed to be the answer. It had a traffic light at Dieppe for controlled turns onto Roblin Boulevard. It was very close to the bus loop where the old library was not to mention the Charleswood Seniors Centre.

Given the size of the mall, it was decided to triple the space of the library.

The old library is now closed and the transfer of books and staff begins in earnest. The library is expected to open January 9.

The building of the police building on Grant, the fire hall on Roblin and now the library represents the biggest infrastructure commitment from the city since Charleswood became a part of the city in 1972.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Mexx Stores to Close

The Mexx store still had the new store smell in it when it open just prior to Christmas. Now it and the Kenaston location will be closing shortly due to bankruptcy. Earlier in the month of December the Dutch owners filed for financial protection and a decision was made to close all 170 Canadian stores.

The retail market has been a tough one. Just ask Target Canada how they feel about the losses they have mounted since opening stores across the border.

Mexx re-opened in Polo Park very recently to some fanfare but there was evidence elsewhere that the company was struggling with some store closings and a website that had been taken down and then when back up was not well maintained.

There should be no shortage of retailers wanting to jump on Mexx's Winnipeg properties at Polo Park and the one at Kenaston. Still, one wonders what the trend is in bricks and mortar retailing.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

River City Sports Kenaston Closes

It seemed to be a can't lose location but River City Sports off Kenaston in Seasons of Tuxedo has been closed by the landlord. By some media accounts, they were not paying their rent and had been struggling for months.

The Kenaston location had been selected as the flagship location after the original Henderson Highway location was shut down.

River City Sports becomes the first retailer to fail at Seasons. Tucked in between IKEA and Cabela's, it seemed the location should have been perfect. This was not to be.

The additional retailers to be added in 2014 to the site definitely slowed and the focus turned to apartments of the south side of Sterling Lyon Parkway. The long awaited Lowe's is still not built. A continuation of planned retailing seems to have stalled.

So why the failure? In short, there has been a lot of retail built this past year. They 20 plus stores added to Polo Park and other stores built along Kenaston have spread out where new retailers are locating. River City Sports would never see others join it in the area and drive sales.

This could be a lesson for some retailers. The boom we have seen in retailers being added these last years could be mitigated by a saturation of the market and a slowing of the economy.

The focus of a lot of developers now is to ensure that housing goes up near their retail center and to this end, we see a lot of apartments and condos going up around Sterling Lyon.

The collapse of oil prices and the markets could signal a new recession. Is this one of the first signs for Winnipeg?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Old Broadway Campus University of Manitoba

Right, University of Manitoba Broadway Campus 1932
A story in this week's Free Press talks about connecting university campuses to downtown and core areas of the city. Up until 1950, the University of Manitoba had a large campus across from the Manitoba Legislature consisting of science and arts buildings. The site is what we now know as Memorial Park.

Land was set aside in 1899 along Broadway in 1900 and a science building went up for classes. At the time, the Manitoba Legislative Building was not even in the planning stages.

1901 Science Building
The provincial legislators called the Old Parliament Building on Kennedy Street home.

Old Parliament Building on Kennedy Street
There were fewer than half the elected officials of today so for some time smaller quarters for the government assembly were appropriate.

The Old Parliament Building on Kennedy was a handsome building and from the start, trees were planted and grew to make the site prettier.

The Old Parliament Building literally built on bald prairie
In essence, the science building by the University of Manitoba along Broadway was the first move by any institution to push downtown's boundaries westward. There was no Legislative Building and no Hudson Bay building. Those came 20 years and more later.

Starkly bare grounds of new Legislative building
Provincial leaders dreamed of a Legislative campus along Broadway but the truth was that University of Manitoba builders had beaten them there years earlier.

Dream of a Legislative Campus
Instead what happened was that the University of Manitoba continued buildings its downtown campus even as the Legislative buildings and HBC was going up north and south of it years later.

Look at all those cars!
And the building went on and on for 50 years.

Adding to the Science and Arts for U of M
More building

Winnipeg Auditorium newly constructed by U of M

Ready for class downtown
The University starting making use of other buildings downtown including the old courthouse.

part of the old court house used by U of M
Following World War II, enrollment at the University of Manitoba had exploded. The dream of having all colleges and departments together on lands fitting for a university campus proliferated. In truth, many of the buildings on Broadway were nearing the end of their useful lifespan without major work.

There were other factors as well. Wesley College and Manitoba College merged together in 1938 and together became United College (later University of Winnipeg). It was on Portage Avenue where the future lay for a downtown university campus as well as Bannatyne Avenue where the University of Manitoba had the medical school close to what was to become Health Sciences Centre.

Financially insecure colleges really had no choice but join and become part of a larger grouping. It was also too hard to splits arts and sciences students between downtown and Fort Garry.

By 1950, the Broadway campus was abandoned and students moved to the expansive Fort Garry site of the University of Manitoba.

The provincial government occupied the former science and arts buildings until the 1960s when they started moving into other buildings that were being constructed along Broadway. By 1962, the government razed the building and twinned Memorial and built a park that has served for protest and celebration alike over the years.

For many people it is hard to imagine that large university buildings ever existed on Broadway. One wonders what it would have been like to have seen the University of Manitoba stay on Broadway and be the main campus. How fascinating would that have been?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Bermax Caffe + Bistro Opening Soon

In the 1970s there were few restaurants in River Heights at all. You could count them on your fingers really. Even in the 1980s, the restaurants were a bit spotty. There would be a Chinese good place there, a take-out pizza joint there. It was the early 1980s when a few places sprouted up on Grant to great success. Grapes and Pepper's filled a crying need on the border of River Heights and Tuxedo and both places were filled for many years to come.

To be fair River Heights is very residential. There are only a certain few places where any commercial development is even permissible. The spots that are available and often small and only offer street parking. During the 1980s a number of the gas stations that were on Academy Road closed and this set the stage for some more exclusive retailing such as Eyelot Dove, Laughing Giraffe and Paper Gallery. It still took some time before restaurants like Fusion and Saucers found their way in 1996 and beyond.

In short, many restauranteurs might want to ply their trade in River Heights but alas there are few spots to do so.

The closure of the CN Oakbank line has seen commercial development extend on streets like Academy and Grant. It has also seen many new condos go up all along that narrow property as well.

In front of the condos at Corydon Avenue, a commercial development went up. It started up in 2012 and the first tenants was a hair salon but paper is over the windows telling us that Bermax is opening soon.

Under construction in 2012 on Corydon
Bermax Caffee + Bistro has their website up but no menu. The indication though is that it will be kosher and that the coffee will be top notch. Will be looking to see what comes in the days and weeks ahead!