Sunday, November 22, 2015

Popeyes Louisiana Chicken & Biscuits Coming to Winnipeg

It has been on some Manitoban's list for a while of restaurants they would like to see come to Winnipeg and now it has been confirmed: A spokesmen says Popeyes Louisiana Chicken and Biscuits are in discussions for locations within the city in 2015/2017. The company has been in Canada since 1984 when they opened a location in Toronto and next to KFC has one of the most extensive network of locations around the world. However, they have never been to Winnipeg.

Popeye's was founded in Louisiana in 1972 and today is noted for a spicier Cajun fare compared to other chicken restaurants.

There has been a pull back of chicken restaurants from the Winnipeg market in recent years. Both KFC and Winnipeg-based Chicken Delight have all retrenched a bit in the Winnipeg market.

The restaurant industry is a tough market even for well known franchises. Still, we have see Five Guys, Fat Burger and Famous Dave's all set up and continue here. Woody's Southern Barbecue failed though.

Location will likely be a big factor for the success of Popeyes. The construction of Seasons of Tuxedo continues and there are over a dozen pad spaces for restaurants so it is extremely likely we will see something in the Kenaston area.

Winnipeg continues to be attractive to retailers and restaurants looking to set up in the city although the failure of Target, falling oil prices and lower dollar has made many cautious. Still, Popeyes has been in the market for some time in Canada and they seem to believe that the time is ripe.Expect to hear announcements soon!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

InPost Parcel Pick-Up Coming to Winnipeg

As many people in Winnipeg gear up for Christmas, the prospect of coming home and finding that you missed a parcel delivery becomes a regular occurrence. In some cases apartment and condo managers are now refusing to allow delivery onto the property of parcels because so many are coming in.  Many Super Mailboxes are not big enough to receive many parcels and as some people have found out, a parcel left on your doorstep can be stolen!

As many people soon find out, you have to tramp down to a place to pick up the parcel and may have to do this repeatedly.  Not all these places are 24 hours. In fact, most aren't. On occasions, some packages end up being sent back to the sender as they are not picked up in time.

It now appears that a new business to deal with the onslaught of parcel deliveries is starting to take hold. In Toronto, InPost has been setting up multiple 24 hour automated parcel pick-up places conveniently located near where people live, work, shop and go for recreation.  Pick-up is as easy as stopping at Superstore and getting your package in under a minute. Or at your local gas station.

InPost has said they are coming to Winnipeg in the next year. It is hard not to think that landlords across Canada are going to love this. It will give some a chance to earn rent from the boxes, for others it will mean no more clutter of packages piling up at their buildings and for parcel delivery services, it will be a quick way to deliver a lot of packages while making their deadlines.

Expect to see the InPost boxes in Winnipeg in the new year.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Manitoba Museum Expansion

The Canadian Human Rights Museum has been getting all the glory, the budget and the capital investment from private donors and government but the Manitoba Museum has announced a $160 million plan as Manitoba's 150 birthday looms.

The first stage of the building is an expansion of Alloway Hall to just under 10,000 feet to bring in larger touring museum programs like the recently completed Real Pirates! The closure of the 20,000 square foot MTS Exhibition Hall showed Winnipeg just how many shows out there we could get with the right sized space. The space needed for a museum tour might be smaller though. Still can't help thinking it would have been better to go with an extra 10,000 square feet.

Five years ago, I practically begged for a new science museum for our 150 birthday. I looked longingly at the parking lot north of the museum and suggested a connecting tunnel. Now, it appears the major aspect of the museum expansion will be a $100 million science gallery on that very parking lot.

The $100 million pricetag is about right. The Science Museum of Minnesota was built in 1999 for $99 million. It is a gorgeous building but it was built with flaws and now requires $26 million of water damage repairs. Manitoba can't afford to have those type of mistakes. The exhibits the Minnesota Museum has are outstanding and one can imagine how successful such a gallery would in Winnipeg.

Science Gallery part of Museum Expansion

The $5.3 million Alloway Hall expansion will just be the first part of what we actually see of the museum work. So much else is in the planning stage and the sources of funding still not announced. The province announced $10 million for the the $16 million initial phase.

Close up of future Science Gallery
The timetable and other funds beyond 2020 are yet to be determined. Hopefully, it won't have to wait till Manitoba's 200th birthday.

The Manitoba Museum's yearly budget is just a fraction of what the Human Rights Museum. Ballpark is $4 million versus $20 million. Still, the provincial museum punches above its weight class. It is time for a big capital project to ensure the museum continues to do what it does best which is entertain, inform, preserve and educate.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Porsche Coming to Seasons Tuxedo

Porsche joins Audi at Seasons Mall Tuxedo
The Seasons development in Tuxedo which will feature the factory outlet mall Outlets of Seasons already announced the mall will include an Audi dealership. According to their literature, the other dealership to join Audi will be the Porsche Centre of Winnipeg.

The construction is well under way with the Outlets of Seasons mall with a forecast opening of Spring of 2017. Expect a flurry of other announcements of store and restaurant openings over the next several months. It quite literally is a race to land the best retailers in Canada and the world at this point or lose them to other Winnipeg locations.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Election 2015

I voted on Sunday in the advance poll.

It was a pretty glorious fall day to start off and I wanted to get it done so on election night, I could watch and not have to be running around too much.

I have voted in every election where since I turned 18 save for when I was living in Japan. I haven't regretted voting ever even though I've supported losing candidates more than winning candidates on the whole.

My involvement in elections varies. Once I was a candidate, many times I have been in the trenches, other years just a donor or putting up a sign, many years a political party member, some years not. Always a voter though.

This year and for the last few years I have been a member of the Liberal party and donate a bit each month. I didn't get involved in nominations or campaigning much this year. Work schedule can always be a bit of an issue. I usually donate a chunk of money at the end of the year when I know what I can afford to give.

Election 2015 has been a very long election campaign. That was by design. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives called it earlier than they had to and their reasoning probably felt sound. They had the most money to spend and it was a good way to shut down third party ads from organizations as they would be forbidden from being shown during the election. The only bad thing was no government advertising either. On the balance it seemed a small price to pay.

Despite the fact that the NDP were in the lead at the start of the campaign in August, the Conservatives must have felt their chances were excellent. The addition of seats in the House of Commons in Ontario, Alberta and B.C. were in areas that Tories felt paved the way to majority.

Negative ads month after month had worked at pushing Justin Trudeau down to third place in the polls after an extended honeymoon after he became leader. At some point Stephen Harper must have figured the time was never going to be better. And so we plunged into this very long campaign during the hot months of summer.

Most political organizers will tell you that as a soon as an election is called, it is difficult to gauge day to day issues that rise above carefully scripted days. Limiting the amount of questions and media exposure is a tactic to control the message. Even though the Tories knew that the court hearing on Mike Duffy would be on with an early election call, they figured they could manage it. The PM would only answer 5 questions a day.

It made Tories very angry that all five questions for days and days were about Mike Duffy!

Conservatives at rallies began heckling the media for asking questions based on the latest from the Duffy trial. Not a good situation and one that lent itself to stories about Tory anger

I, like a lot of Canadians, watched the Duffy case with interest. It is hard not to be disgusted or disappointed in the failures of the Senate. Any thoughts I had when I was younger about reforming it are now grounded in the reality that it requires constitutional change. Both Mulcair and Harper have proposed policies this election on the Senate which won't stand a Supreme Court challenge. At some point, if either the NDP or Tories got elected, they will have to appoint senators. The law says so.

But that debate is for another day.

Despite the trial, Conservative poll numbers didn't take a beating. However, the Liberal ones rose up at the expense of the NDP. For the longest times this campaign, the polling numbers in aggregate have been stuck at 30%. No one close to a majority and for once the Tories not making big noise about a coalition. Why? It is because there appears to be enough people out there that want Harper gone who may wish the other parties to agree to govern. Unlike last time, it could happen.

In a 338 seat Parliament, a majority comes at 170 seats. No party seems close to that number. Talk of a minority government became inevitable.

The debate in English and French came early and not without controversy. Still, it didn't seem to move the polls until the issue of the niqab came up. But I don't think anyone really saw how things would turn out. Stephen Harper and his party saw an area that could create a wedge. Banning face covering for citizenship and possibly civil service looked to have majority support across Canada. Justin Trudeau, Elizabeth May and Tom Mulcair were on the side of the courts and said the issue seemed moot since only a very few had asked for such a thing. Gilles Duceppe with his finger on the pulse of Quebec went all in and supported the ban.

So what was the result? NDP support began to dip. The niqab might not be the only reason for the slide. In truth, there will some soul searching among the NDP as their campaign plan was mostly sound. However, the party has had trouble expanding their support and had all parties chipping away at their strongest base in Quebec. The main beneficiary has been Trudeau.

In the last week before the election, NDP and Conservative support appears to be waning. Is it Trudeaumanina? That seems a bit of reach. Support in polls has been incremental, notching up only a bit at a time. Is it a media swoon? That might be giving the media a bit too much credit given that it isn't only about the leaders.

Perhaps I don't listen to or watch the right media. Private radio has been traditionally conservative and appears to remain so. CBC takes it on the chin a lot but their popular political news and panel shows on TV and radio have members of all parties debating every day.

How about newspapers? Every major newspaper in Canada endorsed the Conservatives last election except one. The Toronto Star endorsed the NDP.

Of course, I'm sure some will have a different view of all this and say for sure that Trudeau has been the recipient of a love-in. There are probably quite a few NDP and Conservatives who might say so.

I have never been a fan of Stephen Harper. I believed his politics were narrow and mimicked the worst aspects of the Liberals he so wished to defeat. I often hear even from some Conservatives nowadays that they still are Conservative but not always comfortable with the leader. I think this has been the case of Liberals and NDP from time to time as well. It happens.

The longer a leader is in place in Canada, the more power the Prime Minister's Office has to act in the stead of cabinet and caucus. In recent years, we have seen orders given out to MPs and Senators from the PMO that thwart how the Parliamentary system operates. The contrast to Britain and Australia has become more pronounced over the decades as MPs and Senators in Canada become like potted plants standing behind their leaders.

The threat a MP faces is to be kicked out of caucus or not have their nomination papers signed by the leader. The threats to Senators are also being kicked out of caucus or other sanctions. We have seen during the election campaign how candidates are tossed under the bus at the first sign of trouble. This isn't limited to one party. It happens to all of them.

In the case of Stephen Harper, he has taken control to new levels and tried to stifle independent offices of Parliament such as Elections Canada, Parliamentary Budget Officer and civil servants in general. The one thing he has not been able to control is the Supreme Court which has sent a great deal of legislation down to defeat. This despite the fact that Harper has appointed 8 of the 9 Justices!

This election won't change this awful power dynamic of the PMO. However, a new PM could certainly change the contemptuous nature of the leadership. Parliament in and of itself is important and should operate not at the behest of an unelected chief of staff appointee. While we need a good prime minister, he has to share the heavy lifting and quite honestly, Harper has had fewer of those not more.

Many have said this election is about the economy and I don't disagree it is a driving factor. But it isn't a one man show as it seems to be now. We will need 338 members of Parliament who are prepared to work hard, research the issues, listen to the public, form plans and initiate legislation on health, defence, immigration, finance, aboriginal affairs, foreign affairs and trade.

There are three things when considering voting: 1: Local candidate 2. Political party and policies and 3. Leader.

It should always be remembered that a voter elects a member of Parliament. I look at my local candidates always. It would be very hard for me to vote for my candidate if they were totally wrong for the riding.

Next, political party and policies are important. If the candidate I like wants to separate my province from Canada, I obviously have to move along. In other words, I look at the platform and determine if the party as a whole is compatible with my world view. I know not everything will be perfect but it has to be more or less something I can support.

Lastly, the leader is final thing to consider. We are simply too leader-centic. A captain on a hockey team doesn't win games by themselves. They do set the tone, do a lot of heavy lifting and keep the team going. This is what I look for. I am not looking for a genius in every category. I do want a leader who find the people to be the skilled and dedicated person in their area of expertise. I believe weak leadership is not being able to delegate.

So there you have it. I looked the last fours years of record. I looked at candidates, policies and leaders. I rejected my Tory candidate Steven Fletcher despite the fact that he is a better MP now than when he started. Getting demoted from cabinet has actually allowed to be freer on speaking on issues his party doesn't want to deal with such as "right to die" legislation. Still, he has been more polarizing and divisive figure rather than a visionary one.

I have already looked at the Conservative policy platform and leadership and find both wanting. I can't say that I am too impressed with their economic record. A lot of the credit goes to the previous Liberal government who left the cupboards full. Never have I been too comfortable with the tax credits aimed at different groups. Taxes should be easier not more complicated. It's a mess. In other policy areas, I find myself often disagreeing with their strategy.

I have left the NDP till the end. My local candidate for the NDP was tossed at the last moment. I found his removal to have been hasty to say the least. They have replaced him with the previous candidate who has been barely visible. Can't say it was an impressive more from Tom Mulcair and the NDP. They crippled their campaign in this riding.

I like Elizabeth May from the Greens and Parliament is better with her in it the Green local candidate won't be able to take down Steven Fletcher.  Also, I can honestly say that the platform of the Greens still leaves me doubtful on their ability to run the country.

Foe me that leaves the Liberals. I have a solid Liberal candidate with Doug Eyolfson, an ER doctor in the city. He is a longtime resident and his resume looks strong. I like the Liberal platform this election and I like Justin Trudeau as leader. There are a few policy areas I disagree with but I am satisfied about intentions of the vision of the candidate, the leader and the party.

Endorsements don't mean a thing and it is okay to be very private about political votes. But too quiet sometimes means afraid, complacent or ignorant. In short, some should speak when others won't. I am more unhappy with people not voting than by who they are voting for. A disengaged public can be led to ruin and they will not even have had a say in the matter because they excused themselves from doing so. I will be voting for Dough Eyolfson in Winnipeg Charleswood for the Liberals and win or lose, I will be happy with that decision.

Be happy with your decision as well. But do decide to vote.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Gio's to Become La Roca Super Macho Taqueria

In 1968, a Hertz Rent-A-Car location was built at 155 Smith Street in downtown Winnipeg. The business lasted until around 1981 when it was renovated and became an East Side Mario's. After that came a Garbonzo's, Shangri-La and The Storm restarant. In 2002, local gay club Giovanni's Room was looking for a new home and fifth re-location and it became Gio's.

Gio's operated for 31 years and in their final location at Smith Street attracted other clubs nearby. In 2013 Gio's closed, a victim of its own success with other restaurants and clubs offering welcome throughout the downtown. The club has sat empty ever since. It appears to be that is no more.

La Roca Super Macho Taqueria has announced they will be opening sometime in March of 2016. They have begun hiring staff using a contact at Whiskey-Dix as the place to send resumes. This would suggest that Whiskey-Dix owner Wade Salchert may be involved in this venture.

The homecoming of the Manitoba Moose and expansion of the Winnipeg Convention Centre along with additional developments likely means restaurants in the area could see a boost to their numbers.

More to report on this as information comes in.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Palomino Club a Dead Horse

The message is a short one: The Palomino Club will close and not re-open downtown. Owner Cary Paul looked at the old 4Play spot and didn't feel it. No move will happen.

After 27 years the Palomino Club is a dead horse

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Palomino Club To Move Downtown?

The Green Tinted Building...Future Palomino Club?
In 1988 the Palomino Club was opened on Portage Avenue and after 27 years, it has never looked back. Until now. The old location will make way for condos at Portage and Minto and the owner is looking for a downtown location near the MTS Centre. The spot that owner Carey Paul has his eye on is the empty space where 4Play Sports Bar was.

It is the end of an era for the Palomino Club not to mention for restaurants and bars at that location over many decades.

At Portage and Minto there have been many places. Here's a list that is likely not complete:

Palomino Club
Blue Jeans
Thomas Buttons
The Avenue
Pierre's, the original restaurant in 1954

Not sure of the order or years for the last ones.

One wonder when the 60 condos are built on the site whether the faint sound of ghostly music will waft through the air.

The location that Palomino is mulling also has had many years as various incarnation of nightclubs. In 1984, it was converted into a very fancy place called Dayton's. It took the name from the 1955 building it occupied of the same name that had housed a department store. The basement of the building was home of Holiday restaurant from 1955 to 1967 and then it was the Prime Rib Steakhouse from 1967 to 1973.

The Dayton's department store lasted till 1983 before finally closing. The recession had hit Winnipeg hard with massive business closure during the 1980s. North Portage was a patchwork of some viable businesses and pinball shops and an adult theatre. Still, four Vancouver businessmen thought enough of the Dayton's building to covert it into a nightclub in 1984. Some $750,000 was spent and a dress code and cover charge was put in place. Friday and Saturdays were very busy but the sound of crickets was heard other days of the week. By 1986, a refurbishment and change of name to Times took place and the atmosphere was less fancy.

The new California format worked well on weekends but the continued migration of business, residents as well as nightclubs to the suburbs continued unabated. A murder on the premises in 1999 reinforced the idea that there was danger around. The business continued to run primarily as a weekend club.

The arrival of the MTS Centre in 2004 inspired some confidence to the area and new investors jumped and a new club format was introduced called Blush Ultraclub. Nearly $2 million was spent and the security was very tight to inspire some confidence which had nearly evaporated in the area. Despite a good effort though, the club was not able to breakaway from just being successful on weekends. The Manitoba Moose were not the Winnipeg Jets. many young families attending games had no use for a nightclub before or after games.

By the end of 2009, Ultraclub closed down. It opened a year later as 4Play Sports bar just as the Jets came back to town. To be sure many bars and restaurants found their business boomed with the team's arrival. 4Play found it difficult to expand beyond evenings, It didn't help that the NHL had a lockout as well. A shortened season was enough the put a crimp is most downtown businesses.

As of 2013, the old Dayton's space has sat empty waiting for a concept. The Palomino has a proven customer base and has busy nights other than just weekends. There are now residents downtown where there were none just a few years ago. And the Jets and the Moose now share the MTS building and next year RBC Winnipeg Convention Centre doubles in size.

The dream of creating a bustling entertainment district just got a little stronger this week.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Qdoba Mexican Grill Kenaston Now Open

Located in vacated The Source location in Walmart Parking Lot
Qdoba Mexican Grill has opened their second location along Kenaston in a former The Source location in the Walmart parking lot. Umi Sushi is right next door.

The original location for Qdoba on Ellice remains open.

In the next two years expect a flurry of restaurant openings in the area around the outlet mall now under construction on Sterling Lyon. There were also be thousands of new residents due to the apartment and condo construction going on in the area.

Monday, October 5, 2015

TSN Radio To Broadcast Manitoba Moose Games

TSN 1290 is already a powerhouse in local sports broadcasting and will continue to be so with the addition of the Winnipeg Jets' AHL affiliate , the Manitoba Moose, to their radio roster. It was announced earlier that former CBC sports broadcaster Mitch Peacock would be doing the play by play for the Manitoba Moose but no word on what radio station. Now we know.

The addition of the Manitoba Moose to TSN's radio broadcast means that almost every night of the week will feature hockey in Winnipeg. Mitch Peacock adds incredible strength to the station and it is not hard to imagine the cross guesting that will happen over all the hockey coverage.

Peacock was with CBC Winnipeg six years and is an experienced play by play broadcaster. Given the loss of the hockey at CBC and the shortened news at the station to one hour, it must have been appealing to jump to a place where sports rules 24 hours a day.

TSN Sports Radio has been locking down all the sports writing and broadcasting talent in Winnipeg. Gary Lawless from the Free Press made the jump and now Mitch Peacock had done so as well. In short, the amount of local coverage and employees TSN has in Winnipeg is large.

The first broadcast of the season starts this Friday against the Toronto Marlies. Expect to hear more about the broadcast and format in the next days

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Saje Natural Wellness Opens in St. Vital Mall

Saje Natural Wellness tores
In 2014, Saje Natural Wellness stores opened their first location in Winnipeg at CF Polo Park. The Vancouver-based company opened in 1991 and in recent years has been fast expanding. The newest location just opened this week in St. Vital Mall as of Friday.

Saje offer products covering a wide variety of ailments and/or beauty products.

In an increasingly tough retail market Canadian companies can find opportunities but they have been to be unique and they have to be aggressive and Saje has been both.

By the way, as of last month Polo Park has changed its name to CF Polo Park. The CF stands for Cadillac Fairview.  Expect to see the CF logo more often in the advertising.

Friday, September 25, 2015

List of Stores for Outlet Collection

Outlet Collection Winnipeg at Kenaston
List of possible stores.

Aldo Outlet
American Eagle Outfitters
Ardene Outlet
Aroma Espresso Bar
Banana Republic Factory Store
Bath & Body Works
Bench Factory Store
Big Smoke Burger
Boathouse Outlet
Body Shop Outlet, The
Brooks Brothers Factory Store
Browns Outlet
Buffalo David Bitton
Calvin Klein Outlet
Chico’s Outlet
Children`s Place Outlet, The
Claire's Outlet
Cole Haan
Columbia Sportswear
Danier Leather Outlet Store
ECCO Shoe Factory Outlet
Eddie Bauer
Famous Footwear Outlet
Forever XXI
Fossil Outlet
Freshly Squeezed
Frosted Cupcake
Game On Sports
Gap Factory Store
Gateway Newstands
Geox Outlet
Guess? Outlet
Haggar Clothing Co.
Hot Topic
Imperial Meats
J. Crew Factory
Kate Spade Outlet
Kavar Boutique
Lindt Outlet
L'Occitane Outlet
Michael Kors Outlet
Mountain Warehouse
Naturalizer Outlet
Nine West Shoe Studio
Not Your Daughter's Jeans
Old Navy
Pandora Outlet
Pepper Palace
Polo Ralph Lauren- COMING SOON
Reebok Outlet
Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
RUD by Rudsak
Salomon/ Arc`teryx
Samsonite Outlet
Shoe Company, The
Shirt Store
Signature Perfumes
Soft-Moc Shoe Rack
Sunglass Hut Outlet
SURPLUS Official Diesel Outlet
Tommy Hilfiger Outlet
Trade Secrets
Triumph Lingerie Outlet
UGG Outlet
Van Heusen Outlet
White House Black Market Outlet
Wine Country Vintners
Ya Ya & Co.
Zales Outlet

Thursday, September 24, 2015

BESTSELLER Store Coming to Polo Park

BESTSELLER, a multi-brand fashion retailer from Denmark opened their first stores outside of Europe in Canada this week. The Quebec opening in Montreal was followed by the announcement that four more locations in Canada would open by next next year. Polo Park was one of those locations in 2016. Winnipeg will be the first location outside of Quebec.

The trendy store averages about 7000 plus square feet and carries men's, women's, teenager's and children's clothing, Founded in 1975 in Brande, Denmark, the family owned business is
 one of Europe's biggest fashion companies featuring their own brands of Jack & Jones, Vero Moda, Noisy May and Y.A.S. In Canada it will exclusively sell Adapt and Studio 75.

This continues the trend of Polo Park moving to highly sought after and exclusive retailers for the mall store.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Oh Doughnuts Coming to Broadway

On Broadway just below Amici's
Amanda Kinden's artisan doughnuts have been enjoyed at Parlour Coffee for some time but she has not had her own location till now. The former Bella's Spa below Amici's came available and as of this week a banner has hung outside announcing their future home.

Broadway has always been a people street and food trucks and restaurants line both sides of the street to serve the residential and office crowd. The soon to be completed RBC Winnipeg Convention Centre may also be part of the crowd that looks to be served by the variety of food services in the area.

Often in our focus of things the city has gotten wrong, it is hard to remember what the city has got right. Broadway continues to be a source of things that attract people in growing numbers.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Goodlife Fitness Coming to St. James

3193 Portage Avenue Superstore
Goodlife Fitness continues their expansion in Canada which has taken them coast to coast and made them the largest fitness company in Canada.

They have been looking at expanding in several parts of the city only to be thwarted by the lack of ideal space or bigger retail giants swooping in and grabbing spots. When Target shut down, Goodlife put in an offer on many of the properties only to be re-buffed. In Winnipeg, Target Grant Park went to Canadian Tire, Southdale Target went to Walmart and Target Polo Park went to owners of Polo Park. Kildonan remains unclaimed but Goodlife is already just down the street from there.

A number of weeks ago, Goodlife listed the latest place for their expansion in Winnipeg and it is in St. James.  The address they listed is 3193 Portage Avenue which is home to Real Canadian Superstore.

Goodlife and Superstore are old friends. In Winnipeg, the first two Goodlife Women's Only gyms were set up in or on Superstore properties on McPhillips and in Sargent down from Polo Park. Those clubs remain with the company today.

The Superstore in St. James on Polo Park is an odd duck. It is one of a very few Superstores with an underground parking lot on Canada. Built in 1989 for around $10 million, the company initially tried to buy an abandoned adjacent school site of the St. James school division but were re-buffed. They went ahead anyways and built a heated parkade instead and found success as one of the first large sized stores in the 250,000 square foot range in the west end of the city.

Site of Goodlife Expansion?
The old school site did eventually get sold and developed and on the corner facing Portage is a Crosstown Credit Union. At the back of the site now is a condo. In between the space as seen above is a space listed for development and could accommodate a 20,000 square foot building. This is the exact size Goodlife needs for a co-ed gym.

There is already a Shapes Women's gym and a Y on west Portage but they do serve different crowds. The construction of a new co-ed fitness center right in the middle of neighbourhood on the south side is likely to be very welcome.

I am not entirely sure of the logistics of the project that will be complete next year. The configuration of the parking lot will be interesting. Look to see zoning plans for it soon!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Landmark Cinemas at Grant Park

In Late June, New Landmark sign went up at Grant Park
This week the Landmark Cinemas at Grant Park did a full reveal of the $2 million redevelopment of their eight screen movie theatre. Formerly know as the Empire Theatres, the movie chain was jettisoned by the Sobey family when their grocery division purchased Safeway.

Grant Park mall has been undergoing a years long renovation that has had to adapt as big changes in Canada's retail market shook up the scene. The arrival of Target was the impetus of change at the shopping center but planners could not have forecast what was in store for the future. Sobey's was forced to sell off four Safeways by the federal government for competition reasons and Grant Park Safeway was one of them. This brought a whole new player to town in the form of Red River Co-Op who for the last few decades were more known for gas and convenience stores rather than grocery.

Menawhile, all of this was happening at the same time as Zellers was closed and Target moved into Canada. For Grant Park it meant a multi-million expansion of old Zellers footprint to accommodate the new Target. Not to be outdone, McNally, Liquor Mart and Shopper's all expanded.

The inside of the mall was upgraded was section at a time and some long time tenants closed or moved to make way for others. It was a bit of a mess and it continued for a few years.

However, it was all in anticipation of Target coming so every dollar spent was considered a worthwhile investment. And when Target finally opened? Pfft. It still had the new paint smell when the company decided to tuck tail, close and run home.

Still, Grant Park owners had already committed to completing the renovation they had set upon so floors and skylights proceeded apace.

Sobey's Empire selling of their theatre division to Landmark Cinemas of Alberta was just one more adjustment along the way. The company was no stranger to Winnipeg as they continue to own the Towne in the downtown. However, the company had seemed content to stay out of the way of Cineplex and Empire for the big suburban movie houses.

At first Landmark just ran the theater as is with no major changes but it soon became apparent that the company wanted to upgrade and brand the theater as their own. To be sure, things are afoot in the movie business. The conversion of Cinema City to Odeon VIP for $4 million in 2012 introduced reserved seating and a licensed lounge and drinks at your seat. Both Silver City locations also had major upgrades and Imax added.

Landmark did one step further. They have made ALL their seats reserved. No more wondering if you get a seat separate from the rest of your party because of rush seating. A few years from now, movie goers will probably wonder why this never happened before.

So aside from the reserved seating, what else did the $2 million buy? It bought a lounge where a store once stood and a grander entrance to the lobby. The lounge is not licensed for alcohol but there are hints it will be. It is available to anyone in the mall as it is before the ticket collector for the theatres.

The new concessions are pretty snazzy but the highlight is three drink dispensers that can deliver 131 drink flavours and can even be mixed.

The decor and seating have all been refreshed and one theater has Extra enhancements for 3D and rocker seats.

In all a major improvement. Landmark has noticed that certain blockbusters are likely to be less attractive to clientele so expect a few more discerning movie goers to Grant Park. All in all the theater is a welcome improvement to the city.

While Grant Park is still putting together the last few pieces in the mall including a Northern Reflections opening in October, it still awaits the hard work to turn the old Target into a Canadian Tire. It will be at that time that the mall will be able to say that work for a time is complete.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Odysseo Coming to Winnipeg September 10

If there was any doubts that circus was in town a drive down Kenaston would put that to rest.

The big top is up kitty corner to IKEA and lots of activity is taking place in advance of Cavalia's production of Odysseo. The show runs September 10 to October 4 and features
an equestrian and acrobatics show in a creation put together by one of the founders of the Cirque du Soleil.

The fencing went in an around the production in the last days and the additional tent tops are in place for horses, performers and services for the audience. Outsides lights now fill the night skies illuminating the largest touring tent show in the world. At over 38 meters high and covering 6,320 meters of space, it is bigger than the Winnipeg Blue Bomber field. The stage within the tent is bigger than the MTS Centre's skating surface.

It is simply an enormous facility. And yet for all that, only 2000 or so people will seated in side for a show. The bulk of the space will be for the performance featuring a 13 meter mountain and 380,000 liter lake for the 65 horse and the 45 human performers.

Everything about the show is big and the 80 workers assembling the site are at it every day. The $10 production is expected to generate around $5.5 million in economic benefits to the city and about 100 local temporary jobs. Ticket prices range from $50 to $250 at the highest VIP level of experience.

Cavalia generally performs in large cities around the world and the reviews are often glowing. It is a little more unusual that they appear in a city under a million people. Expect quite a bit of excitement as the show nears opening date.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Audi Dealership Coming to Seasons of Tuxedo

Dark gold by Kenaston represents two auto dealers
St. James Volkswagen Audi has announced that the Audi division will re-locate to one of two dealerships that will face Kenaston on the Outlets of Seasons Tuxedo mall development. In essence, this will double the capacity of both Volkswagen and Audi floor and lot space for this dealer group.

The new electric cars for Audi require 12 outdoor charging stations for their luxury model so being closer to their customers and having the space was a key need. The showroom floor's increase in size also was needed for the additional models the dealership would be selling in Manitoba. Other add-ons will be a detailing area, a car wash and 18 bay service center over three floors. Total space around 70,000 square feet.

The Outlets of Seasons site still has one dealership spot that has not been announced. And just north of the dealers and also facing Kenaston is a hotel site. Expect further announcements soon.

Audi expects to move into their location into the spot 2016/2017.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Charles Adler Leaves CJOB

Charles Adler
The most recent ratings period for radio knocked CJOB off the top of the pedestal for the first time in decades. Possibly no station has had such dominance time in Canada.The only time they were knocked off their perch was by a music station but they quickly re-gained their dominance and maintained it for ratings period after ratings period.

Until now.

There are a lot of factors in play so let's list where things may have slipped.

The most joyous time for a conservative radio station is when government is composed of a left or centrist party. It is the fuel that boosts the engine. Having an NDP government helped CJOB in the ratings in the past but when Adler moved to afternoons for a national broadcast, it was no help. With the federal Conservative party in power and especially when they got a majority, there was big power to rail against.

Deriding Liberal, NDP and Greens had always been catnip but since they had no power in a majority government, listeners were at a loss when they had a grievance. This left the culture war as a windmill to tilt against. The Harper Tories were unable to get things done because of the CBC, environmentalists, unelected courts and Senate and just no-good ratnicks on the left. At least this was the narrative that was spun.

Eventually that dog didn't hunt when something like the Senate and Mike Duffy happened. The spin on it still circled back to Harper. The culture wars in Canada were not working very well for ratings because many felt their disgust in a majority government lay with the party in power. It was hard to pursue a left versus right agenda when the right was doing less than optimally. Subsequently Charles Adler's national programming was less popular than returning to more local based programming

Charles Adler moved back to local morning broadcasts on CJOB. For a time it was business as usual but there was a constant re-shuffling but fortunately in other time slots. Hal Anderson in the morning was let go. News director Richard Cloutier slid into the spot before the Adler program. Other changes happened in the noon and afternoon programming.

The recession starting in 2008 hurt a lot of businesses dependent on advertising. The Free Press, CBC, The Sun, CJOB and CTV have all done tinkering to improve ratings and the bottom line. Many people have lost jobs. Meanwhile, competition has emerged on a lot of media fronts. For newspapers it is The Metro. For radio it is XM satellite radio and streaming music services, podcasts and downloaded music.

Still CJOB held a lead but things were changing ever still.

It can't be understated how badly losing the Winnipeg Jets broadcast rights hurt the station in 2011. The station had been the broadcaster for Manitoba Moose from 1996 to 2011 and hockey was considered one of the reasons why the station dominated. It is interesting to note that when the Jets left CJOB briefly fell below Q94 in the ratings before recovering.

The station put a very good bid for the new Jets broadcasting rights in 2011 only to be outbid by TSN TV's regional TV and radio combination play. CJOB's parent didn't have a cable sports broadcaster to do a tandem bid for more money. The money TSN put in was a surprise to most but then net effect over the last years has been excellent ratings for TV and steady climb up for traditional last place finisher TSN Radio.

At one point in the 1980s, CJOB lost the Jets 1.0 broadcast rights to CKY. Ken Nicolson and Kurt Kielback actually left CJOB to continue their work as radio hosts on the new station. Coincidentally, Charles Adler worked at CKY for a time in news in the 1980s. CJOB didn't take the loss of Jets lightly though. They built up a before and after hockey broadcast that was near a popular as their rival.

To some extent CJOB had attempted to beef up their sports department to beef up their sports department beyond woeful Blue Bombers to be part of the hockey talk in town. The last ratings period saw one of their sports staff lose their jobs.

It is a good bet that if CJOB had not lost the Winnipeg Jets, they still might be the number 1 station in Winnipeg.

Still, there are so many other factors going on aside from recession, Conservatives in Ottawa and losing the Jets that have contributed to CJOB's ratings. It is possible the stations ratings would have dropped earlier had it not been the fact that commercial radio, especially in music, has far more competition than ever before. There are now more stations including college broadcasts. There is recorded devices that hook up to your car so you can listen to your own choices. There is XM satellite radio. All of this likely helped CJOB stay atop. However, it also helped its longtime nemesis: the CBC.

There was a time where CBC trailed everyone in the ratings. Nearer the bottom than to the top, it has climbed to the point where it was a consistent top 3. The amount of music stations and splitting of listeners allowed the CBC to have a certain distinctiveness than a station playing country/pop did not have. The move of CBC to have both a AM and FM signal was probably the final push the station needed. Truth be told, there were too many dead spots in parts of the city for the AM signal. The FM signal travels well in the canyons of the downtown. In some cases, better than satellite radio.

The latest Numeris BBM ratings had the CBC finish first over CJOB. If someone had suggested this possibility 10 years ago, they would have been laughed at.

To be sure CBC Radio One is not without without its own programming tweaks.  They have shuffled hosts, not re-newed some of their local hosts. And their national programming with Q went through the worst of what you ever want one of your show's to have: loss of a host due to scandal. Somehow, despite all this the CBC ended up in first place.

Charles Adler left his job after 17 years. That is a pretty good run for anyone and all of this in private radio and without the Jets in the schedule at any time while he was there. He garnered honours during his broadcast career and he attracted both fans and foes. However, in the end a fair custodian of a show that was one that had influence all way back to Peter Warren.

The media has looked less and less like a career that might span a few decades. Print, radio and TV and online are all hardscrabble now. Maybe they were always like that but it seems to me that many only last a short time in the profession.

The morning show has been taken over by Geoff Currier who has a long radio career in the same type of radio broadcasting in Winnipeg. He has tried his hands at politics a few times so some will  be looking to see about he approaches things. One of the better guests on Adler was Warren Kinsella, a Liberal. Better to have a little bit of fire crackers in a broadcast to liven things up that to pursue ideology.

It is difficult to see where radio will go. It is obvious that being free is not enough. It has to be unique and it has to have a voice. The sameness to music radio is killing it. Radio talk can be immediate and local. We need more of it, not less.

As Charles Adler heads to B.C., it is good to remember that CJOB has toughed it out before.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Simons Coming to Winnipeg

Last week the head of La Maison Simons announced the worst kept secret of their expansion plans: That they are coming to Winnipeg. The Quebec-based department store started by the Simons family from Scotland in 1840 are coming to Vancouver and Mississauga and second location in Edmonton soon. The first Simons outside Quebec was built in the West Edmonton Mall in 2012

The rumour has been that Simons has their eye on the former Target store at Polo Park. Cadillac Fairfiew, the owner of Polo Park bought the site when Target shut down and Nordstrom's, Sak's, Simons and Lowe's are all kicking the tires. The 100,000 square foot location is a big spot to fill but Polo Park is the 13th best shopping mall in Canada for a retailer to be located.

This is not the first time rumours on Nordstrom's and Simons have been heard in regards to Polo Park. The old Zellers site was looked at on the second floor but there were concerns about about how much traffic that location could attract for a department store. Moreover, there are many retailers waiting for Sears to leave Polo Park to take over that site.

Sears might try to stay in Polo Park to the bitter end. Many think that the company may not make it to 2016. Still, waiting for the death to happen might be a wait and the newly built and now empty Target location awaits.

Simons in indeed coming to Winnipeg as their president says. There is not a major retailer in Canada who doesn't have the mall on their list of dream locations. Expect an announcement soon.