Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winnipeg Walkway System

Picture 1: Construction of the first link of the Winnipeg Walkway from Eaton's to the Somerset building

Picture 2: The east bridge of the Portage Place walkway. Source: Winnipeg Free Press

Picture 3: Picture of the plans for the Winnipeg Walkway

The Winnipeg Walkway System is modelled on the Minneapolis Skyway which began in built in 1962 and now encompass 80 city blocks and runs five miles.

Winnipeg's first overhead walkway was constructed in 1969 between Eaton's and the Somerset building where Woolworth's was located.

It has been a slow process linking up Winnipeg buildings. The problem, in short, is that there have often been gaps where there was no building to link. The downtown has a surfeit of parking lots.

The other issue is money. Many of the landowners seem to want the government to pay the bill for the overhead walkways. Mr. Christian has as good synopsis of the development of the walkways.

The plan for the $6 million walkway expansion is described on the city of Winnipeg website.

Walkways are not pretty. Underground ain't pretty either but those are two options for cold climates for people to walk places without donning a coat. I have no problem with linking the downtown. However, I do have a problem when the walkways are as ugly as we have seen.

Linking buildings is no substitute for abandoning the street level. The city needs to make greater efforts in this department.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Well, it has finally happened.

Ikea is coming to Winnipeg.

It will be one of the largest stores in Canada at 350,000 square feet. It will anchor as major tenant in an even larger 1.5 million square foot development.

The site is where the former CN Intermodal Terminal once called home. It was the bane of my existence for many years as each time I came home from work, I would face a long line of trains.

We finally have an underpass after the Waverley one was cancelled by Mulroney in the 1980s.

I like Ikea. Unlike some of the snobbery I have heard in some quarters, I think their presence is a good one. They are a tourist attraction and offer unique furniture.

The location is big enough for them and will accelerate much needed work on Kenaston which needs work with the construction of Waverley West moving ahead quickly.

When the Kapyong Barracks gets redeveloped, we are going to see Kenaston is ill equipped to handle the flow. The work is needed now and more will be needed as traffic continues to increase.

Funny, how two of the biggest tourist attractions announce their plans in the same week. Harper will be in Winnipeg on Friday to put shovels in the ground for the Human Rights Museum.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Tuxedo Park Shopping Centre Part 2

The Tuxedo Safeway became the primary Safeway for River Heights Tuxedo residents when the Safeway at Corydon and Lanark closed in the 1970s.

As mentioned in part 1, the Tuxedo Park Shopping Centre has been around since 1962.

Safeway and the Bank of Montreal have been mainstays of the shopping center from the beginning. In 2008, Safeway just finished renovating its interior to bring it to the standards of stores as seen in Charleswood, Osborne Village and their newest location at Madison Square (the second largest location in the province as announced by managers on their opening December 11).

A number of stores and restaurants have come and over the years but a few have stood the test of time. Rumors Comedy Club has been around since the 1980s. The bar that occupied the place in the early 1980s was called Kappy's. Many of the greatest comedians working in North America have worked at Rumor's. Every so often a comedian guesting on a talk show like Leno or Letterman will list where they are playing and you'll hear Rumor's listed. It is now the only comedy club standing in Winnipeg.

Shopper's Drugmart is another long term tenant. The sit cheek by jowl with Safeway cramped in a corner of the mall.

A Laura Secord store is a major tenant of the mall although I don't know the exact day they moved into the location.

Other major tenants include a Sal's and a Liquor Mart.

A Shell gas station and car wash has occupied the corner where Tuxedo connects with Corydon for decades.

The second floor of the mall has numerous professional offices but the majority seems to be occupied by dentists.

In 2008, renovations of the exterior of the mall began (including a redesign of the Safeway). Some old tenants such as the Mac's departed.

A new addition to Tuxedo was a Starbucks. Only months earlier, a Starbucks was built just down the street in Charleswood.

The Tuxedo Shopping Centre has been an important part of the commercial infrastructure of Tuxedo/River Heights for many years. As more of the local grocery stores, pharmacies and banks closed in River Heights, this area became one of the main spots for residents to come for those services. It continues to serve that need but a building that seems awkward for the space.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Portage Avenue Part 3

First picture: The A&B Sound Building back in its heyday.

Second picture: The University of Winnipeg

As mentioned in Portage Avenue Part 2, Portage Avenue is going through major changes. Some of those changes may be affected by a downturn in the economy.

For every step forward, there seems there is a step or two back though. Mountain Equipment Co-Op was a bold step forward. The closure of A&B Sound store was a step back. It remains empty even now. Prior to it being a music and electronics store, it was known as the Portage Village Inn. The building is on the market now but doesn't seem to have any takers.

Beside the old A&B Sound building is the Mitchell-Copp building. Like A&B, it is empty. North Portage Development Corporation has it targeted for redevelopment. Hard to say what could go in the building. It seems unlikely that a retail business would find it suitable. The best bet might be condos or a business looking for a unique office.

Probably one of the better news stories for north Portage is that the Red Apple store, closed for two months will be replaced with a Dollarama. This is a more attractive option for the building. This format store has seen success across Canada.

The Avenue building and the Hample building have new owner with new plans for condos, retail and restaurants. It remains to be seen whether they will follow through.

The only sure bet seems to be Dollarama.

It is tragic that following the construction of the MTS Centre and near completion of the Manitoba Hydro building that redevelopment of a large swath of Portage is taking so long and may end up being put off due to the downturn in the economy.

The only work that seems to be guaranteed work that is going on on the north side of Portage aside from Dollarama is the University of Winnipeg with its new dorms and faculty of science.

It remains to be seen whether other projects proceed.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Portage Avenue Part 2

First picture of the former Mitchell Copps jewelery building from the Free Press, Second picture from Winnipeg Love and Hate.

The north side of Portage Avenue has been suffering for many years while the south side always benefited from having The Bay and other strong retailers as anchors. Even after Eaton's closed in 1999, the street still had considerable vitality.

North Portage has never had the same attractions as what lay across the street from it. Subsequently, as suburbia grew, the north side started to see some deterioration through the late 1970s and into the 1980s.

As mentioned in my post on Portage Place, many people believed something needed to be done about the proliferation of for lease signs and general seediness the street was acquiring.

In the very early 1980s, the north side appeared blighted with an adult movie theatre and a few video arcades indicating how far things had slipped. Aside from a few gems such as Kennedy Street where some shops and restaurants such as Stage West dinner theatre continued to succeed, the area was crying for something bold.

In 1981, Lloyd Axworthy introduced the Core Area Initiative as an encompassing program to help revitalize the downtown. The debate about what the centerpiece of the program should be was intense. Axworthy thought an arena was the best idea. The Winnipeg Jets even then were angling for a new facility and many people forget that Axworthy was one of the early advocates.

As most know, the arena option found no support and in 1996, the Winnipeg Jets headed for Phoenix. Had they moved downtown in 1987 into a new facility, one wonders if they would still be in the city.

The idea that found widespread support was a downtown mall. And thus Portage Place was born in 1987.

However, this post isn't about Portage Place. It is about the rest of Portage Avenue and what resulted after the mall was built.

I think it is safe to say that Portage Place has been a mixed success. True, it brought some new commercial and residential development to the north side but the area immediately in front of the mall was not people friendly. Essentially, the mall turned its back on the street and access was controlled moreso through portals like a traditional mall. There were few retailers that had doors out to the street. Also, the overpasses that loomed across the street made many people bypass the street below altogether.

The interconnected second story links from building to building had an effect on the street level retailers below. Some opted to go the mall rather than stand alone by themselves.

Eaton's closed in 1999, the result of mismanagement over many years. The collapse of the store was not isolated to Winnipeg and closures were national. The Winnipeg store closure was notable for the sheer size of the store that closed. For the first time, it took the focus off north side rehabilitation. The idea of this large, hulking empty store was too much for government of business to contemplate.

Voila, the arena idea re-emerged and as you know, the MTS Centre was built in 2004. All things considered, the project from done with remarkable speed and haste. We will touch again on what has been achieved with the MTS Centre.

The areas farther east of the Portage Place Mall continued to deteriorate and many went idle in the 1990s and 2000s. We will touch on this later on as well.

Let's focus on what has happened west of Portage Place:

The area west of the mall faced fewer problems because it had a major office building and a hotel rather than numerous street level retailers. The Investors Group building, the Holiday Inn Express (formally the Relax Inn) and the bus station/Rice Building all stood between the mall and the University of Winnipeg. The Investors Tower and Holiday Inn were built at the same time as Portage Place. The Investors building took over some retail and the old Colony movie theatre. The Holiday Inn took over the scary Mall Hotel.

Of all the things that many appreciated, it was the removal of the Mall Hotel and its fortress-like architecture and violent reputation. The area considerably improved once it was gone.

in 2008, the University of Winnipeg has begun muscling its way into the block now that the bus station has indicated it is moving to the airport.

The plan is for the university to renovate 37,000 square feet for admissions and counselling. The Salisbury House might be turned into the campus' first student pub and the newsstand and east and west surface parking will all be leased out.

It will be interesting to see how the loading area of the bus station will be developed. It is an ugly, dark place at the moment.

The issue of the United Army Surplus building seems to have been resolved. It is too foregone to redevelop and will come down in 2009. I suspect that some developers will approach the university about how to make use of the site for the university and for others.

I don't think I am the only who believes that the site would be ideal for a much expanded university book store. Now that McNally has left the downtown, the area is devoid of a major new bookseller. The downtown could stand to benefit from a bookstore of the quality the University of Manitoba has at its Fort Garry campus.

(to be continued)

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

The changes in Wolseley/West Broadway area Part 3

Pictures of the opening Nygard on Broadway and Sherbook on November 17, 2007. Pictures from Nygard's website.

Back in January, I wrote about the changes on Sherbook Street. The Free Press began to take notice themselves in in an article on September 29.

The part of the street the Free Press details is Sherbrook Street between Westminster and Broadway Avenues. On Broadway, as noted in the story, Nygard tore down a number of older buildings that housed their former retail outlet digs as well as some other retail and business operations. At one point in the late 1970s/early 1980s, a massage parlour graced the corner. The retail outlet itself back in the 1970s housed a disco.

Over time, a variety of businesses along Sherbrook succumbed to the deterioration in infrastructure or simply abandoned the area for better options. Salisbury House closed and was replaced by a police substation. That spoke volumes.

Nygard's store signified that something different was happening and although it has a big box look to it, there is no doubt that it has attracted people to its location.

Sherbrook and Maryland are mostly residential with mixed businesses located on the streets between the Assiniboine River and Portage. It has had its ups and downs over the years but the 1990s were years when it looked more down than up. Many of the houses in Winnipeg saw their value drop or remain static for a long time. Some of the streets such as Furby and Spence were in full decline in terms of safety due to crime.

In 2007, a fire burned an apartment/retail complex at Westminster and Sherbrook. The businesses didn't survive the fire. As I recall one of the businesses was a small massage therapy clinic and the other was a gift store on Westminster. I don't remember what faced on to Sherbrook.

The block was not salvaged and it fell to the wrecker in 2008. The Free Press says that Winpark Dorchester is reconstructing a 4,900 foot retail/office/apartment block on the site. A Subway restaurant will open on the spot and the apartments will be loft style affairs.

In April of 2008, Stellas Cafe opened their third location just down the street and opposite the Sherbrook Hotel. By all accounts, it has been a success and they are already building a patio. The building they renovated was a long since closed pharmacy.

It will be interesting to see what other developments happen over time. The downturn in the economy might delay further changes.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Election Aftermath

As I predicted, the Tories won the election. Equally predictable was that Dion announced a week after the election that he would be stepping down.

Harper now has a slightly bigger minority. It must be a bitter pill for him to swallow. He kept saying that he expected a minority but it is doubtful that he believed it. A number of times he made a plea for a minority but to little avail.

Timing is everything in an election and Harper believed calling the election when he did was better than waiting for the economy to be a leading issue. In short, Harper thought calling the election before the fixed date was a good way to bury the Liberals.

It didn't quite work out that way. The smooth Harper campaign of 2006 turned to a gaffe filled affair in 2008. And the narrow focus the Conservatives placed on the Liberals left them vulnerable in Quebec. They badly fell to a resurgent BQ who cast themselves as best suited to represent Quebec's interests in Ottawa. Dion's performance probably helped them capture two BQ seats.

In the end, nothing much has changed and the Liberals now face the prospect of a new leader in the next six months. We'll see if Harper looks to take advantage of this fact as Dion will stand as interim leader till at least May of 2009.

It seems doubtful that an election will wait till the next fixed election.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Roblin Boulevard Part 3 Charleswood Motor Hotel

Pictures of the present and future location of the Red River Co-Op Gas on the site of the Charleswood Hotel

I have been writing about Roblin Boulevard as it runs through Charleswood in a series of posts.

A week or so ago it was reported that the Charleswood Hotel would be demolished for a Red Rive Co-op Gas bar and carwash. The gasbar would replace a small Co-op kisok father down the street.

The old "downtown" of Charleswood had one major landmark. It was the Charleswood Hotel and anyone who lived in the neighborhood knew about the bar that resided inside it: The Charlie.

I have no idea how many people stayed in the hotel. Not many is my guess. The vendor was a little run down and the laundry/commercial in front and over top it of it had sat empty for many years. The banquet rooms might have done some business but the major cash cow for the hotel had to the the bar simply known as the Charlie.

The Charlie was probably the first place some local Charleswood people bought their first drink. The name Charlie's was ubiquitous with the Charleswood Hotel and most people who lived in the south part of the city in River Heights, Tuxedo and Charleswood had heard of. With the closure of the bar, the nearest hotel pub is out at the perimeter highway in Westdale, across the river on Portage Avenue or far to the east along Pembina Highway or Osborne Village.

The two acre site that the Charles Hotel occupied was too good for some other businesses to pass up. It was a deeper lot than other commercial property on Roblin. It is easy to see to why Red River Co-Op which is expanding in the city was interested. Charleswood Hotel owner Jason Gauthier was unlikely to do better for offers.

In media interviews, Gauthier indicated that he would look for a new hotel to buy. For him it is smart business decision. For the neighborhood, it is the loss of the local watering hole and gathering spot.

Truly for Charleswood, it is the end of an era. With all due respect to Red River Co-op, the addition of a gas station to the neighborhood does nothing to add to the colour of the neighborhood.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Portage and Main/Winnipeg Square Part 2

Picture 1 Formally, the Bank of Montreal Tower (333 Main Street) opposite Winnipeg Square (also owned by Crown Realty), it is now one of two buildings used by MTS for headquarters downtown. Picture taken by Cam B.

Picture 2 191 Pioneer is seen in the second picture in this photo by Little Hobbit Feet. It is the second building used by MTS. In this picture it is on the extreme right beside the tower in the center.

As mentioned in part 1, Winnipeg Square is part of the renovations taking place in what many Winnipeg's still refer to as the Trizec building.

It is the largest underground shopping mall in Winnipeg, according to its present owner Crown Realty Partners. Crown acquired the mall and Commodity Exchange Tower in 2007.

Also included in the Crown purchase was 333 Main Street and 191 Pioneer Street. 333 Main Street was the former Bank of Montreal tower attached the Bank of Montreal building facing Portage and Main. It was built in 1981. It is now used by MTS for their headquarters after leaving their Polo Park location.

191 Pioneer is building immediately beside 333 Main Street although located on a different street. It is also occupied by MTS.

On to Winnipeg Square...

Back in August it was reported that Winnipeg Square was undergoing $3 million renovation. Like a lot of businesses, high efficiency lighting was installed. It has been a good strategy with today's high energy bills. The lobby of the Commodity Exchange Tower was also getting a makeover and a renaming. Since the exchange has no trading floor now and the name of the WCE is now ICE, it made only sense to change the building's name as well. The building will now be known as 360 Main Street.

Flooring, walls and other aspects of the mall have been upgraded and the project in October of 2008 is nearing completion.

As far as a mall goes, Winnipeg Square is all business. It isn't a fashion mall. It is 49 shops geared to servicing the many businesses that call Portage and Main home. The mall has the offices of Purolator Courier and UPS. It also where several cell phone companies have locations including: MTS and Rogers.

For office supplies there is Cartridge World for copiers and there is a Grand and Toy office supply store.

Some of the bigger stores in the mall are Shoppers Drug Mart and Hallmark Cards.

There are some professional offices for dental and chiropractic care and the mall as well as a credit union and insurance office.

The mall has primarily been know for the food court. It isn't a great food court by any stretch but beggers can't be choosers. A McDonald's and Starbucks have positioned themselves closer to Portage Avenue than the food court which backs onto Graham Avenue.

The food court has the usual A&W and Koya Japan that you find as most malls as well as the typical pasta and sub places.

There is a finer dining establishment Chamberlyn's that is tucked into the mall corner at Fort and Graham. They've had a yummy Caesar salad on the days I could not face the food court.

A mall touch up is certainly due but it won't change the fact that Winnipeg Square is a service mall to the the towers at Portage and Main. It will never be a destination for any other type of shopper. Still, it is a successful formula since the mall has nearly 95% occupancy.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Thanksgiving Musings

As the election heads into its last days, it appears that the Winnipeg Free Press is headed to a strike. The union has set up a website.

I voted along with my wife in the advance polls.

I no longer think the Tories will win a massive majority. That bird flew the moment Harper let Duceppe and the Bloc find an angle to attack them with. This came through cuts to the arts (which the Tories had to reverse with tail between their legs) and through the crime bill (which they can't change without an uprising in the their base support).

The Liberals struggled all campaign and only because Dion did better in the debates than expected, there was a bump in support. That bump was helped along by the uncertainty brought on by the stock market crash.

Since then the Liberals and Tories have seen the gap rise and fall but it doesn't look like a blow out is imminent.The Tories should win. The Liberals ought to finish second but horrifyingly, the Bloc might come in second.

Back to the Free Press: it sucks that on one of the most important news days that the main newspaper in the city might not be publishing.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Taman Inquiry Aftermath

The Taman Inquiry listed its final recommendations. The government went one further and asked the RCMP to take over the troubled East St. Paul Police Service.

When Commissioner Roger Salhany said the force bungled the investigation, it was the final straw for the government. The NDP's Dave Chomiak as Justice minister saw fit to torpedo the whole department.

While some in both the Winnipeg and East St. Paul Police have a lot to answer for, the turnover of the East St. Paul Police to the RCMP is probably wrongheaded. Certainly East St. Paul needs reform but the RCMP is likely not to be as responsive for future needs and it is probably going to be more expensive in the end.

The Commissioner's report had many other things to say. The Taman family feels vindicated but it is still a sad that it took this long to bring some action.

The one problem with the government's response is that it might not solve anything and in fact, might make it worse.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Health Sciences Centre Part 2

Thereasa Oswald at the announcement of the new hospital.

In the election in 2007, the NDP promised to build a new Women's Hospital for around $40 million. The old one, as mentioned here was built in 1950. It was meant to handle 2000 deliveries a year but that number has jumped to 5000 a year.

The NDP government announced on September 10 that they would build a new Women's Hospital on the site of the Weston Bakery across the street from the Children's Hospital.

For the NDP it was a bit of a coup to both negotiate for Weston Bakeries to move from their present location to the Fort Garry courthouse on Chevrier. That property had turned into an albatross for the government when it was never used for the high security trial it was built for. The bakery had been making noises about moving to Saskatchewan.

According to the Free Press, the original Women's Hospital was located a half kilometer away from the Children's Hospital because of an outbreak of childbed fever in 1936. While it might have been a good thing at the time, it is not only inconvenient but dangerous to have the hospital so far away. The crash cart team had to make a mad dash through the tunnels whenever a child's life was in danger.

The new hospital won't be built until 2009 as the Weston Bakery needs the time to complete their own $25 million building on the Chevrier site.

Let's hope that the new hospital will not be as ugly as most of the rest of the hospital buildings are at HSC.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Commodity Exchange Tower/Winnipeg Square Part 1

From The Second City Book Lorimer p 107 and posted on Flikr and credit to Mr. Christian who has some great pictures.

Winnipeg Square was built in 1979 by Trizec Corporation. In the desperation to have some good economic news back in the 1970s, the city agreed build a three level underground parking lot and re-routed to an underground concourse to feed into a mall that was integral to a two tower project at Portage And Main.

As everyone knows now the project ended up. Today there is only one tower, one mall, the city owned parkade and the concourse. I'm not going to go over the history of how much the city ended up on the hook for in getting the one tower built. You can see the details on the West End Dumplings site which has some great pictures, one which I have posted here.

There are a few selections to read in Google books as well on the subject.

My impression of the tower shortly after it was built was how forlorn it looked for many years following its completion in 1979. For quite some time many floors were unoccupied.

Today, the tower is home to numerous law firms including giant Aikens MacAulay high up on the 30th floor with it nearly 100 lawyers. Down on the 17th is Fillmore Riley with over 50 lawyers.

Head back up to the 25th floor at it is Pitblado with around 60 lawyers.

Two floors of the tower are devoted to storage and mechanical equipment.

One of the main tenants of the Commodity Exchange Tower is of course, the Commodity Exchange. In keeping with the commodity theme, other tenants in the building com from a variety of grain companies and brokerages.

At the time of construction, Scotiabank had indicated they wanted to take up residence in the building and they remain a part of it but rather than the 360 Main Street address, they have a low rise banking center fronting Portage Avenue. The 200 Portage address is what is observed at the corner of Portage and Main while the tower sits farther back on Main Street.

The Free Press has recently reported that the new owners of Winnipeg Square and the Commodity Exchange building. The building will be renamed 360 Main Street.

(to be continued)

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Rapid Transit

Free Press picture of Katz at bus announcement.

Sam Katz seems to finally come aboard on bus rapid transit. Like most people, I used to take the bus regularly back and forth to school. However, I found that on some occasions, it was faster for me to walk back to River Heights from the University of Winnipeg rather than wait. I did that frequently.

Nowadays, my work involves me travelling from suburb to suburb on an almost daily basis. I could ride a bike to work in the summer but the lack of bike stands where I work makes that a difficult prospect.

My wife works at Health Sciences Centre and while bus travel is possible back and forth, it would make a 12 hour day probably a 14-15 day if you included the commute.

I know some people will say we picked where we live in Charleswood but we did so in part for financial considerations. Homes in River Heights which have several bus routes are more expensive.

Sam Katz rejected an earlier form of rapid transit and instead used the money for community clubs. The jury is still out on that one but clubs are still falling apart or showing no indication they are willing to collaborate to build actual multi-purpose facilities.

The new plan for rapid transit comes with help from the provincial and federal government's. Gary Doer was also on hand for the announcement on September 8.

From the Free Press:

The first leg of the corridor -- which comes with a $138-million price tag -- will begin at Queen Elizabeth Way near The Forks and then snake 3.6 kilometres southwest to Jubilee Avenue near Pembina Highway, crossing over Osborne Street on a new bridge and then tunnelling below CN Rail's Fort Rouge Yards along the way.

The overall plan is for a $327 million corridor to the University of Manitoba but CN seems to have a lot of questions about the plan, the borrowing to get it done and details about the housing surrounding the 12 bus stations.

Katz says light rail is coming but that is in the future. I have no idea what that means.

There is a plan for 700 apartments to help finance the busway but details on that are sketchy as well.

Once approval of this plan happens, it will take three years to get the first phase done.

No rush it seems to bring fast mass transit to Winnipeg.

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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Canada Election 2008

The election has been called by Stephen Harper for October 14, 2008. The prime minister sure went through contortions to justify calling an election. I always said it remained the PM's right to call an election and said that Harper would probably do it prior to the end of the mandate. I was told how ridiculous that was by many. Now, I hear how totally justified he is in breaking his promise.

We've seen that type of spin before in regards to income trusts and how it wasn't a broke promise to end them.

Jack Layton came out the first day saying he was up for debating Harper but refused to answer any questions about letting the Greens join the leader's debate. He just stared blankly at the CBC reporter.

I have no idea how the Greens will do. It is an uphill battle though. Elizabeth May will have a tough time winning against MacKay in Nova Scotia.

Stephane Dion had a good performance in Winnipeg this past week but he is quite weak nationally. The Environics poll from the CBC showed the Tories close to a majority.

My prediction based on trends is that the Tories are headed for a massive majority.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Winnipeg TV Stations Part 2

JoyTV starts operations this week. In its former incarnation as Omni 11, it made a commitment to just 2.5 hours per week of first run locally produced content. You read that right: 2.5 hours a week.

From Rogers news release in 2006:

Once OMNI TV Manitoba launches to over 900,000 viewers, audiences will be treated each week to 2.5 hours of first run locally created single faith productions. The schedule will also include faith based programming such as Israel Today, Muslim Chronicles, Sat Sri Akal, Islam Today and the Mahabharata series. All time favorites such as Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, Home Improvement, King of Queens and Touched by an Angel make up the primetime weeknight line-up. OMNI TV Manitoba combined with OMNI TV BC has promised just under $1million for the independent production of religious and faith based documentaries.

At the time of its sale in 2008, Omni still hadn't contributed much to local programming. There were a few faith-based programs but most of the Canadian programming, what little there was, came from elsewhere. Most worrying was no attempt at a local news program of any sort. The OMNI stations in both Vancouver and Toronto did a far better job in that regard.

The rebranding of Omni to Joytv in September of 2008 doesn't look to change the local commitment to production. An examination of the programming shows most of the faith-based productions originate elsewhere. I'd be hard pressed to say whether the station is going to do any better than 2.5 hours a week of local production.

To pad out its day, Joytv will be running syndicated programs such as Happy Days and The Waltons. Unlike Omni, they will have some first run programs such as 60 Minutes and 48 Hour Mystery which they are simulcasting.

From 1 AM to 6:00 AM, Joytv is airing paid infomercials.

Winnipeg deserves more from what is supposed to be a local station. More local programming should be done in Winnipeg, especially news programming.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tuxedo Park Shopping Centre Part 1

The picture is the Agricultural College in 1903. Now the Asper Jewish Community Campus of Winnipeg.

The Tuxedo Park Shopping Centre was built in 1962 to serve the town of Tuxedo. It initially had a Safeway, a Bank of Montreal branch, the headquarters of the Tuxedo Police and a hotel.

The land used to belong to the Hudson Bay Company but was granted to Lord Selkirk in 1811. By 1857, it had been surveyed into farmland from the Assiniboine River out to 2 and later 4 miles. The region was known as Assiniboia and by 1880 it became the Rural Municipality of Assiniboia.

One of the first buildings to be built in the area was the The Agricultural College in 1906 along Tuxedo Avenue. It was deemed to be too small and 1911-1913, the college moved to Fort Garry, home to the present University of Manitoba.

From 1914 until 1917 this site was used by the Manitoba School for the Deaf, the first such institution in Western Canada. In 1917, the facility became necessary for wounded men from World War I. The building served as a hospital until 1919. Thereafter, the Canadian Army took over the building and from 1919 to 1968, it was the Fort Osborne Barracks. The Asper Jewish Community Campus of Winnipeg bought the site in 1997 and it is used as an educational and cultural center.

In 1904, 283 acres of the land along the river was bought by the City of Winnipeg for the site of Assiniboine Park.

From 1905 to 1913, Frederick W. Heubach and various investor acquired land for their new Tuxedo Park development. In 1913, the Town of Tuxedo was incorporated and Heuback became its first mayor.

The American firm Olmsted Brothers designed the town and that plan was followed assiduously for many decades.

A British firm held a small piece of the new town. It was a small triangle of land bounded by Tuxedo Avenue, Roblin Boulevard (later Corydon Avenue) and Edgeland Boulevard which was zoned for three apartment blocks and a shopping center.

That shopping center became what is the present Tuxedo Park Shopping Centre.

(to be continued)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Charleswood Shopping Centre Plaza Update

One of the last open spots in Charleswood Shopping Plaza Centre is being filled now. It will be a 24 hour Snap Fitness. The company is a franchise operation that costs about a $1 a day. Locations are very small and don't seem to include personal training, massage therapy, dietitians or the popular group exercise classes.

There is already one Snap Fitness on Pembina Highway.

It will be interesting to see how this place works out.

I should mention that I work at Goodlife Fitness as the registered massage therapist there. The location I work at is also 24 hours at the Kenaston Co-Ed location.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Winnipeg TV Stations Part 1

From a Winnipeg perspective, one TV station has been a virtual non-entity in terms of local content. That station is OMNI 11 which as of September 1 will be JOYTV.

It was licenced to Trinity Television in 2002 as a religious broadcaster. Just as it was about to go on the air, Rogers bought the station and folded it into its Omni group of stations. While Onni Toronto was a cultural station that delivered news made in Toronto in a variety of the languages of the city, Winnipeg's Omni was religious broadcasting that was mostly produced elsewhere. Both stations padded the rest of their hours with American syndicated programs and an outrageous amount of paid programming.

In 2007, Rogers Communications bought Citytv which included its Winnipeg affiliate, the former MTN. CTVglobemedia had acquired the station in 2006, thereby giving them two stations in Winnipeg. At the time of the takeover, the station was called A Channel.

The Craig family, owners of A Channel had run into trouble in 2003-2004 with labour issues at their Edmonton A-Channel affiliate. Combined with the ongoing trouble keeping its Toronto 1 station afloat, the family looked for an exit. Toronto 1, awarded by the CRTC in 2001 had first looked to be a perfect fit for the growing network of station owned by the Craigs. Instead, it was money loser that dragged the company down.

It was CHUM that came knocking in 2004 with a $265 million buy-out. The Craigs gave up their attempt at another national network and handed the baton to CTV.

The first thing that happened upon the takeover was the axing of the local Citytv news. It seems astounding that it was allowed to happen by the CRTC.

The CRTC had bigger fish to fry. They effectively told CTV they couldn't own Citytv and CTV stations in the same city and forced them to sell off the division. CTV kept the other parts of the CHUM empire and Rogers Communications stepped in to buy the Citytv network.

And all this lead back to Winnipeg's Onni, Channel 11 station. Rogers Communications ended up running into the same problem CTV did: owning two stations in the same market.

The CRTC once again weighed in and forced Rogers to sell one of the two stations they owned in Winnipeg. That station was Omni.

(to be continued)

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Health Sciences Centre Part 1

Photo by the University of Manitoba taken in 1983. The former Manitoba Medical College. It is now the St. Regis Apartment.

The Winnipeg General Hospital was founded in 1872 on the estate of Andrew McDermot, the Red River Settlement's richest man. He was a former Hudson Bay Company (HBC) employee who eventually opened his own store and rode Winnipeg's growth to great fortune. His son-in-law Andrew Bannatyne became the driving force in establishing the hospital and donating the land for the present day hospital.

Today, the streets McDermot and Bannatyne take their names from these two prominent citizens.

As Winnipeg grew, other hospitals were built close to Winnipeg General. The Children's Hospital of Winnipeg was founded in 1909. The Winnipeg General Hospital, Maternity Pavilion was built in 1951. It later became known as Women's Pavilion. In 1962, the Manitoba Rehabilitation Hospital was built.

The medical school was built adjacent to Winnipeg General in 1883. The college, called the Manitoba Medical College, was the precursor to the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Manitoba. Today, the building is the St. Regis apartment block.

(to be continued)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Grand Forks and Fargo

Grand Forks has been the main choice for Winnipeg travel for many years. It solidified its position over Fargo with the construction of Columbia Mall in 1978. Prior to that, shopping was done downtown or at the already aging South Forks Plaza built in 1964.

West Acres Mall built in 1972 had been challenging Grand Forks for Winnipeg's affection ever since it was built with Sears and deLendrecies anchoring 50 stores.

Throughout the 1980s, Grand Forks was the hands down choice of cross border shoppers from Manitoba. In the 1990s, as the dollar started to drop, cross border shopping also started drop off.

Another reasons for people to stay in Winnipeg was the opening of Walmart in Winnipeg. In the early 1990s, it had been one of the reasons families travelled to Grand Forks. In addition to Walmart, some other U.S. based chains also started to open in Winnipeg. Some of the exclusiveness of Grand Forks disappeared in the 1990s.

In 1997, Grand Forks was deeply damaged by the Red River flood. While Columbia was untouched, some hotels were devastated. I stayed in Grand Forks a few months after the flood in what was supposed to be a cleaned up hotel and had to ask to be moved to a second floor that did not have have the smell of mildew. The heydays of the 1980s were pretty much over though and the flood only capitalized a major change in Winnipeg shopping getaways.

In 2001, Grand Forks capped off an amazing re-building program and gave Winnipeg a new reason to visit with with addition of the Alerus Center. For the next few years, Winnipeggers headed down on a regular basis to concerts that bypassed Winnipeg.

As the dollar started to rise, Winnipeggers started to head back down for weekend shopping attracted by the new Target across from Columbia as well as some new stores such as Best Buy. However, more discerning shoppers were going further afield to Fargo for Barnes and Noble and some stores in West Acres not found in Grand Forks such as Hollister.

Other shoppers were heading down all the way to Mall of America in Minneapolis and Factory outlet stores in Albertville, MN. Those that headed that far down usually did so on a long weekend rather than the two day splurges.

Grand Forks will always be more attractive for some Winnipeg travellers for the plain reason that it is just 2 hours away. Columbia Mall and the surrounding hotels offer supreme convenience for travellers.

Fargo is a little harder to commute to and West Acres doesn't have the hotel conglomeration that Grand Forks does. Still, for someone who wants a little bit of difference in their weekend travel, here are some of Fargo's highlights.

West Acres

It has double the amount of department stores. Macy's, JCPenney, Herberger's and Sears. Some stores not in Grand Forks are Hollister and Abercrombie and Fitch. The mall is newly renovated and attractive.

Downtown Fargo

Rebuilt and appealing for the person looking for a new eatery, hotel or shopping experience.

Other Stores

Scheels super sport store is worth going to just for the Ferris wheel. Barnes and Noble is bigger and better in Fargo.


Bonanzaville is a historic village in West Fargo open from spring to fall.


Space Aliens

For people with nostalgia for old Winnipeg namesakes there is:

Mr. Steak
Country Kitchen

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Roblin Boulevard Part 2

Between Cathcart and Lynbrook Drive are a number of businesses in the old Charleswood area. On the north side of Roblin heading west are homes until curiously named the Charleswood Technology Centre.

In the window are signs offering yoga classes. A search of businesses offering yoga doesn't indicate that such a business exists in the building.

edit: I just got a flyer today to say that Kripalu Yoga classes are taught at the Charleswood Technical Centre by Cindy Wuerch.

The business that are listed in 2008 are:

Dawson McLennan Certified General Accountants, a general accountants practice
Avalon Institute Of Applied Science, a research and consultancy firm in environmental science
Assure Lab Works, a drug testing lab
Osorno, an environmental consultancy
Centre For Education And Work Incorporated, a private education consultancy

I'll have to drop in one day to see if these listing are accurate. The building does seem geared to very small offices for businesses.

On the north side of Roblin is a commercial building that looks like a house. Since 2006, The Food Studio has been a teaching young and old how to cook. They occupy the main floor.

On the second floor is a company called Farm Link Marketing Solutions which is a grain marketing company.

At one point, some years ago, the building was the home of a massage therapist.

Next door to the Food Studio and extending to Lynbrook Drive is a strip mall that contains Primerica, an insurance brokerage, Gallery Boutique and Salon, a nails shop and Surroundings, a draperies, blinds, linen and bathroom accessories store.

All in all, many small businesses and stores inhabit this section of Charleswood's old downtown.

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