Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The changes in Wolseley/West Broadway area Part 1

Northern Crown Bank, Portage Avenue and Sherbrook Street, Winnipeg, circa 1979, now demolished. Note Carter Motors next door. The site now occupied by McDonald's. Source.

The area I am talking about specifically is the Sherbrook/Maryland corridor between Portage Avenue and the Assiniboine River.

This particular strip is a mixture of houses, retail and other businesses and services.

On the south of Portage Avenue, Carter Motors occupied a choice spot for nearly 60 years. The company was eventually taken over by Murray Chev Olds and remained there until 1999 when it moved to the suburbs and Bishop Grandin.

The departure of the dealership opened up a large chunk of land on Portage. It seemed that this would be a rare opportunity to do something unique on a grand scale. Instead, the development plan was a page right out of suburbia. The focus became one that targeted commuters and had little curbside appeal for the pedestrians or people who actually lived in the neighborhood.

In short, the land was divvied up amongst big box stores.

The old Carter Motors site, which during it heyday had cars lined up facing Portage with streamers blowing across its open space, was one of a few car dealers on the southside.

So what eventually went up on the Carter Motors site?

Well, presently the old lot has a Pharma Plus built on it. This store replaces a smaller pharmacy nearer to Misercordia Hospital. The new store on Portage has a post office as well as a doctor's office attached to it. It represents an improvement in service to the area not withstanding the large parking lot which acts like a wind tunnel in around the building.

McDonald's Restaurants moved west from their location near the University of Winnipeg in favour of a smaller restaurant on the corner at Sherbrook and Portage. Behind it, a Winnipeg-based restaurant Palatal Express also along Sherbrook. A Tim Horton's occupied a space behind the Pharma Plus along Maryland.

The parking lot by all accounts is not easy to get in and out of. Many Tim Horton's customers cause traffic disruptions trying to access the drive-throughs. It probably doesn't help either that there seems to be a steady flow of student traffic jaywalking across the street from Gordon Bell School.

Gordon Bell is the main high school in the area and has a daycare center with students with children. There are numerous immigrant and aboriginal children who attend the school. The school has occupied the location on Borrowman street alongside Maryland since 1958. Older Winnipeg residents will know that the site is the former location of Mulvey school. Gordon Bell extends all the way back to Broadway.

Along the northside of Broadway is city office and police sub-station. The sub-station used to be a Salisbury House, The city office used to distribute social assistance checks. Heading back up Sherbrook on the west side was a few businesses. At one time, a gay social club occupied an unmarked building. A travel agency shared the same site. The east side of Sherbrook has had Thomson Funeral Chapel as its anchor for decades. Just north of that is West Region Child and Family Service offices.

So, has there been an improvement in this block with some of the recent changes?

The short answer is yes and no. For the commuter, another Tim Horton's on the way to and from work is a happy addition. Likewise, the new location for McDonald's is easier for cars to get in and out of as opposed to the one closer to the University of Winnipeg.

It is more a sideways move getting rid of a car lot for a big box paradise.

One again local people and pedestrians get the short stick.