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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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport Part 2

There was some hope that the old terminal would find a tenant after the move to the newly built terminal. Rumour was that the Western Canada Aviation Museum might be interested. Alas, that didn't come to pass and the old terminal will be torn down once the new one is built.

In 2007, the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport was Canada's seventh busiest airport by passenger traffic. That amounted to 3.5 million passengers. By aircraft movements, it is Canada's 11th busiest.

While the airport was constructed in 1964, it did go through major renovations in 1984. Improvements were made in how passenger traffic was handled and in the retail area on the second floor. Compared to some of the shopping emporiums in other airports, Winnipeg is a little light in attractions.

In 2008, the stores in the pre-security area were:

* Canadian Scene & Relay

This store is a basic newspaper and magazine shop with snacks and some Canadiana tossed in.

* DeLaga

In 2005, this clothing store opened in the terminal that carries designer clothing. It is owned by local business people.

* Front Page Sports

After the success of the temporary store set up in 2006 for the Grey Cup, the company that manages Relay and Virgin Records decided to set up a permanent store selling Manitoba and Canadian sport merchandise. The store opened in 2007.

* Journey's Travel & Leisure Supercentre

An offshoot of Journey's main store, this retailer sells various travel items such as luggage and clothing.

* Showcase Manitoba

A store specializing in Manitoba arts and crafts.

* The UPS Store

Standard UPS package store.

* Virgin Books & Music

Owned by the same group that owns Relay and Front Page Sports. The only Virgin Records in town. A little on the pricey side but if you are looking for a book or CD on the plane, this is for you.

In 2008, the post security clearance stores are"

* Aer Rianta Duty Free [open two hours before International flights]

A duty free store that sells merchandise including tobacco and alcohol tax free.

* Canadian Scene and Relay

A smaller version of what is pre-security.

* $15 Boutique

A retailer that Boutique sells high fashion accessories, small leather goods, belts, ties, earrings, pins, cubic zirconia, bracelets, jewelry, scarves, sunglasses, watches and other items all under $15. Operated by the owners of Relay and Virgin Records.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Winnipeg too cold for Human Rights Museum

Focus groups across Canada have said that Winnipeg is too cold to host the Human Rights Museum.

From the Winnipeg Press:

These participants suggested that the city suffers from negative stereotypes such as: cold, nothing to do, far away, and not interesting to visit," says the summary. "Very few of these participants would put the museum on their list of things to see given the distance."

Focus groups in Vancouver and Calgary also raised the location of Winnipeg as an issue but were less concerned about it. The location wasn't raised as an issue in Halifax, Toronto, Kitchener, Thunder Bay, Red Deer and Whitehorse.

In total, 208 people participated in 26 different focus groups between Jan. 22 and Feb. 1.
It is tough to find fault with some of the thinking. Winnipeg is some distance from most other major centers in Canada. The Human Rights Museum is the first attempt as a national attraction.

Yes, you heard that right. The Human Rights Museum is the first project with national ambitions as its main reason for being. Sure we have Folklorama, the Winnipeg Folk Festival and the Manitoba Museum among other attractions. The problem is all these things were thought with a Manitoba audience in mind.

As for natural attractions, we don't have the mountains, the sea, a waterfall or any of the other sought after features people travel a distance to.

In most people's minds Winnipeg is not a tourist attraction and never will be. At least it won't be at the level of Vancouver or Toronto.

We shouldn't feel bad. Canada ranks low as an international travel destination around the world even with things like the Niagara Falls and the Rocky Mountains. Some countries like Britain go so far as to call us dull.

I think that the organizers of the Human Rights Museum should recognize right from the start that the facility is not going to be a traditional tourist attraction. People in Montreal and Vancouver are not going to book a trip to Winnipeg just to see the museum.

In some respect, perhaps Izzy Asper and Gail Asper, must have known that when they started this process since they spoke of the educational aspect and bringing youth from all over the country to participate in seminars and other teaching events. This is the right idea to be sure.

I'd go farther and say that the organizers might consider an annual Human Rights prize that might rival the Nobel and bring annual attention to Winnipeg as well as honoured guests.

The Human Rights Museum is not going to be the end all for tourism nor should it be. It isn't a Disney attraction. It will, however, be an important cultural and educational institution. With a concerted effort of outreach, it can become part of the national consciousness.

Winnipeg will have to continue to mainly promote itself as a regional tourism centre. This is where the city is going to get the bulk of its visitors.

Conference Board of Canada report

Manitoba has had fairly steady growth over the last number of years. The Conference Board of Canada in its 2008 economic report says that Manitoba will be second in growth behind Saskatchewan this year.

Saskatchewan is expected to have a blistering growth rate of 4.2%. Manitoba is expected to have 3.6% growth this year. Other provinces are expected to moderate this year.

A number of things have fueled the growth in Manitoba and not all of it has been government spending as some critics have suggested. Commodity prices in mining, oil and agriculture have risen sharply and have turned around fortunes in northern and rural Manitoba. Manufacturing which has been suffering in Ontario has done better in Manitoba. New Flyer, Standard Aero and Buhler have all got major orders or expansions going on.

An economist the Conference Board says Manitoba has "sideswiped" the U.S. economy.

The Canadian dollar has eased down in the next days and that should help the province as well with exports.

It remains to be seen how big a hit the U.S. economy takes and whether it will affect Manitoba in a big way as well.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Wellington Crescent Part 1

Wellington Crescent began as an Indian trail along the Assiniboine River. It was names Wellington Street in 1893 after Arthur Wellington Ross, a landowner originally from Cornwall, Ontario who purchased land in Fort Rouge. He went on to become a Liberal MLA in Manitoba and later a Liberal-Conservative in Ottawa.

As Winnipeg steadily grew, land along both sides of the Assinibone River became attractive to the richest citizens. Between 1893 and 1914, large stately homes were constructed along Wellington. As it moved steadily west, it became Wellington Crescent.

From its starting point at the end of River Avenue, the Crescent eventually wound its way to present day Assiniboine Park.

Of all the houses built on the river side between River Avenue and Academy Road, only two remain: The Fortune House at 393 Wellington and the Ashdown House at 529 Wellington.

The Fortune House was spared demolition following a fire in the 1980s. The house was built in 1910 by Mark Fortune, a real estate investor. The family did not enjoy the house for long. Following a European vacation with his family, Mark Fortune and his son died aboard the Titanic in 1912. Fortune's wife and two daughters survived and returned to the city. The house was later sold to William P. Riley, President of Western Grocers in 1920.

In 1950, the house was converted into apartments following the Rileys departure for other Wellington Crescent digs. After a devastating fire in the 1980s, the house was faithfully preserved on the outside while converted into condos on the inside.

The other surviving house on the river side between Academy and River is the former Ashdown House at 529 Wellington Crescent. It was the fourth house built for James Ashdown. Ashdown was one of Winnipeg's most important businessmen and city movers. His hardware business operated out of the same downtown location for many years. In 1907, Ashdown served as the city mayor for two years.

In 1912, Ashdown built his newest house on Wellington Crescent. It was built in the Tudor style and Manitoba limestone walls. Immediately across the street was St. Mary's Academy, the oldest continually operating school in Manitoba. The school, started in 1869, moved to its present location in 1903.

Coincidentally, the Ashdown house came on the market in 1950, the same year that the Fortune House did. While the Fortune House was converted to apartments, the Ashdown House was converted to the headquarters of the Shriner's in 1956. Khartum Temple occupied the house until it moved to their new location on Wilke's Avenue in 2000. A meeting room addition was made to the house on the east side but the remainder of the house was unchanged aside from a parking lot built in the front yard.

There was a debate about what would happen to the house and eventually a restaurateur stepped up and the house has operated as 529 Wellington Steakhouse for the last several years.

Every other house fell to the wreckers aside from those two. The Isaac Pitblado and The William Mulock homes on either side of the Ashdown house were demolished.

Two houses adjacent to Ashdown house fell to the wreckers for the construction of Shaarey Zedek Synagogue in 1949. The house closest to Academy Road originally belonged to David Dyson whose family owned Dyson and Gibson Spice Mills. The company made Seven-Day Pickles. The other home was owned by John Gage, president of Consolidated Elevator which later became Federal Grain.

(to be continued)

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Portage Avenue Part 1

Picture taken by niceheart. Note: Holt Renfrew closed in 2007.

Portage Place was built in 1987 after a long debate as to how to best rehabilitate North Portage Avenue.

Lloyd Axworthy, the driving force behind the Core Area Initiative in 1981, was the minister charged with the federal response to Portage Avenue's decline. In 1980, Winnipeg was hit with a series of devastating economic hits. The Winnipeg Tribune had shut down as well as the Swift's and Canada Packers plants. It threw thousands out of work and that was just a few of the prominent businesses that closed during the recession at that time.

Axworthy spearheaded a tri-government agreement called the North Portage Development Corporation and although Axworthy advocated for an arena, the city rejected it in favour of an enclosed mall. A deal was signed but Axworthy was not there to follow it up. His government was ousted by Mulroney and while the Tories axed many of the Liberal projects in Winnipeg including the underpass at Waverley and the National Research Council lab on Ellice, they let the mall proceed.

It appears that the Portage Place land acquisition was too far along for Mulroney to cancel (although many thought the same thing about the NRC lab since the building was complete). Before Axworthy lost his job, he was able to get the funding and construction started on the Air Canada building at 355 Portage Avenue. It was completed in 1985, two years before Portage Place was constructed.

At the same time Portage Place was being constructed, Investors Group was looking to consolidate its people spread out over several offices in Winnipeg. For many years, they occupied elegant headquarters in a Broadway office tower built in 1962. Even now the building and design reminds one of the series Mad Men.

The new building, attached by skywalk to the mall, has peaked roof and a brick design. It was completed in the same year at Portage Place.

The concept behind the mall was to somehow bring retail success to the north side of Portage to mimic what was still happening on the south side. It was believed that connecting the north side by skywalks to The Bay and Eaton's would be key to that success.

(to be continued)

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Saturday, August 2, 2008

Winnipeg Free Press Part 1

Picture taken by aqua_swing. This was the old headquarters on Carleton.

The Winnipeg Free Press was founded in 1872 and has been one of the main newspapers in the city ever since. It has had a series of Winnipeg-based owners except for a time where it was owned by the Thomson family from 1979 to 1991.

In 1991, the company was acquired from Thomson by Ronald N. Stern, a former Winnipegger who now lives in Vancouver and Robert Silver, a Winnipeg who is owner of Western Glove. Stern came from a printing and newsprint background. Silver is rooted in the garment sector.

Stern is the chairman of the company and seems to have his investments in Silver's companies in Winnipeg such as Warehouse One and Western Glove Works. Between the two men, they own 51% of the Free Press and associated companies. I suspect Stern might be the larger shareholder of the two but have no confirmation of that. The other 49% of the company is owned by an income trust comprised of a wide variety of investors.

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