Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Highrises in Winnipeg

It has been reported that the highrise that was supposed to be built on the site of old Upper Fort Garry may now rise a short distance away on Assiniboine Avenue.

It seems every time there is an apartment proposal lately that a protest emerges of not in my backyard.

The apartment complex proposed by Heritage Landing and its owner Rubin Spelzer is set to rise 25 stories. Spelzer was the man who gave way to the Friends of Upper Fort Garry. The city seems to be offering the surplus land to Spelzer while denying no quid quo pro. I don't know if we'll ever know.

There have been no high rises built for residents in the downtown since the 1980s. The area behind the Fort Garry Hotel and Fort Garry Place were the last to be built. The focus in recent years has been the Exchange District and the condos along Waterfront Drive.

Winnipeg's downtown is very spread out. The density level is low and there has many surface and other parking lots spread out all over. Even so, the complaints of not enough parking keep cropping up and heritage buildings keep going down to put up another parkade.

We'll see if Spelzer's project will get the go ahead. It is obvious there is a crying need for apartment space in the city. The NDP is trying to fund social housing but it is a drop in the bucket. Not in my backyard thinking and rent control have strangled the market.

The Tories are terrified of losing another election because of rent control but only the removal of it will help on supply. To mitigate quick rises in rent, the program should be phased out. Just as the freeze on tuition had to end lest the universities start cancelling even more programs, the government will have to phase out rent control.

I suspect as soon as that happens, a lot of the empty spaces occupied by parking lots downtown can be turned into apartments.

hit counter javascript

myspace hit counter

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More Jets

The Winnipeg Jets are featured in Canadian Business magazine this month.

As Canadian Business magazine outlines it, there are three major things that Winnipeg would need to iron out before an NHL team would be viable.

MTS Centre: Box Seats $43,500 to $67,500
Rexall Place Box Seats $49,200 to $410,000
Air Canada Centre Box Seats $500,000.

The article quotes Robert Warren as saying that he has spoken to many business people and he could find none that would pony up that kind of cash each year.

He might be right. However, he was totally wrong in saying IKEA would not come to Winnipeg.

The website called Manitoba Mythbusters goes on to offer countering arguments to every point Canadian Business magazine.

On the issue of corporate box seats, they say that there is a waiting list of 50 ownership groups looking to buy in. It is possible that there is enough corporate support for a team, especially if it is the only major league international sports team in the city.

The question of attendance comes up. The average attendance between 1989 and 1995 was 13,138. The MTS Centre has a capacity of 15,003 seats. It would be the smallest arena in the NHL, roughly 542 seats smaller than Nassau Coliseum where the New York Islanders play.

Now, the issue of how many seats the NHL actually sells has been questioned in recent years. Lots of seats seem to be unloaded. Many games seem to have fewer fans than a Moose game. Corporate seats probably push up game day attendance but it is clearly not visible when the cameras flash by the stands. Where are the people?

Mythbusters details how a large group of teams give away anywhere from 1000 to 2000 seats a game.

One thing that people don't talk about in terms of the old Winnipeg Jets attendance was that there were always rumours about free seats given out by Winnipeg Enterprises. I have no idea if that number was small or large but I can recall grumbling from the Jets management about they weren't always certain if Enterprises was letting in a lot of people.

There have been a few people who say the MTS Centre is cramped. At 15,003 seats, it probably is in the upper decks. I can't imagine a NHL team coming without some sort of planned upgrade to add 1000-2000 seats and more bathrooms and concessions.

On the issue of salaries, it is obvious the NHL still has an unrealistic approach given how many teams are in trouble. The website Mythbusters says Winnipeg can handle it along with revenue sharing but I think it would be a tough slog to keep up and stay competitive.

The 2009-2010 season might bring a little more reality to the league. It will be interesting to see if there are indeed some teams that are in the same situation as Phoenix. In fact, it will be interesting to see if Phoenix is able to get through the next season. That remains an open question.

In the meantime, Winnipeg should be patient. It has an arena, an ownership group and a reputation for hockey. At some point the league might be coming to it because of problems with a franchise.

hit counter javascript

myspace hit counter

Friday, June 19, 2009

Winnipeg's Growth Spurt

Picture of Downtown Winnipeg from Wikipedia

Statistics Canada revised its estimates of Winnipeg's population growth in their last report.

The size of the Winnipeg Census Metropolitan Area -- essentially, the city and most of its bedroom communities -- has also been adjusted and is now pegged at 739,000, up 18,500 from a previous 2009 estimate of 720,500.

The revised population estimates, which are based on 2006 census data, are being treated as a sign that Winnipeg has finally overcome the malaise that plagued the city in the mid-1990s, when population growth was stagnant. But projections of further growth have city administrators worried about a worsening housing crisis.

That is quite the jump and there is a number of things that the experts say have helped propel growth. Immigration and the provincial nominee program has been a huge factor. Inter-provincial migration is another factor. The economy's strength has ensured that people have come to the province or stayed in the province.

The Free Press article asked the question of whether the provincial nominee program which has been so successful in attracting immigrants will put a stop to the growth. It is a good question. Already there are some expressing deep fears. While everyone agrees the system should not be open to abuse, it should also not shut the door to nominees.

Manitoba has done exceptionally well and it can be seen in the hustle and bustle within the province despite the continuing recession.

There are clouds though and a lot of it has to do with how immigration is dealt with in the future through the nominee program. It is still Manitoba's best bet for a vital and diverse population. At the moment, it doesn't look like the NDP government is aware of how negative the outlook is on their legislation.

hit counter javascript

myspace hit counter

Sunday, June 14, 2009


I'm surprised that there hasn't been more written in the blogosphere about this project to build this arena complex.

With all the federal funds being thrown out there, the Chipman family stepped up with a project that is supposed to be shovel ready. The arena multiplex is costed out at $25 million and will be 172,000 square feet. It will consist of four NHL surface size rinks with 20 dressing rooms. An additonal 30,000 square feet will house Hockey Manitoba, Hockey Canada and True North offices as well as a high performance training center. One of the rinks will have seating for 1,500 fans. A restaurant, pro shop and concession area is listed in the specs.

The project will cost $25 million. The Chipmans will contribute $13.2 million and the feds and the province will contribute $5.9 million each for a total of $11.8 million.

According to the Chipmans, the building with become on of only three high performance centers for hockey training in Canada, the other two being Toronto and Calgary.

The opening of the Mooseplex is set for 2010 and the Chipmans have indicated they will bid World Under-17 Hockey Championship for two consecutive years to coincide with competition. This Canadian tournament also has international teams participation and many future stars of the NHL show their stuff.

My suggestion is that the Chipmans should also bid on the IIHF World Under-18 Championships since they have never been played in Canada. In 2009, they were played in Fargo, North Dakota.

The Fargo U18 games were played out of two buildings: Moorhead Arena and Urban Plains Center. The Urban Plains Center is a 5000 seat arena where the Fargo Force pro team plays and the Moorhead Arena is a two rink facility that is where high school and college teams play.

It is obvious that if Fargo could carry off the U18 games, Winnipeg could as well.

There were hints that there may be additional announcements of arenas in the city. I'd be interested to know if the University of Winnipeg might be one of those announcements.

The University of Manitoba has the Max Bell Center for hockey. It would be good for the University of Winnipeg had its own version.

The merits of a university arena are seen in Grand Forks, North Dakota where the Ralph Engelstad Arena has become the centerpiece of a large development around the University of North Dakota. It is unlikely that we'd see a $100 million private donation the likes of UND got to start their arena but it is possible that the University of Winnipeg could get a quarter of that if they teamed up with the school divisions and private donors. Who knows.

The Mooseplex will be an interesting and welcome addition to the city. The one problem I see is that it pushes the boundaries of the city right to western limit. The arena location by Point West Autopark, Red River Ex and Assiniboia Downs might trigger more development just outside of the city. The province should be wary of letting exurbia growth going wild. The Trans-Canada through Headingley is already dangerously busy with businesses alongside the road.

hit counter javascript

myspace hit counter

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Kayong Barracks Part 1

Pictures from the Free Press and other sources of the Kapyong Barracks.

The Kapyong Barracks look to be tied up for some time to come. The judge was not about to transfer the land to First Nations for free. Quite rightly, he said there was a price to be paid for it.

The question of whether the First Nations have a right to the land is in question. It seems there is a debate over "surplus land" versus "strategic land". I don't know how that will be distinguished but it is what the federal court will be hearing in September.

It is a long wait from 2004 to now to decide the fate of this large piece of land.

My suspicions is that Real Canadian Superstore on east side of Kenaston at Grant has had its eyes on moving across the street. It is probably why they have delayed renovations as long as they have. This year, with no prospect of moving soon, the store manager says millions will be spent to improve the dowdy store. The Tuxedo Safeway has also recently gone through a renovation. My guess is that they too were thinking Kapyong might be a desirable location.

Kapyong Barracks has developers all over town and First Nations drooling about the possibilities.

Some have lobbied for the First Nations to take the land such a Don Marks. Ironically, he said the people should not give in to bleeding hearts and let the houses be used for social housing since it would not be temporary.

The irony is that his own bleeding heart doesn't take into consideration whether First Nations even have a right to the land. He just assumes they do.

Setting aside the dispute for the moment, there are a number of things that need to be addressed before developing the land.

The first pressing need is on transportation. There have been plans put forward in regards to Route 90/Kensaton. There is already opposition to what was introduced. No one wants their house expropriated. Some people claim there isn't a problem to begin with. That is a little hard to reconcile with traffic backed up from the St. James Bridge to the McGillivray at all times of the day. The special timers that Sam Katz trumpeted failed working shortly after installation.

The Ikea development and Waverley West will continue to put pressure on the narrow Route 90 roadway. It seems obvious that three lanes in each direction with far better left and right turning lanes is necessary. Having timers on lights would also be an improvement.

Getting traffic to move more smoothly is just one aspect of what to do with Kapyong and the associated military housing. The next steps are how to ensure that bike paths and side-walks are part of the plan.

It is unfortunate that the city did not take a harder line on making the abandoned rail line that runs parallel to Kenaston a bike path. Too many neighbors protested it. What has ended up happening is that commercial businesses on Grant, Academy and elsewhere have expanded into the rail's abandoned property. A condo development has taken form in the empty space at Corydon.

No chance for a bike path, bus route or anything else now. I suppose many of the neighbors figured with the rail gone, they would have a green space for free behind their house. They generally have opposed any development proposed for the narrow strip.

There seems little chance that opposition to widening Kenaston will stop it from happening. Still it would be good to know if a strip of land off Kapyong could be used to get the project going now rather than ten years from now.

Next...what sort of development should go up?

hit counter javascript

myspace hit counter