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.

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