Sunday, July 18, 2010

Main Street Part 1

Two pictures of the completed Winnipeg Regional Health Authority building on Main Street.

Two artists drawings of the United Way building being built downtown

Main Street has seen some large institutional organizations build storefront operation on the street. The first to go up was the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority headquarters. While the 219 workers to the area were certainly welcome, the final design of the $30 million building left many disappointed.

The initial design seemed to offer some hope that storefront commercial space would be available. However, when the building was constructed, the commercial space in the WRHA was gone and parkade entrances took their place. The project upon completion is a near city block of nothing for the average pedestrian. One wonders what the workers inside think about their prospects of sitting outside for their lunch. There are a few good restaurants about but none in a storefront on the building itself. The entire area of Main north of Logan is now a long stretch of walking to find a shop or a bite to eat.

It is no wonder that people often feel duped when they see the building now. For stories, 80,000 square feet of space and 219 workers feels like a squandered opportunity.

Still, I am convinced of the arguments some made for turning the old Epic and Starland theatres into artist or cultural centers. Winnipeg already had far too many theatre buildings starved for funds, attractions and artists to make that work. The buildings were slowly falling apart and to pedestrians and commuters alike, it seemed to emphasize the blight. I appreciate that artists were turning some parts of the area around but I don't think it was going to happen fast enough to keep those buildings from falling into the street.

The WRHA is an example of "woulda, coulda, shoulda." It could have been so much more.

Still, we are left with the hand dealt and the fact is that there are opportunities now for attracting the 200 workers in the building. Let's see if we can see a few business people capitalize on that.

The United Way building is now under construction. I'll reserve comment until the final construction but it looks good in initial design. Ir replaces a surface parking lot, Chinese restaurant and pawn shop. The location between Pacific and Alexander on Main Street. Only 20 parking spaces are going to be available for the site and the total cost of the move will be about $10 million. I'm not sure how many employees or volunteers will be using the building at the moment.

Tentative opening of the new location is July 26. I will post more information as it comes available.

One thing I can say is that the United Way building makes sense and seems to have been done with more sympathy and in concert with the surrounding area.

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