Monday, August 30, 2010

Ferris Bueller Found

This story on a couple returning him from a trip and finding their car in long term parking has 724 kilometres on it amuses.

I think Ferris Bueller joyrided the car.

A couple returned to New York from a trip to California and discovered that their car—which had been parked in the long-term lot near JFK airport—had 724 extra miles on the odometer. Which raises the question—what exactly does your car do in long-term car parks?

Since the vehicle was also playing a CD at full volume when the couple, Mimi and Ulrich Gunthart, started it, the logical explanation is that someone borrowed the car for a joyride/road trip (724 miles is roughly the distance from New York City to Pittsburgh and back).

Longterm parking at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport is $75 weekly. Think I'd let Ferris have the car for the week so long as he topped it up and rolled back the odometer.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Safety Downtown

The Strand condo on Waterfront Drive Safe enough in the day but the park across the street can be very dark.

Los Angeles The 6th Street Bridge before (left) and after (right) the LED conversion (Bureau of Street Lighting )

The Downtown Business Improvement Zone from the downtown has released another study that says that people feel safer living downtown.

The women interviewed said they don't feel safe at night and the BIZ talked about their security programs and push for more police. Fairly standard moves and ones that can and do make people more secure. However, there are other ways for the city to try and make the downtown feel safer.

The one thing that is often heard is that people are afraid to go out at night. And why wouldn't they be? They sightlines are limited, the shadows are perfect for hiding and there are fewer people than the day. One of the big changes that seem to make the most sense is to find better lighting.

All over North America cities are changing from high pressure sodium lights to LED lights. As with many things, Winnipeg seems very slow to adopt the idea.

Los Angeles is well on the way in terms of transforming its streets. The picture above shows the difference. Some people hated the brightness but others emphasized that they are more efficient and also made people more secure in their neighbourhoods. If there is one place where the lights make sense it is the downtown.

I suspect this isn't even on the city's radar.

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

The End of McMansion?

Bridgwater McMansion?

The Census Bureau in the U.S. has released data indicating that the McMansions are on the decline.

After years of growth, the Census Bureau recently reported that median new home size fell to 2,135 square feet in 2009 after peaking at more than 2,300 earlier in the decade.

McMansions are described as:

a pejorative term for a large new house which is judged as pretentious, tasteless, or badly designed for its neighborhood.

Does Winnipeg have McMansions? Well, look at this:

The Manchester can be found at 35 Edington Point in centrally-located Bridgwater Forest.

"This home is a very functional, efficient design," says Menno Friesen of Realty Executives, sales representative for Randall Homes (along with Dave Mick) for 35 Edington. "It's a wonderful design full of great features contained in a floor plan that wastes very little in the way of space."

Due to its well-conceived floor plan, the home -- already an expansive 2,329 sq. ft. spread out over two levels -- feels even larger than the listed square footage. That feeling of space starts in an extra-wide (and long) foyer (with 17-foot ceiling) that provides seamless access to the voluminous great room. It's here that the space and common-sense floor plan merge to create a family home designed for easy living.

Description of McMansions:

Typically it will have a floor area over 3,000 square feet (280 m2), ceilings 9-10 feet high, a two-story portico, a front door hall with a chandelier hanging from 16-20 feet, two or more garages, several bedrooms and bathrooms, and lavish interiors. The house often covers a larger portion of the lot than the construction it replaces.

Add the livable basement space in the Winnipeg house and you have 3000 feet.

I wonder if the Waverley West is building for a market that might be downsizing in just a short time?

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Gun Registry

The Liberal party will be whipping their vote on the gun registry in the fall. It is expected that any Liberal who votes against the registry or who doesn't show up will face party sanction. Michael Ignatieff has indicated that he supports a compromise on the bill to waive fees and be less harsh with first time offenders. This seems to have appealed to some of the Liberal MPs who have voted to kill the registry in the past.

The NDP is allowing a free vote for their MPs and this could result in the private member's bill from the Tory side passing and the gun registry will be kaput.

Two NDP MPs in Manitoba have voted to kill the bill in the past. Both are expected to do the same thing in the next vote. Jack Layton says that the public should not blame the NDP if the vote ends the registry.

I think only the most partisan of NDPer will feel comfortable with this particular free vote if ends up killing the registry. The NDP can blame the Liberals, the Conservatives or anyone else but the results of the vote will be the same: the end of the registry and a list of NDP MPs who made it possible.

The two MPs in Manitoba who look to kill the bill are:

* Niki Ashton (Churchill) - T: 866-785-0522 Ottawa: 613-992-3018 Email:

* Jim Maloway (Elmwood-Transcona) - T: 204-984-2499 Ottawa: 613-995-6339 Email:

One thing is certain: I would change my vote if the registry was killed by my MP or by the party I normally supported.

I was opposed to the gun registry at the beginning because I believed the costs were being seriously underestimated to get it started. The Liberals should have been ashamed of themselves for such cost over-runs and poor management.

Now that the program is running, it has passed Auditor General checks and passed muster with the police who utilize it. Medical and social advocacy groups support the registry.

I believe that the registry should be retained given what we are hearing now.

The fate of the bill lies with the NDP since the Tories have always promised to kill the registry. It is the NDP that doesn't seem to have a policy on the gun registry when all other parties have now stated where they stand.

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A Quiet Man

Hiva Alizadeh, right side. CBC picture.

On Wednesday, Canadian police swept up an alleged terror ring linked to radicalized elements of the Muslim community opposed to Canada's involvement in Afghanistan.

There is still a lot unknown about the arrests of the three people in Ottawa and London. Police say there are three other unnamed people they are looking for.

We will have to see in the coming months and probably years how the accused came to be under suspicion and what evidence there is to suggest they planned terrorist activities. And it will be up to the police to prove the conspiracy allegations in court.

One thing is clear: There are Canadians who have been radicalized and who have gravitated to jihad against their fellow Canadians.

One person among those arrested lived in Winnipeg. Hiva Alizadeh attended Red River College and studied electrical engineering, had a home in St. Vital and had a relationship with an aboriginal woman who was a convert to Islam.

Those that knew Hiva Alizadeh are shocked by his arrest. Many say he was a quiet man who didn't talk about politics. From 2003 to 2009 he worked at a halal meat shop, attended school and lived in an apartment with his wife and child. His wife became more devout during their time in St. Vital and she went from a long dress and head covering to full niqab which left only the eyes exposed.

Was this the beginning of a change within the man and the family to something radical? We may never know the full motivation but it is important to know why some people are drawn to the siren call of jihad and would rather fight than using freedoms they have in Canada to call attention to wrongs they feel need remedying.

A quiet man who quietly rages against the society he lives in and quietly plots to act against it violently is a pretty scary concept.

We must know where the radicalization takes place. It seems obvious that those who feel the same things are drawn to one another. How? It seems obvious that those who have these feelings of rage are guided by someone who manages to keep them below the radar while working together? Who?

After the arrests of so many would be terrorists in Canada over the years, I don't know if we are any closer to knowing what makes a terrorist in Canada.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tea Party and Reform Party of Canada

CNN is running a story about how the Tea Party movement and the Reform Party of Canada share some traits in how the right has been shaken.

Preston Manning is quoted widely in the story.

I was in Florida in April and saw the Tea Party with its protest signs about how Barack Obama was not born in America. It was one of the more milder signs I saw.

The Tea Party is going after any person on the right who is not deemed right enough. The result could be that Independents and moderate Republicans might not have a home in the party. It is difficult to say whether this will be an impediment to election fortunes in the U.S. where there are only two main parties. Still, if some on the right decide as Florida's governor has to run as independents, the right might find it splits the vote.

The Reform Party in Canada had a hard time escaping from the narrow politics it had staked out. The party eventually killed off the Progressive Conservatives and I think it can be said that the present Conservative Party of Stephen Harper has no Red Tories or progressives in it. This allowed for a reunification of the right minus this significant component from past decades.

It isn't a reach to say that Harper will have a hard time ever reaching a majority so long as centrists remain uncomfortable with the more ideological aspects of Harper's government.

As far as the Tea Party goes in the U.S., the same desire for centrist politics could hurt the conservative movement from making long term, sustainable gains. The anger now about the recession could see Tea Party people nominated and even elected but hardcore right stances could result in their defeat just as quickly if they espouse racist or hyper intolerant views as some have in the past months.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

September 11 and Muslims

In 2001, 24 Canadians perished in the attacks that took place on September 11 in the U.S. A total of 2,974 died in Washington D.C., New York and Pennsylvania.

This September 11 will make 9 years since the event and raw emotions are still close to the surface even as construction takes place to build new office towers and a memorial. Part of the controversy in recent months is in regards to a mosque or Islamic cultural center which is a looking to build a few blocks from ground zero.

There was one Winnipegger killed on September 11. Dr. Christine Egan was a nurse and professor at the University of Manitoba. She lived nearby and by all accounts was an amazing person. She was at World Trade Center visiting her brother, an exec at Aon Corporation on the 105th floor when the planes hit. No one that high up above the impact site survived the attack.

Another Winnipegger affected by the attack was my high school friend Abby Carter. He husband Arron Dack was also at World Trade Center when the first plane hit. He was able to call his wife shortly after the impact but was not able to escape below the impact site.

If anyone is to have a strong view about the Islamic cultural center, it might be Abby. This is what she said the other day.

When I first heard of the Mosque I thought “Good. What better way to teach tolerance on both sides of the coin?” Thoughts of it being “insensitive” to 9/11 family members did not enter my mind. I began to hear rumblings of how Muslims build mosques at the sites of their victories, but have discovered there are various interpretations of that understanding, one being that they build mosques at sites within crying distance of Muslims. Muslims were killed in the buildings too. Muslims have suffered from post 9/11 racism. So yes, building in a place of tears makes sense to me. Building within crying distance for all Americans makes sense to me. We are all finding ways of healing.

I think Abby is pretty incredible.

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Sam Katz Not For Mayor Ad Campaign

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Stadium

Artist conception of new Winnipeg Stadium.

Winnipeg Stadium location at the University of Manitoba.

It seems likely that there isn't a place in the city where the stadium could be built without complaint. Some are opposed in general to the building since it uses taxpayer money. Some would probably be opposed in principle even if it is done with private money. Some are opposed only because it is in their neighbourhood.

My personal view is that the city needs facilities to host sporting and cultural events.

Some people are ideologically opposed on both sides of the political spectrum. The one side of the spectrum believes that not one red penny of taxpayer money should be spent for the simple reason that it is taxpayer money and that private interests should step up. The other side believes that not one red penny of taxpayer money should be spent for the simple reason that it is taxpayer money and it should be used for social uses such as reducing poverty.

Neither side of the spectrum that holds these views will ever be happy. Taxpayer money should be spent wisely and the thinking should always be what the net benefit to the community will be. Both the poverty groups and the taxpayer groups might not be interested in that type of thinking.

The thinking that is most discouraging is the "Not In My Back Yard" NIMBY thinking. I realize that there are legitimate questions about parking and the type of facility built but there are some people who are opposed for only reason: it is in their neighbourhood.

The University of Manitoba is a legitimate location for a new stadium. It serves both the professional and amateur aspects of what such a facility should do for a community. Using taxpayer money is a legitimate way of serving the community in terms of facilities that will have broad use. Despite what taxpayer groups say, there are few businesses that can build such a large building without help. Few examples exist in North America of a totally funded private arena and stadium in the last couple of decades. If the city followed taxpayer group advice, Winnipeg would not have stadium, arena or convention centre. I think it is safe to say those buildings have earned back their money over the years and that everyone in the city has benefited.

I support a new stadium but the questions of cost, design, planning all seem to be in flux even as ground is being broken for construction. This isn't really acceptable and the sooner things are finalized, the better.

The government and private interests should fully disclose the merits of the project and reveal how they will ensure the project meets requirements of limiting noise to the sight itself, that a well defined parking and transportation plan is in place and lastly, that the costs will be well managed now and into the future.

Nothing will anger people more if the project is not what people were told about up front and costs more than what was said.

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Changes to Winnipeg's Grocery Landscape Part 1

Price Choppers on Stafford Street.


Urban Fresh store in Edmonton, Alberta.

It sometimes takes a while for things to happen in Winnipeg. Price Choppers could be changing. At present Price Choppers only has one location on Stafford Street but sometime in the new year, the name could change as well as the store format.

There is a conversion taking place at many Price Choppers across Canada to a new store format called FreshCo. It would be a shame if Winnipeg was bypassed during the next year.

FreshCo stores are starting to appear in Ontario. The new stores offer multicultural and ethnic foods.

The present Price Choppers are known for produce. That will not change according to what Sobey's officials are saying. Sobey's is the parent company of Price Choppers and FreshCo.

Customers entering a FreshCo store will first encounter fruit and vegetables in a great hall immediately inside that flows into a deli area, a bakery market, and a local cheese and meat market.

Fingers crossed that the Winnipeg Price Choppers will be converted.

I think more Winnipeg people would be interested if one of Sobey's other store formats came to the city. It is called Urban Fresh. Their format is fresh food and ready-made meals. Some call them mini-Sobey's but for people living downtown, they are a welcome addition.

The grocery war is coming to Winnipeg as Wal-Mart upgrades their stores to sell more grocery items. I expect we'll see even greater changes in store formats in the coming months.

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Manitoba Hydro

The announcement that Manitoba Hydro lost money in the last quarter is nothing to panic over but it is something to keep monitoring.

The Tory response was a bit over the top but so was the NDP one where they say the Tories hate hydro. Time to grow up.

For a long time hydro money has been used for more than just providing power to Manitoba. It has been used to finance government programs. Both the NDP and Tories have to take careful consideration about how hydro has hurt and helped the province. It is complete arrogance to think everything the NDP or the Tories have done in terms of decisions on hydro was always the best thing. The flooding in the north and the repercussion thereafter are example of that.

There is not the transparency needed in regards to Hydro to possibly say for a certainty that some of the decisions they have made or were told to make are the best.

If Hydro losses continue or they appear to be struggling, the NDP are going to find that questions will grow about management. The Tories would do well to continue to ask for full reports, indicate their concern, ask about political interference in Hydro decisions. The NDP would do well to stop trying to keep that information to themselves, stop political interference and cease the ridiculous accusation of hate and/or hidden agendas to sell the utility.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Bay and University of Winnipeg

The Bay downtown future home to University of Winnipeg.

It seems a deal to good to pass up. The Bay has approached the University of Winnipeg and offered them the two and half floors for an aboriginal under-graduate and graduate studies program.

It is an exciting opportunity to be sure but given the largest expansion of the University of Winnipeg in history is already underway, one wonders if the money is there or the ability to offer programming that can be sustained long term. The amount of space at The Bay is huge. Off hand, I don't know if the present aboriginal programming at the U of W could fill such an expansive site. I'm sure the itemized list could include the Aboriginal Student Services Centre (ASSC) and the Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre as well as offices of professors and some classroom and lab space. However, each floor is over 70,000 square feet.

University officials have said that they will need to talk to private partners and for this to work, there is no doubt that talk with First Nations, the province and the federal government is essential. Perhaps if they hurry, they could convince Yellowquill College to move from Assiniboine Avenue before they go to the Polo Park aboriginal site.

It is possible with this type of cooperation, a super center for aboriginal education could be established.

It won't be easy but lately we have come to expect a lot from Lloyd Axworthy and the University of Winnipeg in terms of dynamic school in the downtown area.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Manitoba Moose on CBC

Bravo to the CBC for striking a deal to broadcast 10 AHL hockey games this coming year. The Moose will be seen in four games during the year.

The schedule is:


Binghamton at Toronto (Oct. 17, 1 p.m. ET).

Oklahoma City at Hamilton (Oct. 24, 1 p.m. ET).

Hamilton at Toronto (Nov. 21, 1 p.m. ET).

Toronto at Hamilton (Dec. 12, 1 p.m. ET).

Toronto at Abbotsford (Jan. 16, 2011, 2 p.m. ET).

Abbotsford at Manitoba (Jan. 23, 2011, 1 p.m. ET).

Manitoba at Toronto (Feb. 27, 2011, 1 p.m. ET).

Hamilton at Toronto (March 6, 2011, 1 p.m. ET).

Abbotsford at Manitoba (March 27, 2011, 1 p.m. ET).

Manitoba at Toronto (April 3, 2011, 1 p.m. ET).

As you can see, the schedule is heavy on the Toronto Marlies. This is to ensure big Ontario audiences. However, I can complain Moose finally get exposure nationally.

The only thing missing from this deal is play-off coverage.

Still, kudos to the CBC. Hope we see some cable deals coming as well.

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Roblin Boulevard 7

The site of the old Charleswood Hotel. Co-Op Gas.

I should have taken pictures of the hotel as it was being taken down. The Charleswood Hotel was a long time landmark for Charleswood. The site is now occupied by a multi-pump Co-Op Gas station and store with car wash in back.

I was a bit dubious about so many pumps given that they only had a kiosk serving their needs down the street (since closed). However, it is busy every time I drive past. I have not used the store there yet but intend to take a look at some point. The lot is a quite big and extends back further from the road than you think.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Polo Park 7

Forever 21 store coming to Winnipeg.

The old Safeway location in Polo Park is presently being renovated into one of the lager locations for the store Forever21. As the name suggests, it is a store that is described as a trendy version Le Chateau.

It is the fourth location for the store in Canada and at 38,000 feet is just shy of their large store in Pasadena, California.

The other store coming to the mall is BCBGMAXAZRIA or as it known for short: BCBG. It is a classy dress store from Los Angeles-based French designer Max Azaria.

Another store that I saw this past week close to the Apple store is Skechers, a shoe store.

The Safeway store closed in 2008 and it probably was no mean feat convincing stores to locate off the main corridor. At first it looked like H&M was coming to the mall. However, it seems a good bet they are looking at the stadium site or the IKEA site for their entry to the Winnipeg market.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

New Downtown Office Tower?

Possible site of new tower behind 360 Main Street?

The original vision of 360 Main Street aka Trizec building

Negotiations are underway with one developer for Western Financial Group's consolidation of four Winnipeg offices.

Here is where they are presently located:

High River, Alta.-based Western Financial Groups's four Winnipeg business units:

Western Life Assurance Company (formerly Federated Life Assurance Company), 717 Portage Ave.

Western Financial Group Insurance Solutions (formerly HED Insurance and Risk Services), an insurance brokerage firm at 717 Portage Ave.

SecuriCan, one of the country's leading pet insurance underwriting companies, at 1200 Portage Ave.

Agrifinance, a farm financing business at 1822 Portage.

Winnipegger's will be more familiar with the names HED Insurance and Federated Insurance, two large insurers that came under the control of Western Financial Group in recent years.

The space the company is looking for is about 70,000 square feet. There are a few location that were shortlisted including the pads at Portage Place, above Winnipeg Square, on Broadway or the Brick's building on Lombard Avenue. The only location outside of downtown is just north of Polo Park on the old arena site.

The one site that would be truly sad as far as choices go is the Polo Park site. Obviously, the company will do what is best for its customers but the city as a whole does not benefit from having a doughnut whole for a center.

I am not certain where I would like to see the company locate. My instinct tells me that a large financial company would probably be better near Portage and Main so 360 Main Street and one of its pads looks good.

I can honestly say that any of the downtown locations would be great.

Polo Park is a very busy retail district. In the months leading up to Christmas, it can be bumper to bumper traffic all day long. CJOB has already indicated they will be moving to the area. Given their cramped location on Portage Avenue, the radio station most likely thinks it is better to have the space and the parking and not worry about the traffic.

Western Financial Group has been expanding quickly over the last years. A three story building around Polo Park might not be big enough for them in five years. Building downtown might be building for the future.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Academy Manor

Academy Manor Free Press picture

Rooftop deck of Academy Manor

Academy Manor.

Prior to the construction of the 14 unit condo at 85 Academy Road stood a few houses just west of the Lutheran church. Number 75 and 87 Academy Road were like a number of houses on the north side facing Kelvin High School and St. Mary's Academy that were not nearly as posh as the ones behind them on Wellington Crescent. In fact, many of the houses were falling apart and some were soon regarded as undesirable. Eventually, the two houses above became derelict.

It was a concern to me that this might be an early indication of how River Heights might look if houses continued to fall into disrepair to the detriment of the neighbourhood as a whole. It wasn't an idle thought. Many neighbourhoods in the city have declined as residents have found other areas the flavour of the times. River Heights itself benefited from that migration as people moved from the Osborne Village, the West End, the North End and other places.

It was not beyond the possibility that River Heights and Crescentwood was seeing a decline that would slowly spread out beyond Academy Road. In recent years, however, that fear has subsided. Renovations seem to mark every street throughout River Heights and Crescentwood. Wellington Crescent has seen completion demolitions and new house construction. Some of those houses have not been without controversy. In fact, some of the houses such as the one where Izzy Asper's house was torn down are large for any type of neighbourhood you might have put it in. Thankfully, not every one of the new or renovated houses tosses aside the scale or the aesthetic of what is locally known as The Crescent.

Elsewhere in River Heights and Crecentwood have been renovations top to bottom in terms of revitalizing the housing stock and the character of a single family residence has been mostly maintained for the neighbourhood maintained.

Academy Road continues to have a few dozen homes from the Maryland and Sherbook bridges to Kenaston. Because of the traffic along the road, it has been harder to maintain the attractiveness for families living along it, especially closer to the bridge. The houses from Kelvin High School to the corner of Wellington and Academy have suffered over the years as mentioned.

This certainly had to be noticed by city council so when businessman Prakash Gowder bought 75 and 87 Academy Road and proposed a condo project, they likely jumped on it.

After years of work, controversy and lawsuits, the condo is being marketed to the public. The size of the project is what will strike people as the drive past. The units range from 1000 to 1000 square feet and the structure is four stories tall. I'm certain some of the people on Wellington Crescent must have dubious feelings about a property that looks down on them. Still, the alternative might have been a derelict house torn down and a empty field looking back on to Academy.

The prices of the condos are $400,000 to $1.5 million. It will be interesting to see if this will be attractive to buyers looking for unique properties in River Heights.

Expect to see some other houses along Academy if this project finds success.

I am not overly offended by the design but the possibility is that houses on the south-side of Wellington Crescent may also convert to condos as a response would not surprise. It is something to think about when the scale of condo projects gives pause to those buying houses close by.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

The changes in Wolseley/West Broadway area Part 2

Gooch's Bicycle & Hobby Shops, formerly of 185 Sherbrook Street now moved to 1046 Portage Avenue.

Changes have been afoot again on Sherbrook Street in the Wolseley area. An old favourite Gooch's Bicycle & Hobby Shops has decamped for Portage Avenue after 77 years on Sherbrook.

However, as some move out, others move in. Winnipeg Tool and Fasteners which has moved to St. James is seeing their old building converted into office for Epic Information Solutions. This IT firm is bringing 75 workers and $4 million worth of renovations to the area which will continue a revitalization that has been happening at street level for some time now.

The Free Press reports that an architectural firm is also moving into the neighbourhood.

There are other developments afoot including the recently completed two story building at Westminster Avenue and Sherbrook Street. A Subway store will be located there just a hop down from Stella's.

I will be interesting to see other changes over the next months in the area. There are still many houses fronting right out to the street but my feeling is that more of them will be converted over to other uses. This in and of itself shouldn't be regarded badly. Sherbrook is becoming more commercial in part to serve the Wolseley neigbourhood. And on the residential streets off of Sherbrook and Maryland Streets, there is quite a lot of revitalization taking place in the housing stock.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday in Winnipeg

Rain was coming down all afternoon this still warm August day. Unlike this morning, when the hard rain caused chaos with traffic lights out and underpasses filled, the afternoon rain felt less burdensome. Perhaps it is because it is Friday. As I drove down Robin Boulevard, I saw ducks alongside Assiniboine Park looking quite happy with themselves.

The sun was trying to peak through to promising for a rain free night for the Blue Bombers and Goldeyes.

I was flipping channels on the radio and not particularly rushing home. Caught a movie review on CBC Radio One, listened to a pre-game discussion of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers game on CJOB. I love the retro uniform, by the way. Tuned into ska on UMFM for a bit. Back to CJOB to hear about the Winnipeg Goldeyes game and to KICK FM where I listened to an interview of Kenton Larsen on The Great Canadian Talk Show.

It was just a lazy drive in rush hour traffic where the scenery of spitting rain clouds and blue skies fighting it out along with a audio narrative of what is happening in the city made me really happy to live in such a great city.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

A&B Sound building transformed for Bodies Exhibiiton

BODIES…The Exhibition

Free Press pic of how the A&B Sound building will be transformed.

In a bold move that got all the media talking and will have them to continue to talk, the MTS Centre have announced that presentation of BODIES…The Exhibition. The travelling tour has brought in large audiences and controversy everywhere it has been. The show was considered front page material for the Winnipeg Sun.

To add to the excitement, MTS has said it will be utilizing the A&B Sound building across the street as an exhibition hall for the 100 plus day run of the show. It is innovative thinking that will bring people to the 22,000 square foot facility and surrounding area.

True North has hinted that there might be another exhibition after that but the property holds greater value to them. They have said a hotel or other unique restaurant similar to Tavern United is what they in the future.

Bravo to True North and CentreVenture for this project. Look for crowds and controversy in the next weeks.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Casino Expansion Bricks and Mortar and Online

McPhillips Station Casino.

The Days Inn McPhillips soon to be destroyed.

With little discussion, it was announced a few weeks ago that that the McPhillips Station Casino had bought the Days Inn Hotel owned by the Paletta family next door to the casino. The plan on the part of the casino is to tear down the hotel building and to expand the casino and build a connected hotel in the same vein as Club Regent Casino.

By my recollection, the Days Inn next to the casino was renovated a few years back. I have never stayed there nor know anyone who has so I can't really give an opinion about the hotel. I get pretty depressed reading hotel reviews since I think the people most compelled to write are the ones who had poor stays. For the Paletta family, it seems a good opportunity to move on to new projects. They have sold a few hotels and now are building in other parts of the province.

The cost for the casino to purchase the hotel was $10 million. It will cost a whole lot more to build a hotel, casino addition and more parking. The casino officials says that they expect the expansion will increase revenue for the casino.

I don't go to the casinos myself. I have worked them as a volunteer in the past and I do know that many people like them for bingos, the slots and the game tables. And let's not forget the entertainment and food. The power of the casinos as a venue has been seen in the ability to attract Graham Shaw and the Sincere Serenaders to the city again to perform.

I won't go into the difficulties of gambling and addiction. It is an issue that needs to be dealt with but not through Prohibition such as with alcohol. It is always better to regulate than to ban. Further criminalization is not needed in Manitoba or Canada. My feelings are that the social problems of gambling have to be worked on through the Addictions Foundation since the alternative of banning will only push things underground and into criminal activity.

I am not against the casinos nor am I against McPhillips Station expanding. My view is that a hotel and associated changes will be good for the club and its patrons. I do worry that traffic on McPhllips Street will be forever busy though.

And all this brings me to the issue of casinos in Winnipeg in general. Why are they all north of the Assinibone River and east of the Red River? Why these two places and not in the fastest growing section of the southwest?

Mark my words if the government hasn't thought about it, the First Nations have. If the Kapyong Barracks ever does get resolved in favour of an urban reserve, I fully expect Kapyong to possibly host a casino.

It may be years to resolve the issue of Kapyong but the government should consider what cowardice now in regards to the issue of a casino for the southwest could result in later on. Time to have the discussion rather than have it burst onto the horizon later on.

There is one area that the government could do wonders on when it comes to downtown development, the Winnipeg Convention Centre, hotels and parkades and that is by bring a casino back to the downtown of Winnipeg. It is easy to see how bold thinking might be able to redevelop a large section of land near the Convention Centre into both casino, hotel and parkade with links to the present Winnipeg Skyway system.

There has not been a casino downtown since the Fort Garry Hotel. At the time, it was Canada's first permanent casino and helped attract an ownership group that helped restore it to the hotel it is today.

Imagine what a new permanent casino could do for the downtown now. Perhaps a forward thinking government of political party might suggest such a project which clearly could give a boost to downtown tourism.

Lastly, online gambling is taking off all over Canada. B.C. and Ontario are leading the way. The NDP government is leaning towards it in Manitoba. The Tories are leaning against it. I think both had better get their thought processes down on the subject.

Like with a lot of things in Canada nowadays, I think we shouldn't be last to make a decision. There was a time when we were first such as with the Fort Garry Casino. It would be nice to lead again rather than to follow.

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