Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Manitoba Election 2

The negative ads turn people off and they often work. Even the federal NDP in the last election ran negative ads despite the impression that they ran a positive campaign.

Remember that ad?

However, it ended in the soft approach of Jack Layton saying he'd be different. That is easier to do than defend against a record in government.

Ultimately, the ads that were most effective for the NDP and the Tories were against the Liberals. Even before the election was run, the impression was set of Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals.

In the provincial election of 2011, the provincial NDP under Greg Selinger has pulled out the nastiest campaign we have seen in the 1980s when the PCs and NDP were all alone in the legislature to spout hatred of one another. It was awful. And polarizing.

The ad campaign the NDP are running on privatizing Hydro is particularly brazen.

Can you imagine if ad campaigns against the NDP ran like this:

NDP plan to nationalize MTS!

NDP to introduce HST!

And so on...

At this point, it probably will be an out and out campaign of nastiness.

One thing is clear: The NDP have been in power 12 years and they do have a record to run on and defend. This can be a good and a bad thing.

They can take credit for some good things but it is going to be hard to trumpet reductions in crime when this year may outpace past years for murder, arson, drugs and gang activity. How many fires has the police helicopter put a stop to? Some parts of the province are a war zone.

And as far as economic activity goes, we are not doing as well as other provinces. There is an increasing gap in now much tax Manitoba pays relative to other provinces.

Our education program which really is directed from the province down is not producing results. There are too many school divisions, too much interference when a division wants to close a small school, too much dependence on property tax to fund education and too few graduates.

Think of the two things above and we continue to see a net migration of people away from the province. Not good.

Greg Selinger can say that the province is making progress on a lot of things but people who have suffered crime, felt the tax sting and have had family move out of the province for better education or job opportunities are going to have to be convinced of the merits of having the NDP in another term.

The PCs under Hugh McFadyen tried scare tactics last election on crime but while it was a concern, the economy stability and popularity of Gary Doer was just too much to overcome for a new leader.

The NDP at the time used the most simple of attack techniques. They defined the leader before PCs could do that themselves.

The NDP commercials suggest they are going down this path again. The problem is whether the message will have the same impact as it did when no one knew Hugh McFadyen.

The NDP face their own problem of selling their leader whom the public doesn't know very well. Greg Selinger on the face of things seems joyless. Unlike Gary Doer, he doesn't look comfortable out in public and doesn't have the star appeal that the former premier did. In short, the man doesn't look like he would be comfortable having a beer at a Blue Bomber game.

Charisma and charm can go a long way. A negative campaign would likely work a lot better if Selinger had it as easily as Doer did.

The same applies to Hugh McFadyen. He has to be visible and people have to hear him speak. Television would appear to be the best bet. They might take a cue from Jack Layton's ad above.

As for the Liberals, Jon Gerrard has to be one of the more decent men in politics. He appears to have a few good people running and the Manitoba Legislature would be a poorer place with two polarized parties in it. The electorate would do themselves well to look at the policies of all the parties are and not fear who they vote for whether it be Greens or Liberal or whatever.

The NDP and PCs should guard against talking about wasted votes. The voice of Jack Layton could be embarrassing if used against the NDP on this matter. Likewise, the Tories would benefit from a stronger Liberal vote and shouldn't see it as harmful to their cause.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The changes in Wolseley/West Broadway area Part 4

187 Balmoral Street converted house

I wrote about the West Broadway area some time ago. House prices in the area have risen dramatically. This has caused some people in the area to consider upgrades and investments that they might not have considered when prices were static or even in decline in the 1990s.

There were many streets for years that were outright dangerous and some properties that were dens of drug activity and violence. The streets between Portage Avenue and Broadway were plain scary at times.

There are still problem areas but some developers are trying to re-claim streets one house at a time. One such house is at 187 Balmoral Street. The Free Press reported this development being on the south side of Broadway when in fact it is on the northside.

The building was reclaimed from a fire in 2009. The prices for the one and two bedroom units are decidedly upscale but then the location is within walking distance of the legislature and Great West Life building.

Is it possible that this area might be transformed to the status it had in the 1920s? This isn't a bad assumption since it is one of the closest intact neighbourhoods to our downtown.

Look to see more of the house here being converted, restored, upgraded and re-claimed.

This won't be happening for every neighbourhood close to the downtown but this particular area is ripe for change as it is close to Armstrong Point, Wolseley and the changes happening along Sherbrook and Maryland Streets.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Winnipeg Jets TV and Radio Broadcasts

The Winnipeg Jets continue to prepare for the new season.

In terms of the radio broadcasts, it is confusing. CJOB's Brian Munz is moving to Sports Radio 1290 to share the radio broadcast with Dennis Beyak

Dennis Beyak is TSN's man and will be doing all the regional TSN TV broadcasts of the Jets and all radio broadcasts on Sports Radio 1290 when he is not on TV.

In other words, Munz is the fill in host when Beyak is not around.

I don't know how this is going to work but it does have to be disappointing to Munz who has been the radio voice of the Manitoba Moose all on his own and now will be sharing that role.

Overall, it is shaping up to be a great year in terms of Jets broadcasts. The national exposure is pronounced. The Jets will appear in the top tier when it comes to total games. The interest seems to be coast to coast in terms of viewing the games.

It is a big difference from 1996 when there were only a few times to watch the Jets nationally and locally, the coverage was fairly limited. With fives years of sell-outs, there is no such thing as a black out. Every game will be on the tube and in high definition, it will be glorious.

CJOB who lost the radio rights have hired a reporter as well former Manitoba Moose play by play guy Kelly Moore to cover the Jets. The plan is for a pre and post game offering. This is similar to when CJOB lost the NHL to CKY and did the same thing. The station was well positioned later on to take the broadcast rights back again.

I suspect that we will see a full court press from the media when it comes to Jets coverage. One wonders if Global and CTV will kick it up a notch as well with Jets programs or NHL reports.

The expanded TV coverage is good for bars and restaurants as well. What makes a good sports bar? Lots of hockey coverage and now the Jets might pack them in.

Big screens, high definition, wall to wall coverage and no black outs. It certainly isn't 1996 anymore.

Winnipeg Jets national TV broadcasts.

Sunday, Oct. 9th vs. Montreal, CBC/RDS/NHLN, 4 pm.

Thursday, Oct. 13th @ Chicago, TSN, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 15th @ Phoenix, CBC, 5 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 19th @ Toronto, TSN, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 22nd vs. Carolina, CBC, 6 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 29th @ Tampa Bay, CBC, 6 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 5th @ New Jersey, CBC, 6 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 12th, @ Columbus, CBC, 6 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 19th vs. Philadelphia, CBC, 2 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 26th, @ Boston, CBC, 6 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 3rd vs. New Jersey, CBC, 6 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 10th vs. Detroit, CBC, 6 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 17th vs. Anaheim, CBC, 6 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 22nd vs. Montreal, RDS, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 31st vs. Toronto, CBC, 6 p.m.

Wednesday, Jan. 4th @ Montreal, TSN/RDS, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 7th @ Buffalo, CBC, 6 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 14th vs. New Jersey, CBC, 6 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 21st vs. Florida, CBC, 7 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 5th @ Montreal, CBC/RDS, 1 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 11th @ Pittsburgh, CBC/NHL, 1 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 17th vs. Boston, TSN, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 25th vs. St. Louis, CBC, 1 p.m.

Monday, March 5th vs. Buffalo, Versus, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 24th @ Nashville, CBC, 6 p.m.

Wednesday, March 28th vs. New York Rangers, TSN, 6 p.m.

Saturday, March 31st @ Tampa Bay, CBC, 6 p.m.

Saturday, April 7th vs. Tampa Bay, CBC, 6 p.m.

Friday, August 26, 2011


The Condos Changing the Toronto Skyline

Just got back from Toronto after a weekend convention.

I always tell people who travel to think carefully when contrasting their hometown to places they go to for business and pleasure. While it can be fun to take note of differences, it should also be viewed through the prism that we don't live in the city and don't see it through the daily lives of those who live there.

Having said that, it is not hard to see that Toronto may very well lead North America in how many construction cranes are in operation. That is not an idle statement. The boom in condo construction reminds me of what I saw in Florida over the years. In that sense, it alarms me as it was unsustainable growth in the U.S.

I can't say for certain that what is happening in Toronto could go bust but one thing is certain, it is transforming the skyline.

I didn't see as much in terms of pure office buildings going up. The last reports I saw indicated that the city was still absorbing a bit of stock from two years back when three tower went up.

However, this isn't about the financials underpinning Toronto today but an observation of where they are now.

What we see in Toronto today is a downtown filled with people. Some of this was organic growth, some of this was planned and a lot of this was fueled by 40 years of sustained immigration. In some respects there are two Torontos. The first being the urban one with offices, neighbourhoods and the like packed tightly together in higher density settings. The second is the suburban Toronto with subdivisions and regional offices and shopping. Throw into the mix service, industrial and manufacturing all over the city to keep people employed.

This is didn't all happen overnight. In my case, I stayed at the Harbourfront which got its kick start back in 1972 when the Trudeau government set up a plan to start changing the port of Toronto lands into something resembling Vancouver's Granville Island.

It is a work in progress to be sure. Many people come to the area for entertainment or work but the Gardiner Expressway, an elevated road creates quite a lot noise and blocks easier access. Transportation is via streetcar and the ferry can shuttle people off to Toronto Island.

The other noise in the immediate area is the Toronto Island airport. While obviously a huge convenience for those not wanting to use the ridiculously far and expensive Pearson International, the Porter Airlines aircraft take off at high angles and quite often.

It is obvious the city of Toronto has its hands filled trying to figure out how to make the area successful while still maintaining a functioning metro. Hence, the comment about the two Torontos.

Still, it is hard not to be impressed with with has been slowly achieved over the years. The downtown is filled with people and several districts have emerged and continue to thrive. It will interesting to see where it goes.


Now, the inevitable comparison to Winnipeg. We lack people in the central area of the city. With the exception of The Forks (which is Winnipeg's grand initiative on par with Habourfront), we have few places where people pour out onto the streets.

All of our grand downtown gestures save one did not think to include housing as a major component. The Winnipeg Convention Centre had a major component of apartment housing next door with the Holiday Towers. Sadly, the site was orphaned and left surrounded by parking lots.

In the last five years, Winnipeg has caught up with many cities in terms of building new condos in the downtown. Waterfront Drive has taken off and now we are seeing phase two being developed. Tens of millions are being spent. However, unlike the 26 floors of Holiday Towers North and South, we are seeing new construction of only several floors at a time.

So far, developers are only taking a tentative step forward in this regard. And why put themselves out? Twice now, two towers in the Broadway area and even further afield in the suburbs have met with resistance. Even smaller condo projects in River Heights and Linden Woods have run into trouble.

Maybe it is that way all over Canada and beyond. However, we seem to torpedo apartment and condo projects that are completely private investment driven.

After this next phase of condo and apartment building in downtown Winnipeg, are we likely to see some construction cranes and the buildings of high rises? One can hope.

We need more people living downtown to create dynamism. City Hall cannot continue as an impediment to this.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Jack Layton

Jack Layton as he appeared four weeks ago

I won't eulogize here. It is being done in many places already.

The only thing I will say is that Canadians are likely to be far less polite about privacy when it comes to the leaders of political parties in Canada. Not content will we be to have someone say to us, do you want me to show you by doing push-ups and then we demur from asking for medical records.

If Canada is going to make our political system all about the leaders and less about the party, then we are going to need to know a lot more about the health of those leaders.

We were told four weeks ago that Jack Layton would be back September 19. However, even our own eyes were saying: Whoa. However, we demurred when the question came up about what the extent of the cancer was. Private is what we were told.

That won't be good enough in the future. I think we will see a push for more health disclosure as we see in the States.

Layton was a courageous man and he was a man of conviction. However, we didn't know how bad things were. Transparency has been the hallmark of many a politician. It is going to have to start at the level of the personal. We will need to know the health of our political leaders.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Manitoba Election 1

It is unlikely that many people will pay detailed attention to the impending election in Manitoba until after the Labour Day long weekend.

By contrast, all hell has been breaking out in the Ontario election as provincial Liberals have been clubbing the Progressive Conservatives like it was going out of style. A number of polls have come out to show the PC leader has no credibility with women possibly due to a pro-life position he has expressed in the past.

In Manitoba, it has been the sound of crickets and barbecues sizzling.

It hasn't all been fun and games though. Nominations have been happening all over the province. And some have gotten nasty while others have gotten stale. The NDP, in particular, has seen some of the nastiness in St. Norbert (stale is Elmwood).

This type of contempt in a local riding didn't matter in Wellington in the last election with two NDP candidates thrown under the bus. I still remember the grin when Gary Doer said the controversy wouldn't matter, they'd still win. He was right.

There have always been some very consistent ridings for the Tories and the NDP. Some call them "yellow dog" ridings because you could be a yellow dog and win the seat.

St. Norbert would be a hard one to call a "yellow dog" riding. It has been held by three parties in the last twenty-five years. If the NDP had an incumbent member running there, the edge would go to them. However, that edge narrows without it.

The dumping of a candidate on the eve of the nomination probably doesn't sit well with a lot of people including NDP members. If this is a proxy war between Steve Ashton and Greg Selinger, the ugliness threatens the party with losing a seat.

Nastiness has risen dramatically in the last year in Manitoba politics. I expect it to get worse. As the provincial Liberals have shown in Ontario, you kick your opponent in the balls and you keep kicking even when they are down.

At the moment, the NDP seem to kicking each other in the balls as hard as they kick the PCs. Don't think that no one won't notice if the civil war between NDP factions continues into September.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Portage Avenue 10 - McDonald's Development

The Former McDonald's in the 600 Block of Portage Avenue

Google Streetview of what existed across the street where the present McFeetors Hall and Faculty of Science buildings of University of Winnipeg are

The McDonald's in the 600 block of Portage Avenue has sat empty for years since the restaurant chain moved westward the spot between Sherbrook and Maryland Streets. That is a long time.

The reason McDonald's moved was that the restaurant was quite large compared to the formats they now favour. It also could only be accessed for drive through by going down a side street and was not convenient for people travelling west as drivers could not simply turn to access the south side location.

And so the large store sat empty.

The ever expanding footprint of the University of Winnipeg has changed everything. In three years, the university has created both north and south side entities in the form of McFeetors Hall, the Richardson College for the Environment and Science Complex and the Buhler Centre.

More expansion is pending.

The presence of so many students obviously has not gone unnoticed by the business community. While the McDonald's was far too big for one restaurant chain to make a go of it, it certainly has promise for three.

The Free Press reported that a developer was sub-dividing the restaurant into three and created a new storefront for the whole thing.

Hello hungry university students.

Now sadly, there is another big empty storefront to fill. The Blockbuster a few doors over from McDonald's has been empty since the U.S. parent threw Canada's stores under the bus as collateral.

This will be the first full academic year that many of these new components will all be in place.

The western part of the campus will be accessible two ways. The first via Portage Avenue. The second through the new Richardson Green Corridor.

It will be interesting to see what other developments from the private sector might result from the U of W building program. We have yet to see the fieldhouse and another dorm residence to come.

This is an election year. Might we hear further developments?

Buhler Centre lands prior to construction

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Winnipeg Jets Win the Stanley Cup

June 15, 2012. Winnipeg Jets Win Stanley Cup.

Okay...hasn't happened yet. But what if it did?

Are we prepared for a riot?

Vancouver was fairly confident that they could avoid such a scene that had previously plagued them the last time they hosted Stanley Cup hopes and failed.

I know that one DJ host has tried to get a future pledge of Winnipeggers not to riot in the aftermath of victory or defeat. This is a good thing and would appeal to most citizens. However, maybe not to those who through political belief or drunken loutedness wish to cause havoc.

It is important to have the discussion of whether people in Winnipeg might riot. The fact that the Winnipeg Jets hockey team has already shown that people will break the law to mount barrier at Portage and Main is indicative of the passion people feel about the team.

So what to do to create a happy or celebratory feeling without being heavy handed while at the same time preventing violence?

Well, let's think aloud:

How to Prevent Riots


First and foremost, riots are less likely to occur if there is a strong presence of police. The LA riots in 1992 were able to accelerate because there were often no police around. Some police abandoned their positions according to reports and residents of Koreatown had to protect themselves.

I think that police cadets, police and other patrols have to be out in full force on game days. Traffic and crowd control should be expected regularly and in play-offs, you should not be able to turn two feet without a police officer being nearby.

Enforcement should be friendly and helpful. Most people are just looking to go home after games but is entirely possible that people could flood out into the streets cheering even for things such as getting into the play-offs on the last day possible. The trick is to be prepared.

If everyone is used to seeing cops, they will know what the limits are.


I think in the interest of special events, conventions and sports, a new safety audit has to be conducted of the downtown. Reports on blind spots, dark areas and places of special concern should all be noted.

In keeping with that audit, new lighting, mirrors and patrol routes should be put up to keep people safe and to make them feel safe.

The assumption that a potential riot would happen on Portage or at Portage and Main is a good one. However, what if it happened in the MTS Centre or the walkway system or a parkade? Best to assume that trouble could happen in a few different places.


There are some newspaper columnists that believe that if everyone is armed, we will be safer.

I mentioned the 1992 riots when police were reported to have abandoned their posts. In that case, Koreatown shopkeepers protected themselves. Some point to this as being the example we should look at: Buy a gun, protect yourself and stop the riot. The newspaper columnist points this out.

He goes further though and mentions Switzerland where everyone has a gun:

There won't be any looting in Switzerland, ever. There won't even be a fantasy. Swiss families are protected by what's in their culture, their laws, their heads, their hearts and their gun racks.

There are 700,000 assault rifles registered in Switzerland. And you can bet your bullets Zurich and Bern and Geneva will never look like London.

Bullets do fly in Switzerland. Just not from riots:

In 2001, one of the worst mass killings in Europe took place in Switzerland.

Just after 10am on September 28, Friedrich Leibacher made his way into the parliament building of the Swiss canton of Zug and unleashed a bloodbath. In total, 14 people were shot dead. Three of the seven members of the local Zug government were killed, and another was seriously wounded. Eleven of the 80 members of the canton council were shot dead and numerous others wounded. Two journalists were also badly injured.

Sadly, this was not an isolated case in that country.

The widespread armament of the people does not necessarily translate into keeping the peace.

So, how does one protect their business?

Well, it may simply mean being present. In Vancouver, some shopkeepers were able to thwart would be looters just by being at their store.

Now, this isn't always the best course of action in a rapidly deteriorating situation but there is strength in numbers. Imagine if several shops had their people out on the street in front of their shops.

Other measures to protect business could include video cameras, better lighting and better security for doors and windows. Hopefully, it will never mean pulling a metal garage door down in front of the shop.


I think if the Winnipeg Jets make the play-offs, we need people to pledge to look out for one another. This might mean stopping aggressive behaviour before it happens. If a friend is overdrinking, steer them away from conflict. If someone sees an act of violence, theft or vandalism, report it, record it, discourage it.

The mob in a riot often acts as it does because they believe they are anonymous. Ensure that anyone acting out with be known to everyone.

If there is no police presence, people security can act as a deterrent. There is a big difference between being a bystander and a witness. A bystander does nothing while a witness reveals what they saw and heard.

Pledge to be part of the solution, not the problem.


Various levels of government need to have a plan. They need to plan a response, train for a response and keep modifying it according to assessment.

In terms of the Winnipeg Jets, there needs to be a well established pattern to police deployment. But things can't just be left to that one government department at the city level. The various safety committees in City Hall should be planning and acting now about areas that could be problems.

For example, it would be the height of dumbness if a city construction project was underway on Portage Avenue and a big pile of bricks sat outside Portage Place.

The police can do a lot but don't handicap them by leaving potential weapons on the street for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup.

The aforementioned safety audit would be a good guide for City Hall to figure out how to make the city secure in a general sense. It is important to think outside the box. What if a riot occurred on Graham Avenue rather than Portage? What if it broke up into several segments? What if it was inside a building?

Don't focus solely on one street.

The provincial and federal governments are not left out of this equation.

If Winnipeg gets into the play-offs, the province would do well to have judges and other court officials at the ready if needed. Hundreds of people might be arrested and it does no one well if all the judges have put up the "gone fishin" sign.

The province should have a quick response plan for getting people remanded and before a judge quickly. This is in the event of a riot but in the aftermath after as well. No one who riots should think they will escape responsibility for it. That response should be speedy to discourage further incidents.

The assumption should not be that there is one riot and it ends there. It could compound if government appears slow.

At both the provincial level and the federal levels, the governments there can assist with intelligence and logistics. If riots are being organized through Twitter, Facebook and the semi-private Blackberry, only higher levels of government have the ability to monitor and/or shut down.

There is some debate in this area from privacy advocates but at the very least, monitoring of these networks is probably necessary. We have already seem flashmob violence in the U.S. It is probably best not to be caught flatfooted in this area.

The federal government also has many resources in justice and security to assist in advance of things and with haste during and after an event.


Don't respond too slowly at every turn. Now is the time to plan for things. It should always be about responding quickly and smartly.

It is going to be hard to say: we didn't know when people are already thinking "what if..."

Well, the government and people in general need to think the same thing.

Speed, speed, speed.

If a riot starts in the MTS Centre, smother it fast. If looting happens at Portage Place, move quickly.

If the mobs splits up or tries to disappear in the crowd, have spotters high up. Grab them, remove them, follow them but for Pete's sake, don't leave them to build a bonfire of police cars.

6 Media Saturation

Talk openly about personal responsibility on the media. Emphasize the community shame from acts of violence.

Indicate what measures are in place for people's security and how people can help to assist.

Some in the media are saying what if everyone had a gun. How about if everyone had a camera?

It would be a lot harder for someone to commit crimes with several cameras on them and knowing it was going to be posted up for all to see and provided to the police.

While it won't stop some people, it will stop a lot. And those that do act in front of a camera ought to know that while they might break a window, they will be taken into custody.

For the anarchists who cover their face, just remember they probably didn't arrive that way and won't be leaving that way. A compendium of photos and video evidence can catch people along with good intelligence and other preventative measures.


Well, that's in a nutshell. I'm no police expert but we can't be smug here about the issue of a riot.

Truly the answer is a little more involved that just arm everyone.

And one last thing: Go Jets go!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sterling Lyon Parkway Part 1

Sterling Lyon Parkway Medical Center

The Sterling Lyon Parkway. The red marks the area where Ikea and Seasons of Tuxedo will be. Across Kenaston, the medical center.

The focus has been on Kenaston but the development along Sterling Lyon Parkway is a like a run away train.

Tall condos, seniors residences and officer buildings are going up fast.

One office building in particular has been going up for months. The Sterling Lyon Health Centre is a medical and professional building going up in partnership with eight local doctors a Troika Developments of B.C.

It is on the corner of Lorimer and Sterling Lyon, a baseball throw from where the Ikea will be built at Kenaston and Sterling Lyon. The medical center will stand at 5 stories with an underground parking lot. At 71,000 square feet and costing $20 million, the edifice is rather imposing as you drive down the increasingly busy divided road.

The warehouse and offices going up in this area astound each year. And condos are sprouting up all the time.

More on this in the future...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Polo Park 12 - Broadway Florists and Other News

Original location of Broaway Florists

Polo Park location of Broadway Florist

Two year ago, Polo Park celebrated its 50 anniversary. As reported in the Free Press, there were some original tenants still calling the place home. That number is dwindling as Zellers will be re-branded Target soon and Broadway Florists finds itself squeezed out.

More and more local and Canadian retailers are seeing themselves cast out of the premiere mall in the city in favour of American and international retailers. While there is still Canadian content in Polo Park, the one thing you won't find anymore is a florist.

The family owned Broadway Florist, a city force since 1923, did not get the lease renewal that had automatically happened their entire time at Polo Park. The 1000 feet main floor retailing spot and the 2000 square foot basement storage was withdrawn favour of 600 foot space beside Scotia Bank. Oh, and forget about the basement anymore too.

Not good enough for the Cholakis family who looked elsewhere and bought the Academy location where florists have existed for 60 years. At present it is Villa Flora. However, it used to be home to another longtime Winnipeg florist, Academy Florist.

Aside from Broadway Florists, Ben Moss has also moved in the store to a more central and larger location. They are using a new design that is being unrolled to the rest of their 63 locations.

The second location of Bath and Body Works just opened as well.

The big empty space of McNally Robinson will be occupied by Urban Planet. No word on whether they will use all 20,000 square feet of it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Winnipeg Convention Centre

With very little fanfare, debate or explanation, the Winnipeg Convention Centre is planning to move to the next level in its quest to expand the size of the 132,000 square foot facility. At a proposed $180 million the project is massive and the changes to the downtown and the city could be profound.

Since 1974, the Winnipeg Convention Centre has been responsible for some of the largest and most important gatherings of Canadians in history. It was there in 1983 that Joe Clark decided that he had not received enough of a mandate to continue as leader without a new leadership convention. This proved to be his undoing.

The annual conventions that take place at the facility each year have been a boon to business and tourism alike. Several hotels and restaurants make their year based on what happens at the Convention Centre.

In 1974, the building of such a large facility was a leap of faith. There was no other buildings of its size in Canada at the time and no one aside from the city seemed willing to finance the construction. It probably chafed some butt at City Hall to watch other cities receive oodles of provincial and federal cash to steal Winnipeg's lunch money.

There have been some naysayers at the Canadian Taxpayer's Federation at projects like the Convention Centre. They have proposed a scaled back expansion to save $54 million. Other critics have been less charitable and have wanted to scrap the expansion or to somehow get out of the money-losing convention business.

The justification for a convention center usually comes from its economic impact. Public ownership of the facility only make sense if the events generate revenue and profits for the private businesses that utilize the building. The people who advocate for private ownership of a convention center need to take into account that if the venue is a profit-based business, it will be intent on convention center profits.

This is not an unimportant point. The Winnipeg Convention Centre's strongest position doesn't come from how profitable the facility is but how much business it generates as a whole. In turn, this draws more taxes for government and more profits for business.

As difficult as it is to come up with good numbers of the Winnipeg Convention Centre's economic impact, there is no doubt that it does try to get maximal benefits to its users. It is for this reason that all three levels of governments have ponied up.

Still, the concerns of the Canadian Taxpayer's Federation should not be dismissed. While maximal profit-making should be left to the hotels and their meeting and banquets business, the Winnipeg Convention Centre should try to mitigate the operating losses.

In the past they did this with a mix of retailing, movie theatre and hosting a temporary casino.

Retailing will continue to help pay the freight but the big ticket item is likely to be a hotel connected to or on top of the Convention Centre paying rent. This is in the plans for the present expansion although the details are fairly sketchy.

In terms of what the Winnipeg Convention Centre does for the downtown, it cannot be denied that until the MTS Centre was built, there was not one city property aside from the Millenium Library that drew such consistent numbers of people to the area. However, unlike the library, many of the people who come to the Convention Centre often stay in hotels and use the restaurants in the area as well.

It is without doubt that of the two, the Convention Centre has a bigger wallop.

The unfortunate thing about city facilities such as City Hall, library and Convention Centre is that while they are all downtown, they lack synergy because they are all spread out over a great distance. It has taken till 2010 to even connect up the walkway system so that library and Convention Center are attached.

There is nothing to be done about about how spread out things are except try to coordinate efforts. It is surprising even know how things run at cross purposes or from one crisis to another sometimes. The SHED (Sports, hospitality and entertainment district) program appears to be one way to link things up. Still, at 11 blocks and incorporating theatres north of Portage Avenue and all the way down to the Convention Centre, it is lot of real estate to connect the dots.

And whenever possible, it is important to remember that the downtown is also a good area for office buildings. It is still remarkable to me that Western Financial was lost to the Polo Park area and that no one talked to them from the downtown agencies. Missed opportunity when you consider that Stantec was negotiating around the same time to build across from the MTS Centre.

It will be interesting to see how the Convention Centre looks when all the tenders are in and the actual building design comes in.

It would be good to see some projects fulfill the potential many believed they had from the beginning.