Thursday, December 27, 2012

Charleswood Traffic Part 1

The Corner of Grant and Shaftesbury
The corner of Laxdal and Grant
The Corner of Cathcart and Grant
On December 4 at the community committee for Assiniboia, the consultancy firm MMM submitted their report to the city in regards to traffic in Charleswood. This work is in preparation for the extension of the William R. Clement Parkway and development of housing in the area in the next several years.

As anyone on Grant Avenue will tell you, the street is becoming the main thoroughfare for the area and beyond. The sleeper communities of Headingley and other places that hug the Perimeter Highway use Grant/Roblin Boulevard as a speedway to get out of town.

The problem of course is that many schools, seniors homes, apartments and housing line the street which means 80 kms is out of the question. That doesn't mean people will not attempt to try.  Subsequently, there are above average accidents happening all along the street.

The IKEA Seasons of Tuxedo have had an immediate fallout for traffic along Shaftesbury Blvd. Despite changes to the intersection and a widening of the road on all sides to meet the now twinned Sterling Lyon Parkway, it doesn't address that Shaftesbury itself is only two lanes all the way to Assiniboine Park.

Holy crazy traffic and potential accidents! Shaftesbury and Grant Avenue is home to two schools, one university and one church and community hall. There are buses parked out on both sides of Grant and parents dropping kids off, people turning into the schools.

The recommendation from MMM is the build a $7 million twinning of Shaftesbury from Wilkes to Grant Avenue and monitor the intersection at the schools corner for further changes. One of the other recommendations is to twin Shaftesbury all the way to Assiniboine Park at Roblin Blvd.

As with all road improvements, the question has to be asked: If these changes are to be made, does it just increase traffic even more. The answer is probably yes.

The Canadian Mennonite University is already planning their response to the traffic along Grant. It is in the form of an overpass for a future building on the north side of the street.

Schools all over Winnipeg are running into the drop off and pick up issue with parents double and triple parking. Two to four buses can be parked on Grant Avenue waiting for students at the various schools on that corner.

Bower Street between Shaftesbury and St. Paul's High Schools

Seems to me the solution for the high schools is a bus loop, parent drop off and pick section on Bower. It is already used for that purpose. Get it done.

As for the university, ask them if they would like a bus loop along Shaftesbury on the north and south sides. Parents dropping off kids is less of a concern for that campus. However, good bus connections are always welcome.

And whether CMU knows it or not, they are going to lose their boulevard and maybe a small part of their lots when Shaftesbury is twinned.

Shaftesbury between CMU and Shaftesbury High School
As anyone can see, there is no room to widen to the east of Shaftesbury. This means it must happen west. Could the city sweeten the pot with bus loops for the campus students?

I am no traffic engineer but it seems that it is important to have good lines of sight all along an intersection with as many students as we see as well as bike and foot traffic headed to the park.

The solution is NOT high speed roads at that intersection in all directions. The solution will be to remove parked buses, parents dropping off kids and other road blocking impediments that cause people to change lanes erratically and blindly.

Continued in Part 2

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pat Martin

Pat Martin...Before and After Christmas Season

Pat Martin courts controversy. As an Opposition MP, he has come to realize that theatrics are sometimes the only way to get noticed in the world. The problem is that the theatrics displayed by Martin are laced with violent anger and menace. While this might play well in an alcohol filled night at the union hall, it doesn't sit well with grandma around the Christmas table. She would have pulled Martin by the ear and washed his mouth out with soap.

Anger has marked many of the outbursts we have seen from Pat Martin. I don't know that Jack Layton ever dressed him down but Tom Mulcair, who has gone through a makeover to soften his how fiery persona, probably has told Martin to cool it.

The latest late night Twitter blast from Martin resulted in a half hearted apology and a deletion of his account. If only it were that easy to correct his regular outbursts. He does no credit to the NDP and certainly shows he is not a future cabinet minister in waiting or representing a government in waiting.

There are only two NDP members from Manitoba. Care to guess which one has the inside track on a cabinet position if the party ever forms government? It is Nikki Ashton up in Churchill. I can imagine that make Martin very mad. Or he is content to knock about like a bull in a china shop?

Every time Pat Martin explodes, it draws focus to his actual duty as a MP for Winnipeg Centre. This isn't always a good thing. The attention is often drawn that he doesn't live in the riding according to one radio station? Where does he live? By all accounts...out west on the coast. Is this true? I have idea but it draws comparisons to a certain mayor who resides as much as possible under the tax laws in Arizona.

And what of his achievements as MP? Well, Martin would probably point to getting Gordon Bell High School the sports field on the old Midway Chrysler lot or getting the government to drop the penny. Well, let us look at those particular things. In terms of Gordon Bell, Martin was asleep at the wheel when the much better suited Murray Chevrolet lot across was available. And it was students at Gordon Bell who advocated for a sports field when people like Martin let them down. As for the penny, it will end up costing way more than anyone thought possible when eliminating it. Like a lot of NDP ideas, expect to pay more for them in the end.

So what can we expect of Pat Martin in the future? Well, so looks like more of the same. He is likely to blame others for his violent outbursts and anger. He will still take his riding for granted and think they don't really care where he he lives. And he will continue to miss critical issues in his riding or propose policy ideas that cost lots of money.

To the NDP, I ask: Is this the best you can do? If Winnipeg Centre is one of the safer ridings in the country for your party, why put an inferior product out front? Perhaps nothing can be learned from the NDP defeat in Transcona. True, robocalls might have played a part but did anyone in the NDP think that Jim Maloway was the best you had to run there? And now he is back to provincial politics and likely to sit on the back bench forever as no one thinks to ever put him in cabinet. The NDP lost one of the safest ridings in Canada because they took it for granted. Could this be true for Winnipeg Centre in the future as well?

Pat Martin cannot help but be Pat Martin. It is up to the NDP to decide if this is good enough for them because it is the party that this reflects very badly on.

If the NDP can't pull their heads out of their backsides, they find themselves shut out of Manitoba in the same way they are shut out of Saskatchewan. They need better MPs if they ever hope to form and keep in government.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Kapyong, Kapyong, Kapyong

The battle for Kapyong continues.

It has been characterized in the media again as a victory for the First Nations against the federal government. But it is more complicated than that.

What the federal ruling said was that the federal government must negotiate in a meaningful way with First Nations in regards to surplus land as part of a 1997 agreement. The land claim is not settled. No transfer was ordered. In fact, the judge stated clearly that no transfer to First Nations was automatically in the offing. Further legal wrangling was suggested as being a possible outcome.

In layman's terms, no deal happening yet.

The court says talk. Or appeal to a higher court. We'll see.

The Princess Patricias left the base in 2004 for CFB Shilo. The Liberal government had been in contact with the First Nations in regards to the land from 2001 to 2004 about its disposition. However, it should be noted that Liberal MPs in Manitoba were far more focused on not seeing all of Manitoba's military bases close.

In 1992, CFB Portage la Prairie closed. And in 2001, CFB Shilo sat empty after Germany repatriated training to home territory. They had used the base for thousands from 1974 onward.

CFB Winnipeg's Kapyongs Barracks required costly upgrades and the feeling was that moving the Princess Patricia's to Edmonton to join the rest of the battalion was the best option.

The Free Press mentions that some Liberals were involved in that discussion surrounding the base and the military unit. This is true. However, let's not forget the timeline. Lloyd Axworthy left Ottawa in 2000. At no time would he have had the chance to discuss what was to happen to Kapyong. Ron Duhamel died in 2002 and was sick in that year. Rey Paktagan lost his seat in 2004, the year the Princess Patricia's left the barracks.

My understanding is the latter two Liberal MPs were part of the caucus push to save the military presence in Manitoba. And to that end, they were successful in halting the transfer of the Princess Patricia's to Edmonton along with the area MPs Reg Alcock and Anita Neville.

There were some preliminary discussions in regards to the lands from 2001 to 2004 between but no one was sure exactly how much land might be available or might be absorbed by CFB Winnipeg's military air unit. In other words, the thinking was that some of the land would become surplus but the houses and possibly Lipsett Hall would still be needed by the base. And in fact, that has been the case. Many of the military houses are in fact occupied by Royal Canadian Air Force members.

Lipsett Hall was used up till 2009 by Canada's national volleyball team.

It is fair to say that no discussions of any kind took place in 2005. However, it can also be said that the Liberal government at the time was not attempting to sell or transfer the lands either.

Or were they? If we accept that the 1997 federal obligation was to negotiate land settlements for surplus land and that Kapyong was declared surplus in 2001 with final departure of the military from the site in 2004, how is it that part of the base was transferred to the city of Winnipeg in that year for construction of the Kenaston underpass?

 Kenaston Underpass, land transferred to the city in 2004

If you examine the picture above, you will note that land on both the west and east side was transferred to the city for the underpass.

Now this was Reg Alcock's main infrastructure project and it required land from the military base to achieve it. Additional lanes were carved out of the east and west side of the base. The underpass cost $43 million and built between 2004 and 2006.

Now my question is: If the base was declared surplus in 2001 and the military left in 2004, how is it part of the base was sold to the city that year? Who was paid for it? The military? The federal government? No money changed hands?

Now, I am not arguing against the underpass. Anyone who waited for two trains to pass only to get hit by a third train probably fully understands why the need was there. But how was the land made available?

If it was so easy to transfer land without dealing with surplus land issue, why couldn't the city get three lanes each way all down Kenaston?

The only conclusion I can make is that the land was kept off the books when it  transferred to the city. Because in all honesty, shouldn't the land have been part of the overall surplus Kapyong property?

Makes for an interesting legal argument, doesn't it.

But let's get back to the Free Press and Liberals in regards to Kapyong. At least one of the Liberals mentioned could have had nothing to do with Kapyong being declared surplus and other two were out office by 2004 while the base was still in use.

If Reg Alcock were alive, it might be revealing to ask how Kapyong land was extracted for the underpass.

By 2006, the Liberals were out of office. Why did nothing happen with the base in 2005? My only conclusion is that everyone was distracted by the impending election. And with the underpass under construction through till 2006, it is possible the Liberals didn't want questions about they sold part of the base already under our noses.

It is only in 2007 when the Harper Tories began the transfer of the base as a whole to Canada Lands without consulting the First Nations that the real proverbial pile hit the fan. Unlike prior Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments that signed agreements to transfer urban lands to First Nations, Vic Toews sought to sell the land as strategic land rather than surplus land.

In the end, the court in 2012 believes the government failed in its obligation under Treaty 1 to negotiate meaningfully.

And round and round it goes.

This has been through three rounds in the courts. More could come.

The resignation of the PC Youth president over inflammatory remarks that some say are racist demonstrates the mindset in regards to a possible land transfer of Kapyong to First Nations. Even aboriginal leaders are sensitive to the use of "urban reserve" lest people believe the negative connotations of what reserves are like in Manitoba. Most leaders are careful to indicate that the area would be an economic zone not a transfer of the reserve population from old reserve to new reserve.

To be blunt, the First Nations want the land to generate income.

It remains to be seen whether a deal can be made. The fears are through the roof that Kapyong might be full of crime, protests, roadblocks, poverty and who knows what else.

I don't think it will be but the Harper government certainly is acting like the last thing they want to see is the First Nations get the land.

I think in the end, Winnipeggers want the land used wisely and that the Kenaston be widened. Throw in a service agreement for water, sewer and roads and city politicians should say: "done deal."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Polo Park Traffic Congestion

St. Matthews at Polo Park. Blocked by a dance school

St. Matthews is not a direct intersection

I have written a lot about Polo Park over the years. It has become in my lifetime the central shopping district so much so that it has squeezed out its entertainment neighbours of hockey and football.

There has been some sullenness about consumerism and moving people from box store to box store and I get that. However, the city was started as a trading area and remains a commercial city to this day. How soon we forget that Portage and Main began when one merchant tramped his way to that road corner thumbing his nose at convention and damned the fact that the infrastructure was elsewhere.

 City planning can be organic or a technical and political process. Wrong decisions by the public or the private sector can prove costly. And it doesn't always have to be about commercial losses or tax revenue. It can be about disease and fire as we have seen from the great cities of London and Chicago.

The Bartley Kives article on what is happening in Polo Park  on improving traffic points out that Sam Katz has put a lot of stock into moving cars around the city. He is correct. The amount of time spent on synchronizing traffic lights is $12 million. The amount on Polo Park traffic enhancement will be $30 million.

And the sad thing is that on streets where we want faster flow as motorists, more traffic lights are going up. The example for this is Kenaston where there are a many more intersections and traffic lights.

For purely self interested reasons, most people want to be able to step out of their house when they want, go where they want and do it as fast as they want. Faster is better.

Many cities have tried to accommodate that and have built infrastructure to achieve that. However, like healthcare, it can break the budget if we don't control ourselves. In other words, if we don't take some responsibility for our own decisions, we can expect it may cost us more time and money in the end.

By way of example: If you move to Waverley West, don't be surprised if there isn't a school or daycare right away and that you are caught in traffic. Despite tens of millions being spent, the roads still can't handle the cars and budgets for building several schools.

Politicians and city planners satisfy this demand will never be able to keep up. And like Sim City, riots and fires will erupt.

That is not to say that infrastructure changed around Polo Park are not necessary.  While the Free Press mentions that the route from downtown to Transcona and downtown to University of Manitoba are listed as higher priorities, the area around Polo Park has remained pretty much as we see it now for decades aside from Silver Avenue being extended and a center turning lane on St. James Street.

I think we can say safely that tens of millions more have been spent on Regent and Pembina Highway.

But that is neither here nor there. The city has infrastructure needs all over the place as a result of low density, low investment and poor planning. And as much blame lays with the city, the province is just as much guilty as they pick and choose their own projects and act as developer as they are in Waverly West.

I do want the city to invest in rapid transit. We have waited far too long to do anything and have let valuable rail lands be bought up for various of developments rather that grabbing them even if it was future use as bus or light rail corridor. At the very least they should have been used as pedestrian and bike corridors. The Oak Bank line through Polo Park and River Heights comes to mind.

But as I said, recriminations can wait.

The question was: Does Polo Park warrant $30 million in infrastructure improvements? The answer is yes.

One big change mentioned was to extend St. Matthews Avenue. This is good except for the fact that like Silver Avenue's extension, it doesn't meet up in a true intersection. A retail strip blocks a true connection. Now, I am not a traffic engineer but it doesn't take a genius to think that a solution might be to curve the street through the stadium site and the retail building. However, that seems unlikely as the city usually takes the past of least resistance.

In short, it will be a Route 90 to St. James extension and a bit of a mash up with poor turning lanes and a pile up at the new Target. That is my guess.

There is talk about Ellice at St. James and changes there. The lack of turning lanes means left and right lanes are blocked through a few light cycles.

One thing I considered might be an interesting possibility is making Empress one way from St. Matthews north to Sargent and Milt Stegall Drive one way from Sargent south to St. Matthews. If you look at what it might entail, I am sure most people might find it intriguing.

In principle, I am not huge on one way streets. I think we have far too many of them downtown and many should be turned back to two way. However, they do have their place and this might be one case as Empress is very narrow and cars turning left at Ellice or into Walmart cause chaos.

So some the stores along Empress such as Walmart are not nice to be around a lot of the time because the two way traffic along the street is brutal.

The city must start taking a principled stand on developers creating turning lanes on their property, landscaping and burying hydro poles on their streets before getting their approvals.

To the people who say this can't be done without driving away business, the argument is bogus. Look at Grand Forks and Fargo to see how the malls there have managed traffic.

The city already has a policy about drive-thrus to prevent places like Tim Horton's having traffic lined up 20 cars deep on Kenaston. The line-ups must take place on the restaurant's property.

It is early stages on what will happen with traffic at Polo Park. At the very least, I want it to be less dangerous.

As far as other traffic issues and rapid transit, I suggest the province of Manitoba get off their butts and take ownership of the rapid transit issue. The University of Manitoba is a provincial institution. They province chose to put it at the tail end of the city. They ought to build the rapid connection to it or at least a large share of it.

And for God's sake, stop letting abandoned rail lands get taken up for development. If Burlington Northern or CP ever give up their rail lines or land, buy the property! If not now, it will be sometime soon that it serves the interest of city and province.

The best development in the city of Winnipeg has been The Forks and that was federally driven with the province and the city along as partners. I think that success can be duplicated. Might be good to see what sort of transportation plan might originate from such a partnership.

However, back to Polo Park: There is without question good reasons to work on the road in the area. We just have to ensure the developers are paying a lot of the freight in terms of traffic so that turning lanes and service roads are part of the solution.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Why I Support Marc Garneau

Let Science Lead the Way

The Liberal Party of Canada is the midst of a leadership campaign. There have been several candidates to declare and so far, unlike the past leadership campaign. In 2009, Michael Ignatieff had the field cleared for him by other Liberals who feared his front runner status or who were crippled under debt from the past election and past leadership races.

The elevation of Ignatieff without a race did not serve the leader, the party or Canadians well. It didn't allow for debate on issues, test the themes a future campaign might take across Canada and work out the kinks in the party in regards to its past and future. The media calling it a coronation stuck and there was the criticism that the Liberals that their star would sweep them back into office.

The crippled Liberal finances and organization were no match for the Tories who began the campaign early attacking Ignatieff's foreign work experience and celebrity with: "He didn't come back for you."

Despite momentum leading up to the last election, Ignatieff had never tapped into the populism of past leaders. Nor was he able to deflect or answer easily questions about his attendance in the House of Commons from Jack Layton during the debate.

The answer quite simply was that he had to get out of Ottawa and into the field to listen to Canadians and get a sense of what they needed from their government. In that sense, it is not much different than other Opposition leaders shortly after being made leader or from what happens in a leadership campaign. The past NDP leadership campaign is a case in point.

In any event, water under the bridge.

The Liberal leadership campaign at present is being held without the threat of an impending election (unless Harper wants to call a snap one since the legislation allows for it). This means that there is no rush to coronate a leader to face off in Parliament at the earliest possible time.

As mentioned, there have been several candidates to declare this time for the Liberal leadership. Justin Trudeau is perceived to be the front runner and has attracted much attention.

However, it is great to see Marc Garneau step up and declare his candidacy as well.

At this point in the race, I am supporting him.

In this day and age in Canada where science and expertise in various fields is under attack, I want a man of science to counter that criticism with reason and experience. In 1984, Marc Garneau was the first Canadian to go into space as an astronaut. He went on two other additional missions and served as Capcom, the lead communications officer for other NASA shuttle missions.

Prior to being an astronaut, Garneau served for 12 years in Canada's navy rising to Captain.

At the time he entered politics he had been serving as head of the Canadian Space Agency for five years.

In 2008, Marc Garneau became a Liberal Member of Parliament and has served with two Liberal leaders and has distinguished himself as a calm and reasoned voice in Ottawa. He is not tainted by involvement with past Liberal governments provincially or federally. He has a decorated career in the military lest someone question if he ever had a job. And if anyone questions his courage, he went into space two more times after a shuttle disaster in 1986.

In just a short time, Garneau has indicated policy ideas on such things as cell phones that has stumped the Harper Tories the past 6 years. Even the National Post has taken notice.

I am sure there are flaws in Marc Garneau the candidate but I am supporting him and his effort to raise the level of discussion in Canada. He has the makings of a great leader.

And clever catchphrases such as: "He didn't back to Earth for you" are not likely to cut it from Harper Tories.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Apartments Downtown

Place Louis Riel Hotel in Downtown Winnipeg

A combination of factors is responsible for new apartment buildings going up in downtown Winnipeg.

The latest news is that Place Louis Riel Hotel is being converted into apartments following on the heels of York the Hotel (formerly the Sheraton Hotel). In the case of the York, it was cut loose from the Sheraton group due to room size which was a little larger because the hotel was once an apartment block. After a brave attempt to go it alone with a name change and upgrades, it was decided that maybe a move back to apartments was in order. In retrospect, it is a wonder that the 271 room hotel was not made into condos. All this happened around 2008/2009.

Place Louis Riel has been an all suite hotel in the city for decades. Notably it has been a place where the movie industry goes back to repeatedly to house crew who are in town to shoot for weeks. It has also served in recent years as a respite for displaced rural and First Nations people when disaster such as flooding has happened. In fact many aboriginal people have used the hotel as a base due to its location near federal and provincial offices dealing with northern and First Nations affairs.

My impression is that the hotel has made a good go of it. They found their niche, they kept up their facility, had a good and experienced staff and filled their rooms.

However, the writing was on the wall. There has been a hotel building boom going on for some time in the city including some all suite hotels such as the Mainstay Suites near the airport.

Place Louis Riel, built in 1970 and converted into a hotel in the 1980s, was showing its age a bit in terms of the exterior. And despite a valiant effort to upgrade to the 302 units, it was probably thought that there were too many newer  and competing hotels coming on the market. Moreover, the move of aboriginal governance to Polo Park in the near future robs the hotel of stable client base.

And this may be the underlying story for some other hotels downtown including the Marlborough Hotel.  If aboriginal governance moves to the Polo Park area, does it make sense to stay in hotels downtown? With this is mind, the Edmonton-based owners have decided to get ahead of the game and convert Place Louis Riel back to studio, one and two bedroom units.

It is likely that the venture will be a success since there is a crying need for apartment blocks in Winnipeg due to low vacancy and a steadier economy.

And Place Louis Riel is not the only apartments coming. The snail's pace development of the Assiniboine Avenue apartment seems to have picked up pace. This is no fault of Crystal developers but more on the city who can't seem stop intervening, blocking or dragging out the highrise apartment.

Moreover, an Ontario company has indicated they are looking to invest $80 million for two high rise apartments on a surface lot downtown. Details are very light right now. If true, this will be the largest addition of apartments to the area since the 1980s.

It will be interesting to see how the pieces fit together and whether there will further announcements but the combination of work around the MTS Centre and the Convention Centre and several apartments, hotels and the like could spur other investment to follow.

Let's hope the Jets season comes back soon as this has been an element in bringing people to the area.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Deal for Kapyong Barracks Site?

Kapyong Barracks

The base has been empty since 2004 and it was in 2009 that Vic Toews said that it was a done deal that the land was going from Department of Defence to Canada Lands for development. A number of First Nations cried foul and a judge agreed that consultations were necessary as part of Treaty 1 land settlements.

However, this was not the full victory that has been characterized this week by some in the media. The judge's decision was two-fold: He said that the federal government must negotiate in good faith with First Nations and because they hadn't, the feds had to pay the legal costs for both sides. The judge also told the First Nations that their expectation of the land being handed to them directly at no cost was not explicit in the treaty arrangements. He then said the group would have to come back to the court and argue their right to land as well. To be honest, a confusing result that no one could hang their hat on.

In the end, the court told both parties to negotiate a deal and if one could not be reached, the court would hear arguments again this December.

In short, no one knows what the court was about to decide.

The First Nations could have been told they had a chance to make a deal and better luck next time or the feds could have been told they were arguing in bad faith and a deal must be struck by a certain time. And I don't think either side wanted to find out what a judge thought.

The land was once valued at $8.5 million and presently costs $2 million a year to maintain. It is in disrepair and will only get worse. Add to the cost will be site clearance and remediation efforts. Want to know what that might be like? Ask IKEA developers who are in court about what CN Rail left for them.

In the end, it looks like the First Nations are considering an offer for half the land for an urban reserve. No one knows what part of the site is being talked about. It may be this is the more affordable option if the group is buying the land.

From the city of Winnipeg's perspective, they are interested in two things right away: They want to buy land for road expansion for three lanes in each direction on Kenaston. Second, they want to sign an agreement with any First Nation development that will pay for service agreements to the land. In other words, the same settlement that property tax would cover for road, water, sewer and the like.

Understandably, there are questions about what will go up on the land and what sort of traffic might be involved. It is safe to say that and development on First Nations land is likely to center on how much return on investment will be derived from it. And to that end, expect retail and residential and maybe a hotel/casino.

Some of the commentary over the years has centered on fear and racism over what will happen to the site. I think pressure will come from First Nations themselves to make sure the site does extremely well.

Let's see if this deal happens. Some hardliners on both sides may still scuttle the talks.

Here's hoping for a solution...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Opening of IKEA

Winnipeg's IKEA snuck open Saturday for special guests. The restaurant continues to serve staff and construction people as they ready themselves for the big launch.

At night, the sign and the parking lot are lit up and people are at work even till late to meet the deadline.

As the big day nears, a lot of analysis of the development, the company and what it will mean or not mean for Winnipeg is being discussed by CBC and the Free Press. We are hearing a lot of new information attesting to the fact that the province and the city were trying to seal the deal long before the store announced they were coming.

The commentary is fair but the undertones of "Yes but..." abound both in professional coverage as well as reader comments. That's okay. Critical analysis should be afforded any public policy decision where sums of money are being spent and where people's lives are being affected.

Even with this analysis some commentary is running along the lines of this: "Sam Katz gets things done! Who cares how?" Or..."the NDP once again shows its superior management of the economy."

I expect we will lots of cheerleadingnaysaying and the like. We will also have people taking credit and those blaming.

In truth, they will all be correct.

There are a lot of things about what this deal is and what it isn't.

Here is what it is:

* A major private investment in retailing in Winnipeg totalling $400 million.
* A quick turnaround on reclaiming of rail yards abandoned by CN after 2002.
* A major traffic headache despite the $26.5 million investment in roads and intersections at Sterling Lyon and Kenaston.
* A feather in the cap for the city for getting IKEA and the crowds it can draw from far away.

Here is what it isn't:

* A civic or provincial economic strategy.

Despite how both the city and the province took credit for the Jets and how it may or may not have helped each win the elections, it didn't represent a strategy for the governments to ensure success for the future. Getting IKEA is important but not as good as having a plan to make the region economically successful all round.

* A transportation strategy for Kenaston traffic in Winnipeg.

The St. James Bridge, Kenaston between Ness and Taylor along with Kapyong Barracks and Kenaston south of Whyte Ridge to the Perimeter Highway are all in need of city, provincial and federal planning, financing and construction. If nothing is done soon, the traffic nightmares along this stretch of road will be become legendary and all those in political office will be blameworthy.

So...all in all, a few really good things and a enough bad things to make for headaches down road.

Consumer spending is the backbone to the economy right now and Manitoba has weathered better than some with people buying houses, renovations and items for their homes and family.

The arguments for and against IKEA are academic now. It is here and it is pretty undeniable that it is the cause of excitement. Nothing is likely to convince those who were opposed to the store in the beginning to like it now but you never know. I can still remember the resistance to Sunday shopping in the 1980s and how some of those who said they would never shop on that day now shop.

Things change. Notwithstanding IKEA's corporate record and haphazard city planning, it is very likely that the taxes paid by construction workers and for the supplies used in the store and roadwork has paid a significant chunk of the costs of the $26.5 million in road improvements. And if not this year then in the years ahead with having 300 employees at one store and the hundreds more who will be employed in construction, restaurants and stores in phase 2 and phase 3.

As far as IKEA's record goes, don't shop there. Or put pressure on them to do better. Some things are unforgivable for some people. My grandfather never drank Coke to the day he died because it was reserved for U.S. soldiers when he was in England as an officer during World War II. This was his choice and I understood it. I have heard similar stories of people not buying Japanese or German products due to the war.

At some point though, things change or ought to if we are to move on.

So, welcome IKEA.

We can all use some excitement and this will be an event but we can't rest on our laurels now.

That might be plainly demonstrated when we have city cops trying desperately to manage traffic the first few days.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Store and Restaurant Closing

KFC at Pembina Highway and Byng

Cosman Furniture at Princess and Ross

I often talk about store openings here but let's talk about the continued slide of KFC's fortunes in Winnipeg. It has been a couple of months since the closure of the KFC at Pembina and Byng. It would seem like it was a good location and has a drive thru but shuttered its doors like so many other fast food chicken places in the city.

It is hard to know if the trend in Winnipeg is to get your chicken as wings rather in the format of breasts, legs and larger wings or whether people are leaning towards a more casual dining experience like Swiss Chalet. Whatever the reason we have seen a steady retreat of fast food chicken joints.

I suspect the location on Pembina will be attractive to some fast food restaurant. Could this be the location of a future Harvey's? They have been looking all over the city for more locations.

Another business that closed down recently was Cosman's Furniture. They have been round a hundred years but the third generation owner has been spending time outside the province and wanted to fold the business. While the owner has said that things were going well, the business reviews have been anything but kind to the store. Now, it is hard to assess the validity of such reviews but they often refer to rudeness and disputes with the proprietor.

Cosman's leave behind a nifty little storefront. It could be the location for any number of businesses including a restaurant.

The only bad thing is the empty civic parkade that is likely going to have to be torn down if councillors ever get around to addressing that issue.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Marshalls Comes to Polo Park

Marshalls Comes to Polo Park North

The Seasons of Tuxedo is probably kicking themselves that phase 3 of their development won't be happening till later next year. There are several new malls that are competing with the large Kenaston development including the Polo North on the old Winnipeg Arena lands.

Until now, Polo North has mostly been about offices the CJOB and  Western Financial Group and their consolidation for multiple offices around town. CJOB grabbed up old CKY's building and studio and the rest of the development was slated for the space from the cleared arena.

A three story mixes use office and retail complex of 210,000 square feet has been under construction for some time. The facility will have Polo Park's first underground parking. The Western Financial Group will occupy all of the second and third stories and have a 4000 square foot window on the main floor.

The announcement that an Asian food grocery was to be on the site died a quiet death for unknown reasons.

Shindico announced today that Marshalls will open next year in 28,000 square feet of space right beside Silver City. The discount apparel maker is sister company to Winners and Home Sense. It will be the first location outside of Ontario for the U.S. based company to locate a store.

Marshalls has been on the list of retailers many Winnipeggers have wanted for fashion clothing over the years.

It joins in recent months, the arrival of Victoria Secret at Polo Park and the return of the Bombay store after an absence of a number of years. Slated to open soon is Suzy Shier, Swimco and Sirens, the last spaces to be filled before this Christmas season in the mall.

There are two more stores coming to Polo North in the next months. Without doubt there is a rush to try and nail down the best sores because of competition with Seasons of Tuxedo, the new development of the stadium site, Westport Festival and the expected announcement of Winnipeg's first factory outlet mall.

Expect more big announcements shortly.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Lowe's Home Improvement and Bouclair Seasons of Tuxedo

Lowe's Home Home Improvement Plan Approved.
Bouclair Sign Approved

The ads for IKEA are coming via print and television. They are cute, informative and keep emphasizing the opening day November 28. Every day and late into the night contractors and employees are working, training, assembling and stocking the building. If I had to guess if they were going to be ready, I would say no. However, this is what they do and come hell or high water...or snow, they will open on the day they say they will.

As mentioned here and from what everyone can observe for themselves, there is a whole lot of other construction going on that is nearing completion. The building beside IKEA is going through finishing touches. Although no official announcement has been made by the developer, it is now confirmed that Bouclair has applied to the city for two signs on the exterior of the building.

This is Bouclair's first Winnipeg location and they are a home decorating store so being this close to  IKEA is probably beyond their dreams.

The other store that has not officially announced they are coming but has submitted plans to the city is Lowe's Home Improvement. No word on when they will be built but sometime in 2013 is the word.

The opening date for Cabela's in May of 2013 but they are moving along so swiftly that it this could change.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Ikea Sign

Zombies Attack Winnipeg

Zombie Attack Started on Mountain Avenue, October 31, 2012... recovered footage

These reports were culled from tweets, emails, blogs and other online stories. Much of the mass media missed the earlier story as they were covering the IKEA opening across town.

* Tweet: Wow, just saw the police tape go up near Mom and Dad's Grocery on Mountain. Either that is blood all over or they had a sale on ketchup! #JustTypicalWinnipeg

* Tweet: I saw at least five or six bodies there. Cops all over the place! Ambulances took away a few of the injured.  This would never happen in Tuxedo. #WinnipegMurderCity

* Text: Mom, trapped in car on Main. Traffic backed up. Near Mountain and crime scene. Ick, get me out of here!

* Email:  I know you said the area would become the new Osborne but I don't remember the village having so many people aimlessly walking the streets.

* Tweet: Still trapped in traffic on Main. Going to miss IKEA opening. :( WTF, some guy on stretcher attacking cops!

* Blog: North End True Crime The police only got involved this morning with the attack on Main but as I reported a few days ago, there has been strange goings on in the neighbourhood all week. Every night from my basement window I see people shambling about and moaning. I know I have seen people lying out there in the night but in the morning they are gone! Thank goodness I have bars on the window. Every night someone has tried to get in.

* Tweet: A mob is attacking the police! Stuck in traffic on Main! #WinnipegRiot #StuckTrafficWinnipeg

* Email: I am hiding in a hospital clerk's office. It started this morning but it probably went on for some time before we knew about it. The ambulances from last night had to wait in the bays for hours to discharge their patients. We don't triage bite patients till more serious emerg people are dealt with first. When our security guard did open up the doors a flood of people rushed the door including paramedics! It was a mob attack! I still hear screaming far off. I don't dare open the door. I called the police but all I get is a fast busy signal. I called virology too because this looks like a blood borne infection. But what could do something like this?

* Blog: Politics in Winnipeg It is a full scale disaster in Winnipeg and the Mayor Sam Katz is at his home in Arizona. The Emergency Response Centre is being commanded by the only Councillor who could make it is: Jenny Gerbasi. She gave this surprising announcement: Shoot for the head! Some commentary I saw in tweets says she has alienated many of her NDP colleagues with her violent outburst. NDP activists have sent a humanitarian team to what is being called an "infected area."

* Tweet: Trapped in schoolbus surrounded by dead people. #SchoolSucks

* Blog: True North End Crime: It would appear that the NDP delegation was eaten.

* Tweet: You heard it here first. These are zombies. I am with Gerbasi: Shoot for the Head! #ShootForHead

* Email: We are using garbage containers as barricades! Since they have not been picked up for days, the garbage makes us smell like the dead.

* Blog: Politics in Winnipeg: Greg Selinger and the NDP issue news release that they won't interfere in what is a city matter. Selinger departed thereafter for a trade trip to Outer Mongolia.

* Tweet: The only safe place is downtown since no people are there! #Doughnut City

* Email: It looks like a herd of zombies is moving south. Could they be headed south for the winter?

 * Tweet: Trying to escape on rapid transit but we're all stuck here at Confusion Corner. #ConfusionCorner

* Blog: University Stud: I wasn't aware of the zombie attacks and quite frankly, I don't care. I'm not interested in politics.

* Tweet: The zombies are in Osborne Village! But first must get tights at American Apparel.

* Blog: In the Village: It appears the zombies have attacked the Osborne Inn and the fetish ball! Ooo, fishnet zombies.

* Tweet: Just saw Jenny Gerbasi atop a patrol car. Wow, she can really shoot. #ShootForHead

* Tweet: Zombies spotted in Polo Park! Trapped in Zellers! Wow, nice liquidation sale.

* Blog: Southie: It appears Jon Gerrard has the best approach to this zombie problem but can't a seconder in the Legislature. Plus, media attention is all on IKEA opening.

* Email: The zombies have crossed into southern and western Winnipeg. After some initial confusion about how to navigate the swirly streets of St. James, the zombie just headed down Portage Avenue and overwhelmed the evacuees as they tried to get on the Perimeter Highway.

* Tweet: Zombies speeding through River Heights. The traffic circles are jammed with cars and bikes!

* Blog; Southie: The reporters have their backs turned away from the zombies as they cover the IKEA opening. They are eating the reporters! Oh, the humanity.


Shortly after this phone and Internet was cut off from Winnipeg.