Monday, April 23, 2012

Bridgwater 2 - Waverley West

Bridgwater Centre

Bridgwater, this is the subdivision that is trying a few things differently.

The sidewalks for the residential area and the condos and multi-unit dwellings at the gate entrances are indeed a change from past developments.

One big failure of the residential component was not making an all out attempt at geo-thermal heating. The province blinked when they realized they needed a closed system because the water outside was too salty. The province, desperate for funds that the development gives them backed away from geo-thermal. Only a small area of the residential construction will have geo-thermal units rather than the whole development.

I think this just adds to the failure of the NDP government's promises on emissions where Gary Doer said if the government does not live up to the promise that they deserved to be defeated. Well, that was the last election and he wasn't there to face the electorate. And the promise on emissions was glossed over.

Still, there are a few elements of the development that are different that are worth considering. The Bridgwater Town Centre is being incorporated into the design of the subdivision running between the extension of Kenaston/Route 90. The development will include commercial, residential, retail and office space. By my count that is 1000 units of multi-family dwellings in a subdivision that until a few years ago would include none.

This seems important when you look at Whyte Ridge just down the street where there is full on protest about a condo complex going up just outside the fenceline. All cities have had city planning lest they want to have something like the Great Fire of London. Completely unregulated organic growth can be as bad as rigid planning. It is a balancing act and the repugnance for some about suburbia has to be measured by needs and wants.

If you don't build a subdivision you risk migration to areas just outside the city that might only be too willing to build. Impossible? Well, we see the province allow it every year and see it tax our road and infrastructure along the way. Winnipeg's urban planning is not just a city responsibility but a provincial one. And the province has shown an inclination to to let exurbia grow and grow. One wonders what our urban MLAs are doing. They outnumber our city councillors yet don't do more to ensure that the province makes sure that it doesn't contribute to poor planning.

In any event, the city competes with surrounding municipalities who have the province's blessing to build pretty much on city limits. The city of Winnipeg's response has to be to use land it has within its limits to suit the needs and wants of the citizenry while not overtaxing the system. It isn't an easy task and people in older areas of the city often feel anger at those in newer areas who drive through their neighbourhoods at high speed to get home. The division between urban and suburban grows greater. The Bridgwater Town Center could address the issue of a better mixed use than we have seen in a long while. There will always be architecture sneering. However, neighbourhoods evolve over years with expansions, paint, roofing and what might have been similar at the start, is not what it is now. Witness Wolseley and River Heights. It is difficult to see how Kenaston will split off and head down to the Perimeter in this development but the pictures above show that the town center is to between the split. Some have criticized this and there may be some justification if it isn't easy or safe for people living in the center to cross the road and access trails and sidewalks. Jury is still out on that one. However, in principle, it looks good and could be a useful density to ensure transit has a hub to work from.

 Kenaston remains a problem for the city. I don't blame Bridgwater for that. The blame lies with the city, the province and to some extent, the federal government for not investing in infrastructure and transit. I have be-moaned the loss of the CN line in River Heights and St. James as a huge loss for north south pedestrian and bike traffic. Short sightened, selfish and plain wrong resident of River Heights now have condos along that line. The smugness that once existed about foiling a low impact bike path but seem fairly bitter now. Once again, let's look at Bridgwater with its bike paths and pedestrian sidewalks. Now, which subdivision has it right and which one has it wrong?

So, for the time being, I look at Bridgwater and have no major beefs with it.

However, to the city I say: Develop and finance a good transportation and infrastructural plan for the city or risk electoral wrath.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Victoria Secret to Open in Polo Park

For some time Victoria Secret has wanted to open in Polo Park. As leases comes to an end for other retailers, especially Canadian ones, U.S. retailers have moved in hard

The closing of Victoria Secret's sister company La Senza Express was a good indication that something was afoot as well as moving signs for Cleo's and Ricki's.

Expect sometime in the summer once the above stores have moved for a fairly large Victoria Secret to open.

And the makeover for Polo Park continues.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Lowe's Coming to Seasons of Tuxedo

Overhead view of IKEA under construction
Back in March, it looked like the cat had been let out of the bag about the next retailer to move into Seasons of Tuxedo.

In March, Montez Core Income Trust bought 40% of Seasons of Tuxedo. In the process, they made this announcement:

Located at the corner of Sterling Lyon Parkway and Kenaston Boulevard in the city's southwest quadrant, it is a planned 1.5 million s.f. project on just under 200 acres. This is a new greenfield development and the Fund is participating in the southern half of the project which is an 834,000 s.f. outdoor centre shadow anchored by a 395,000 s.f. IKEA, a 77,000 s.f. Cabela's and a 100,000 s.f. home improvement retailer.

Um, the only official announcement has been Ikea and Cabela's.

Now, just down the street and both a Rona and a Home Depot sooo.. it won't be either of these big boxes going in.

This leaves Lowe's. We are the only province east of Quebec without one.

I won't say Menard's because I don't think they could open in the city without a distribution center for Canada.

So, you heard here first: Lowe's coming to Season of Tuxedo.

Inspiral Carpets - This Is How It Feels

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Violent Reaction in Whyte Ridge

The Southwest Corner of McGillivary and Dunkley Street

Look into the background and you can see Whyte Ridge. It is way back behind a fence.

A condo complex with no entrance into that subdivision warrants a 500 person petition and a verbally violent committee meeting where the police might have to intervene. Am I getting this right?

Assiniboia Community Committee of City Council - Councillors Paula Havixbeck, Grant Nordman and Scott Fielding approved a condo complex that seemed to go out of its way to ensure that it was not offensive. The step of having no entrance into the sub-division was a huge step. All traffic will enter and exit via McGillivary.

Now, I do have some thoughts on McGillvary. It is turning into a speedway to even further exurban subdivisions. Despite a recent widening, it may prove to be a bit tricky for left turns in.

However, one thing is obvious: Whyte Ridge's four lanes in and out to McGillivary is unaffected. They have controlled access to the McGillivary at Columbia Drive. They also have an entrance with lights to Kenaston at Scurfield.

So what is the concern of Whyte Ridge about a condo outside the fenceline and and away from its major traffic routes? Well, according to some people, it is a monolith looking into their yards? Really? I count maybe four or five house on Breckenridge Close and a few on Scurfield that are even close to the development. And these are pie-shaped lots with very large backyards.

How could a condo set back from the fence and houses set back from the fence upset one another? Even landscaping seems to be included that would mitigate consequences of overseeing one another?

It is hard to believe that Whyte Ridge wants a commercial development on the site. That is a realistic possibility given a movie theatre or Shopper's Drug Mart are down the street.

And what about runs past Breckenridge? It is high powered lines and a railyard? Aren't those far worse for the neighbourhood?

The old rail and Manitoba Hydro lines running past Whyte Ridge.

The site where the condo is getting is a mix of scrub bush, dirt or gravel road and a house and out buildings. It has a rural/industrial feel. And honestly, so close to Kenaston and being on McGillivary, it is hard to imagine it staying the way it is.

Perhaps, the residents of Whyte Ridge would like human remains to be kept there? No? Well, looky what goes up down the street next month.

St. Gianna's Church at the Corner of McGillvary and Columbia Drive

St. Gianna's Church goes up in a month. It is a $11 million Catholic Church with...

It will feature the first Columbarium Crypt in Canada. Yes, you read that right. A crypt. Of human remains. Beside Whyte Ridge.

Moreover, this is just phase 1.

Just imagining the cars involved. And those cars will be using an access point to Whyte Ridge.

There were no 500 person petitions against this church right up against the fences of houses in the community?

It is no wonder that city councillors were not swayed by extremely angry and possibly violent citizens. If this condo project could get turfed outside the fenceline, what next? Close the church? Pull the rail and hydro lines?

Come on Whyte Ridge? This isn't even inside the fenceline to your subdivision.

This reminds me of when The Keg got chased away from Waverley by Linden Woods residents because of people saying the smell of steak cooking across the street *opposite* the fenceline would make dogs nuts in the neighbourhood. I kid you not. That was what was in the meeting and Councillors backed down like a dog with its tail between its legs.

I hope the full city council takes the hysteria into account and ignores it. This project is not the end of the world for that neighbourhood.

It makes me think how smart it is to put condos and apartments in as a neighbourhood is being built as we are seeing in Bridgwater now.

Let this project be built. I'm sure that people now will be embarrassed later on about how they overreacted.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bridgwater - Waverley West

Back in 2009, some critics of Waverley West were giving an earful about the slow development of the area and that demand was not there and it was simply drawing people from elsewhere. With only around 75 housing starts there and no firms stats on just how much the city was growing, it was a fairly easy conclusion to make.

Winnipeg's slower growth, it was assumed, was going to mean that any new neighbourhood built was going to de-populate established neighbourhoods and contribute to sprawl. There was evidence in the 1980s and 1990s that this was happening.

What the statistics show is that Winnipeg's population is indeed growing and at a faster pace that we have seen in decades. This has led to demands for more housing. The changing demographics also have altered in some cases what sort of housing people are looking for. The biggest example of that is Waterfront Drive where no population existed a few years back and where the next census is likely to reveal thousands live there now.

Now, I am going to get into the overall and sometimes divisive debate in regards to urban versus suburban versus exurban versus rural. Suffice to say, it is difficult to to tell people where and how they can live. Truth of the matter is that even the oldest neighbourhoods started off as developments including Point Douglas. A great deal of thought needs to go into how the city develops because a too heavy handed approach will be ignored and a too light approach will result in a Sim City meltdown of the community.

The attractiveness of Point Douglas from early on, for example, was diminished by the quickly rising wealth of the city and an increase in house size.

This has been a trend that has manifested itself decade after decade although some evidence suggests that the trend could be changing due to an ageing population, smaller families, expense, transport energy cost, cultural mores and a whole host of other factors.

As mentioned, changes in people needs and desires is a moving target. And this has meant that a need and a desire for a development like Waterfront Drive arose.

The breakdown of Waterfront Drive home-owners is young professionals, people who have sold larger primary homes and want luxury but not on the size scale they might have had in Tuxedo or Linden Woods and lastly, people who work downtown.

However, this is not about urban versus suburban. It is about needs and wants in the population and how to manage those desires in terms of planning and costs.

The one thing I will say is that the government must ensure that the costs of such neighbourhood expansion are built into the development or it will not sustain itself and end up costing money later on. In other words, if taxes shoot through the roof as they did in the 1980s, there will be an inevitable exodus of tax dodgers running to places just outside city limits.

However, if you don't address the needs and wants of the population with a development they like, you may also have an exodus of people outside of the city jurisdiction. And if poor city planning turns existing neighbourhoods into speedways to the suburbs, the older neighbourhoods will lose desirability and possibly become run down.

There is an element within the city that wants a sub-division like Bridgwater. It is no use getting angry at people who don't want to buy a re-sale market home, want a yard, want something new and so on and so on. The psychology of this is well documented if not well understood by those who don't share the thinking.

So, it is a balancing act for a city to provide disparate people who have various incomes and several needs and want, the right make-up for a successful community.

In terms of Bridgwater, the expense of getting there is not fully costed. Route 90/Kenaston has not even given a budget for replacing the St. James Bridge or expansion of the road to three lanes in each direction. Already, tens of millions has been spent on expanding around Kenaston Commons and Ikea. All told, it may that costs climb to few hundred million. That isn't just idle talk either. The cost of a road construction as a rule of thumb is $1 million per kilometer. Add the cost of the bridge is and it is huge money.

Why bring this up in relation to Bridgwater? Well, the success of the place could and will be affected by people trying to get in and out of there. If everything bottlenecks, there will be a rising fury about it and people may just decide to bypass the area for housing, shopping and recreation.

The synchronized lights have rarely worked since being installed and more and more traffic lights go up all the time. More businesses have gone up in the business parks along Kenaston all the time. Canadian Western Bank is under construction by Tim Horton's in the GoodLife Fitness parking lot. It is a zoo in the that area every evening.

So, back to Bridgwater...

It is proceeding rapidly now. Just how fast? Well, I see clients with street names listed that I don't have a clue where they are. You can't even Google where they live since it was just a field a few months ago.

And what of the development itself?

What special attractions does it offer that will inspire the same loyalties we see in those who live in River Heights, Charleswood, St. James, Wildwood Park or Transcona?

For example, River Heights has its stately homes and tree-lines streets, Charleswood has the ditches, gravel roads and rural feel, St. James was the first to have winding roads and larger yards, Wildwood Park with its backlanes and front of the house facing a park and Transcona with its affordable homes and community ties.

Well, it would appear that the the winding road one might expect in Linden Woods and Whyte Ridge are there. Likewise, the lakes and parks with trails. However, the community also has sidewalks for the streets which have not been in style in nearly fifty years. A component of green space forest exists and trails runs through it. And like a lot of suburbs, fencing and berms for sound and visual privacy surround the neighbourhood.

So what else is new? Well, unlike its suburban counterparts, there are condos and townhouses within the fencing of Bridgwater. The big fights about a condo going up in Linden Woods are not happening here because there multi-unit buildings are up even before the regular housing is. Significantly, the condos are up near the entrances to the sub-division. If residents do seek to use transit, there may be numbers to support it just outside on Waverley.

One of the things promoted in the development is the idea of a town center. Most suburbs shun anything of the kind. A few critics have scoffed at the whole thing.

To be continued in part 2.