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.

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