Thursday, June 28, 2012

Target to Abandon Polo Park Shopping Centre

Canad Inns Stadium

The rumour had always been that a large department store was going up on the site. Some hoped for Kohl's but the more likely candidate was always Target, a store that most certainly was going to find the Zeller's site at Polo Parking Shopping Centre too small to suit the needs of grocer and retail store.

Polo Park has been transforming itself in recent months. Target would drive traffic in the mall but but there might be a better match for the high fashion we are seeing now.

Cadillac Fairview and Shindico will partner up to develop the Canad Inns Stadium once the Blue Bombers decamp for University of Manitoba.

Just a guess but we could be seeing one of the first SuperTargets being constructed in Canada in early 2013.

As for the Zellers in the mall. It was scheduled to close once its stock was liquidated late in 2012.

What will happen to the old Zellers site? Can anyone say H&M Finally?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Downtown Winnipeg - MPIC Surface Lot

One of the proposals by developer Fresh for the the surface lot near MPIC

We still haven't heard any details about the MPIC proposal for their surface lots yet. However, one company released their drawings into the wild.

It is a conglomeration of buildings but appear to be a mix of retail, hotel, condos and offices. The store looks like a Sobey Express which would be a good addition to the downtown. A boutique hotel also appears in the pictures.

With all the the talk about surface lots, the activity surrounding the Winnipeg Convention Centre and Autopac's surface lots, this could be first time in decades that that the awful gap toothed holes could be filled.

Fingers crossed that the design and function fire the imagination.

On the whole, the plans needs to be to connect the pieces, add housing to each piece, get parking underground, increase density and to ensure that such a project contributes to a neighbourhood.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Seasons of Tuxedo - Tuxedo Business Center

Tuxedo Business Center Across from IKEA

Zoning was pushed through on the land immediately across from Ikea fairly quickly once plans had been made to start construction. In very late 2010, a Kal Tire was erected on the site. Now, as Ikea nears its opening date, new construction is set to begin shortly on Tuxedo Business Center.

The only tenant announced so far is an A&W Restaurant to be built beside the KAL Tire.

On the whole, the site is not very big and it is only accessible off of Lowson Crescent. Still, it is the first stage on what is likely massive changes on that corner in the next two years.

Friday, June 22, 2012

No Movie Theatres For Seasons of Tuxedo Site

AMC Theatres Beats Hasty Retreat From Canada

There are two movie theatre chains of any heft in Winnipeg. They are Cineplex and Empire Theatres. Today, it was learned that big U.S. chain AMC which had been edging into Canada (and seemed a likely candidate for the Seasons of Tuxedo on the Ikea site) has been sold to large large Chinese theatre owned Panda. The new owners appear to have to no interest in Canada and have sold off all their theatres to Cineplex and Empire.

The only Empire theatre in Winnipeg is at Grant Park Shopping Mall and had been owned by Cineplex until the Competition Bureau forced them to sell it as part of a merger between Cineplex Odeon and Famous Players years ago.

All along Seasons of Tuxedo has listed a movie theatre complex for future development. Now, with the loss of AMC, it remains to be seen whether Empire has a desire to build a large complex on the site. I say Empire because Cineplex is converting the Cinema City McGillivary into a first run movie theatre.

It is obvious that Cineplex didn't want a competitor at the Ikea site to eat into their movie business. The discount movie idea ends for the south side of the city when this theatre full switches over to new movies only.


Unless Empire remains a candidate. It is the only large movie theatre candidate for a theatre complex at Seasons of Tuxedo.

Will it happen? Hard to say? A theatre complex is also on the books for west Portage Avenue near the Red River Ex site. Will that be more desirable for either company?

Empire has seemed quite content to sit on on their Grant Park complex.

At the moment, Ikea has all four walls up and the roof almost in place. Not long from now, it will open. It remains to be seen whether the store will ever see a movie theatre as a neighbour.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Banana Republic and Michael Kors Coming to Winnipeg

The additions to Polo Park

Michael Kors will be opening on the second floor of Polo Park in the month of August. The sought after designer who dressed a stylish Rene Russo in The Thomas Crown Affair has a about a dozen stores across Canada but this will be the city's first location. The store specializes in clothing, handbags, shoes and other Kors designs. The store will be located near Lululemon and American Eagle.

For many young shoppers, it has been a long time coming to get a Banana Republic. It arrives at Polo Park around the same time as Michael Kors. The store will be located near by RW&Co. The company is owned by The Gap and sells more luxurious goods than its sister stores.

Polo Park continues to transform itself. More of the stores now will be international and exclusive to the mall.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Changes in Wolseley/West Broadway 5

Woodrow Place in Wolseley --- Priced at $595,00 to $695,000

Brother can you spare a dime? 

The first brownstone in Winnipeg and without doubt, the most expensive condos ever in to be built in Wolseley. Construction will start off Maryland along the Assiniboine River on Woodrow Place once pre-sales targets are met. Mulvey School sits across from the site. 

At the moment, five rental bungalow's sit on the site.

Fresh Projects Design Builders are the developers of the site and they say that there is demand for higher end condos in established neighbourhoods. Undoubtedly, this is true. I can imagine that someone selling a large riverside house in the Wolseley area might seriously consider such a condo rather than moving out of the area.

Some of the higher end prices we are seeing in Wolseley for homes are reaching $500,000., some up to $600,000. Thoughts that the granola belt was all lower priced homes, rooming houses and rentals should be dismissed out of hand.

There are some people deeply concerned with wealthy people moving into the neighbourhood. They shouldn't be. The best neighbourhoods are a mix of people and a mix of uses. A condo complex along this street raises the density over single family dwellings. It is a shame rental houses are lost but at the same time, it is important to constantly rehabilitate housing stock. We have seen what long term absentee ownership has done to some rental houses over time and it isn't pretty.

Ten years ago, we were very close to seeing some parts of the Sherbrook and Maryland Street areas becoming completely undesirable for housing or business. Some fires left gaps where houses once stood. There were rooming houses, rentals and massage parlours all along both streets. Violence was happening along the street around the hotel and some businesses. The prospects felt grim.

In 2007, a fire at Westminster and Sherbrook took out an older apartment block with some small businesses on the ground floor. It was rather sad and many thought the block would remain empty. It now has Stellla's and other restaurants on the site and that corner. 

Additional condos are all going up all along the street.

There is a new excitement in the area and it has built steadily over the last five or six years. 

No one be surprised if this area starts to bubble up and surpass Osborne Village in the next years. It is happening before our eyes.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The New Charleswood Police Station

The New Winnipeg Police Station in Charleswood

The city is moving to a four district police model just as soon as they can build a new police station. Old police stations at 210 Lyle Street (District 2) and 1350 Pembina Highway (District 6) will be closed and sold off. I am not sure why they are going to four districts. It is said that the old system reflected the 1971 pre-unicity municipal structure.

The city has already shed one district and is down to five presently. Already some of the divisions are freakishly huge.

That may well be. It should be noted that Calgary as 8 districts. Edmonton has 5. Saskatoon has 3. Regina recently increased from 2 to 3.

Also of interest is Saskatoon's soon to be completed headquarters at $122 million.

Winnipeg police headquarters has no guaranteed price tag and we may not hear a peep about what the final cost might be till after the next election.

In the last while, the city has undertaken the greatest police and fire infrastructure building program in decades. There is no doubt that some of the buildings date back quite some time. Still, the perfect synergy of demand for more police and fire service, the power of police and fire unions and low interest rates have meant city officials are jumping on the bandwagon to build new facilities or renovate other ones.

In many cases, the city has been funding these buildings with Private Public P3 partnerships that might run past the lifetimes of the present councillors.

The province is examining how these partnerships will work. The price of the contracts, the length of the contracts and the value of the contracts are probably all areas they will focus on. I have no idea if the province will veto some of these future P3 deals.

On June 12, the Standing Policy Committee on Property and Development meets to discuss the $18 million dollar South District Police Station. It is not small money to say the least. However, the objective is to not have so much up front money burdening the taxpayer and to take away some of the risk in building infrastructure.

Is this the best use of money? I guess that is what the committee will decide. Most councillors won't be in office, some not even alive possibly when the contract ends some 30 or 50 years later. It will cost $44 million by the end...or more.

As mentioned, we have seen some huge spending projects in the last while. And we saw promises to increase police and fire employment along with the salary bumps for this involved.

In the 1980s, there was a huge bump in spending as well, mostly to build new road infrastructure. The result was some hard times later on with the resultant decay in older roads, parks and public infrastructure.

I hope we are not in such a period again. Interest rates are low. Perhaps this is the right time to borrow. However, interest rates also go up. Will the city get dinged in the next decade? Many cities and counties in the U.S. are cutting like crazy in terms of everything. The recession is a main reason but other factors like huge spending on infrastructure and staffing have come back to bite these local governments.

I see the need to replace old and crumbling infrastructure but the city continues to expand and spread out. P3 partnerships might help somewhat limit the risk but in the end, the taxpayer will pay and pay dearly if the city overextends itself.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Best Patio in Winnipeg 2012

Bar Italia on Corydon in July of 2009

What is the best patio in Winnipeg? This is a tough one based on the food you like, the location you like and a whole host of other of other things.

The one most people will gravitate to is Corydon Avenue where you might have more than a two dozen options on a nice evening. However, we are seeing a few other areas such as St. Boniface compete in this area as well.

I can attest to the fact that I am no expert when it comes to outdoor eating from one end of the city to the other.

What are some of your faves out there?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A New Casino for Winnipeg

From Satellite, McPhillips Street Station (top) and Club Regent Casino (below)

This is a topic I have covered before but like issues such as Sunday shopping, it needs to be looked at again.

Sometimes, the size of a place can only be measured when seeing from above. McPhillips Street Station Casino (178.000 square feet) and its bigger sister Club Regent Casino (182,000 square feet) have been fixtures in the casino market of Winnipeg since the Crystal Casino (1989 to 1997) in Hotel Fort Garry shut down in downtown Winnipeg.

The Crystal Casino was the first permanent government run casino in the western hemisphere and garnered quite a bit of attention at the time including a Time magazine mention. While many will have a hard time recalling, the Crystal Casino was set up after the continuous non-permanent casino run at the Winnipeg Convention Centre came under scrutiny for being a draw for less desirable aspects of gambling. Children waiting for parents outside the glass walls come to mind.

The style of Crystal was to be Monaco influenced. In practical terms this meant a dress code of no jeans. There is little doubt that there was fear that the Hotel Fort Garry was going to be overrun by rubes. In the late 1980s and 1990s, the hotel was hanging on by a thread. Previous owners had been struck down by financial difficulties. The casino was a last ditch effort to save the building.

And it worked. Eventually, financial stability was restored, the right ownership was found and the casino was no longer the right fit. In other words, the seventh floor ballroom was needed for the wedding and conference business that owners knew there was demand for.

In 1993, the demand for bingo was being satisfied by people travelling out of the province or by small part time community halls.  The province, facing massive cutbacks in transfer payments, latched onto one of the only growth industry for government revenue: full time bingo halls and VLTs. Lottery and casino money was increasingly becoming an important revenue driver for the province and both Progressive Conservative and NDP governments contributed to massive expansions in gambling province-wide.

Ostensibly, the increase in VLTs was to help rural hotels from folding or to keep charity and non-government organizations funded. Then it became a way to help fund general revenue for the government of the day.

It is difficult to say what factors made the McPhillips Street Station and the Club Regent locations the top choices. Top of my head would be that the province didn't want to use land they owned behind Broadway lest it take surface parking away from provincial employees. That, and maybe there was apprehensiveness about who would be going to such bingos. A satellite view of the two locations would appear to indicate that parking was a main driver of things. However, I might also suggest that the government believed that locating a casino south of the Assiniboine River was not in the cards.

In mid 2012, the casinos are well entrenched, one with a large hotel attached, the other with one being built. Both are part of continent wide circuit of musical artists who travel coast to coast appearing at casino venues.

And yet for how large these casinos are, you could drop both inside the new Ikea building. Despite several expansions, there seems to be no let up in the demand. Even the South Beach Casino hasn't cooled things off. And if Internet gambling is any indication, there appears to be a desire for ever more choices in how and where people gamble.

The downside of gambling is as well known as the downside of alcohol and cigarettes are. What should be kept in mind is the downside of prohibition is also understood. If you don't want to see organized crime sell these things, you regulate and tax them and try to help people who might have a problem with addictions.

The two casinos north of the Assiniboine River are probably at their maximum size based on their locations. The city could probably use a third casino in the south but the same fear of protests are as likely now as they were in the past.

The province is probably only too aware that if Kapyong Barracks on Kenaston is eventually sold to First Nations that is highly probable that a large casino might be what goes up.

I don't say this to be alarmist. If I were a First Nations leader, I would be looking at how I could maximize return on that land. A Superstore and a Safeway would seem to be a lesser rent than VLTS and tables.

The province should be considering about what leaving an opening for another city casino means. Even now, the issue of a casino in the western part of the province is causing ferocious debate.

It is my opinion that the province ought to plan for a third casino and if they want to have maximum control over the location, now is the time to do it. To that end, I think a casino should return to the downtown.

There are so many items that can be checked off by bringing a large casino downtown. The issues of surface parkings lots can be addressed by building on province owned land. The ability to have people use transit for the casino will be better addressed than anywhere else in the city. And for those who do use their cars, build underground parkades.

At the very least, one or two hotels could be built to service the casino. A smart developer could probably also get an office tower and apartments going in as well like when the Winnipeg Convention Center went up.

As for the casino itself, it could bring in even more entertainers if it has a suitable hall for them. Proximity to the arena could be ideal for a sports bar and other restaurants.

More links to the skywalk system could be put in place.

In short, a casino could leverage a lot more activity if planned well and if hotel, office and residential components are added in surrounding blocks.

Now...will provincial leaders talk about it or will they play coward as they did last election and not talk about Sunday shopping and then bring it up later and say their hands were forced?

Plan a little, please.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Seasons of Tuxedo Part 2

Corner of Sterling Lyon and Kenaston in April of 2009

This week the entire Ikea building frame was put in place. It now sits on what will be the full footprint of its location. The parking lot is also taking shape now.

Expect to see all of the blue and yellow walls up before the end of June or mid July and then the work of getting things ready inside will continue. The opening is still slated for fall of 2012 but how soon? September, October or November? I am going to say October.

Further site clearance continues for the Cabela's going up. Lowe's Home Improvement has not submitted a site plan yet. This week the site plans for Mr. Lube's location go before the committee. Well, no real drawings of the place but they are going in Seasons of Tuxedo.

Still no movie theatre announcement. I am now thinking that might not come till 2013 when they begin developing the north side of Sterling Lyon. After last summer's demolitions, there has not been anything going on there. The rush is on to get Ikea done.

The site is massive and lots of workers are involved in building it. Many of the traffic lights are still inactive but there is some indication of problems emerging.

Let's deal with Sterling Lyon heading east past Ikea. The right turn on to Kenaston used to be one lane with a yield sign. It is now two lanes with a traffic light. Okay, no problem. However, the curb lane is a turning lane into Ikea not onto Kenaston! At the moment, you have vehicles that are all trying to stream into one lane of traffic because only a short distance ahead, Kenaston resumes only two lanes.

Now, city planners better be aware of how people use their intersection lest we have what happened at McGilliary and Kenaston. In that case, it was mounting deaths.

Poor lines down on the road continue to be a problem. Heading north towards Sterling Lyon has two left turns, one of which is into the Ikea. There is an unlit sign indicating an island ahead prior to the turn at Sterling Lyon. Can't tell you how many people have made the mistake of getting in the wrong lane too early and almost killing themselves and others.

Stop experimenting with people's lives and put up lit signage to indicate that some lanes are for entering the Seasons of Tuxedo only. Paint the roads!

All I see is a mad scramble building for this fall and City hall will be to blame if they don't actually drive through that intersection.

Other than that, looking forward to Swedish meatballs in only a few months.

Update: Shortly after noting no painted lines on the right turn off of Sterling Lyon, some were painted on Monday.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Portage and Main - 150 Years Strong

Portage and Main Map and From the Air

The power of one person through words and an idea combined with story and pictures has got the whole town talking. It is the 150th birthday of Portage and Main. It was Christian Cassidy who got the party started and local bloggers and then the media jumped in with hearty support. The mayor might have got involved but it is the weekend and he is not in the province after late Friday. Had he be so inclined on Friday, the mayor might have walked down the street from the Pride event to Portage and Main and partkE of munchies put on Creswin Properties. By the way, guys...nice last minute private business intervention when the city dropped the ball.

The timeclock for when the contract blocking off Portage is ticking down. Wouldn't be nice if by Winnipeg's 150th birthday, it was actually open? Just saying. Or will anyone from the city remember it is 150 years old when it comes?

Anyway, salute to Christian who always shows that there is history at every turn in the city of Winnipeg and a lot of it is darn good.