Friday, September 28, 2012

Jenny Gerbasi and Phil Sheegl - Worst Death Scene Ever

Jenny Gerbasi in blonde wig put it to Phil Sheegl in Council Meeting yesterday.

We'll go back a year... no wait...five years! Audit!! Aaaaarrrrrggghhh!! Right though the heart!!

Piano stairs - Can this be done in Winnipeg?

We have done well with the ice huts for design but imagine this at The Forks or a Mall.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New Wendy's Opposite St. Vital Centre

Wendy's Opposite Montana's Cookhouse on St. Mary's Road, right side at the traffic lights

McDonald's and Burger King are just down the street. Wendy's gets the choice location right across from the St. Vtal Centre.

Wendy's had been a bit down on their luck in the city but this ought to be a good location for them.

Not so good for crazy traffic already around St. Vital Centre.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Seasons of Tuxedo - Store Preview IHOP Coming to Wininpeg

One again corporate types of Seasons of Tuxedo have let the cat out of the bag prematurely about future stores and restaurants coming to the location. In a promotional video, they quickly scan across the plans for first phase of the site.

What appears on the site aside from the IKEA and Cabela's and unnamed home improvement stote (aka Lowe's) is Winnipeg's first International House of Pancakes IHOP. The site also includes a Montana's Cookhouse, Subway, Pita Pit and Dairy Queen, Harvey's, Booster Juice, Thai Express and Nutrition House.

There is also a National Bank of Canada and a Assiniboine Credit Union.

Curiously, there is an animal hospital listed.

As stated earlier on this site, a Mr. Lube is at the back of the development but there also appears to be a Shell station.

There also appears to be a Dollarama and Manitoba's first location of home store Bouclair.

There is a 46,000 foot grocery store with no name. Safeway?

Well, there you have it. More to come soon.

Notation: I have been told by IHOP that there is no plans to locate at Seasons of Tuxedo at the present time.

It is a bit bewildering as it seems clear that most of the other tenants are indeed coming.

Qdoba Mexican Grill Coming to Manitoba

Qdoba Mexican Grill

Once again Brandon, Manitoba beats Winnipeg to the punch just as they did with Five Guys Burgers. Qdoba Mexican Grill is opening their first franchise in Canada in Brandon in an old Rogers location.

Qdoba is a huge 700 location Denver-based operation. Its main competition is Chipotle Mexican Grill which started in Denver as well. Chipotle just opened its first location in Toronto and will open another in Vancouver next year.

The battle between these giants is huge. Canada represents a potential 100 more locations to whoever gets their first.

Qdoba Mexican Grill serves San Francisco-style burritos and other Mexican dishes.

The rumour is they are eyeing Winnipeg next and are in talks with franchisors.

The complete and enormous success of Famous Dave's since it opened in Winnipeg is not lost on any of the chains out there.

Wild Wings Versus Buffalo Wild Wings Coming to Winnipeg

Wild Wings Canada coming to Regent

For a long time, it has been talked about how U.S. based Buffalo Wild Wings is coming to Winnipeg. They still are. They have been delayed opening across Canada by Wild Wings which filed a lawsuit of infringement against the company. All through the last year Buffalo Wild Wings was unable to trademark its name because of the legal process. Regardless, they opened restaurants in Ontario and have just opened their Calgary location. Winnipeg is still part of the 50 plus restaurants they want to open over the next four years.

The battle over names and provincial and national name registries is an old one in Manitoba. For years, The Brick battled Brick's Fine Furniture about their name in court. After a protracted battle, neither changed their name. When Cowboys from Calgary looked to open in Winnipeg, they ran smack dab into the fact that Cowboys had been registered in this province by Canad Inns.

Ultimately, I suspect that both names will prevail but then the courts could decide differently.

Wild Wings is a Canadian-based franchise with 100 locations also only in Ontario and Alberta and is getting ready to open their first location of their western style saloon restaurant along Regent Avenue in Transcona this November.

Winnipeggers love their wings and this battle is only just beginning. There are already wings rated by price and taste all over the city. In this fight things are measured by how much a pound or per wing price. Or by the multiple flavours. For example, Wild Wings has 101 flavours. What they don't compare favourably on is unit price according to some reviews.

So when will Buffalo Wild Wings join the fight in Winnipeg? Well, the Ikea site has several buildings in addition to the Ikea already in progress. Chances are we will see some restaurants there. Already there has been talk about Outback, Earl's, Qdoba and others. The A&W across the street will be complete near the same time as Ikea.

Now...all we need is a Jets season.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Milestone's Grill and Bar To Open Downtown

Milestone's Grill and Bar to Open Across from MTS Centre

Sometimes development corporations let the cat the cat out of the bag in corporate releases without realizing it. Some recent examples are: Fairweather Properties partner spilling it about Lowe's Home Improvement coming to Winnipeg or the Metropolitan Entertainment Centre showing a re-branded Radisson hotel as a Canad Inn.

In the last days a magazine of what Centrepoint across from the MTS Centre and developed by Longboat and Artis shows that Milestone's Grill and Bar is opening at 311 Portage Avenue.

It is one of two restaurants proposed for the site. The other, revealed by the Free Press, is a local restaurant owner and his latest development. Pizzeria Gusto's owner on Academy Road will open a restaurant facing Donald Street. No word yet on what the style will be.

Milestone's Grill and Bar in Vancouver

Milestone's Grill and Bar started off in B.C. in 1989 but it was quickly snapped up by Cara Operations which owns Harvey's, Kelsey's and Swiss Chalet. They are now also in Ontario and Alberta.

The style of the restaurant is higher end than Swiss Chalet and many of the locations have patios. The menu ranges from steak, chicken, fish to pasta and salads with some gluten free items.

Standard Milestone's Grill and Bar in the Suburbs

It is going to be a while before opening day but all the pieces are starting to come together for Centrepoint. The Alt Hotel, Stantec Engineering central office, a parkade, condos and street-side restaurants.

It is sad that a Winnipeg Jets season is delayed due to the labour shortage. I know that some people dismiss it as overplaying positive effects downtown and elsewhere but one only has to be present to see that the crowd is larger, more prosperous and more willing to spend time and money before and after games.

All of the restaurants near the MTS Centre have seen a positive impact. Boston Pizza, Tavern United, Moxie's, Elephant and Castle. The effect expands beyond as well to Earl's and The Keg and Pony Corral.

The trick for the downtown is to connect more of the successful pieces. And yes, there are some successful pieces. It is not all a burned out ruin with death awaiting you at every turn.

To review the successful areas of downtown, let's make a list.

* The Forks

Only the most petulant of people would describe the site as a failure. It is a safe central gathering point with unique offerings of food, stores and entertainment.

* Broadway

It is a people watching plaza of office workers and street-side food trucks. Plus, some of the greatest concentrations of people live in apartments and condos stretching down to Assiniboine Avenue.

* Convention Centre

By far one of the most consistent draws of people for events. It is a two block area that has contributed to the economy and entertainment of people in the city for years.

* Waterfront Drive

Most successful new development and biggest contributor to new housing downtown.

The MTS Centre is a successful downtown facility. Some said it didn't live up to the hype as it didn't draw any new hotels and few newer restaurants. I think some people miss the point though. The MTS Centre was to replace a huge empty Eaton's building. And now the owners of the Jets along with other developers are looking to expand the footprint.

In many respects, it is the slow and steady work that worked well for The Forks.

Let's see what the presence of a few high traffic restaurants do for Portage Avenue. Welcome Milestone's.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Winnipeg Free Press Fires Seven News Staff

Winnipeg Press Offices on Mountain Avenue

It is the paper of record and rightly or wrongly takes it on the chin when they gets things wrong, overlook things or take a position that someone is not going to like. the Winnipeg Free Press has the largest news gathering force in the city. It still does but it is minus some of its most junior staff as of Tuesday.

Seven in the newsroom were let go.

They were:

John White, online editor
Melissa Martin, reporter
Alison Mayes, reporter
Adam Wazny, sports writer
Rob Williams, music columnist
Lindsey Wiebe, social media reporter

And one web position not named.

It should be noted that some of these latest hires are the most active in multiple media platforms, especially Twitter, blogging, radio and elsewhere.

Unions protect senior employees first. Always have. With some justification the fear is that companies will dump older workers for ones paid lower wages. However, the problem with removing new and younger workers in a downturn is that they are the very people to build for the future.

I can say about some of the above writers that some were truly innovative and exciting to read. They will be missed.

This lay-off represents 8% of the news staff. I think it is devastating. It comes on the heels of 15 people let go earlier this year. The Free Press and its partners such as Canstar, Brandon Sun and the Steinbach Carillon employ around 570 people. Employees had a 2% wage increase in the year and revenue was down $500,000 in the second quarter from last year.

Like many newspaper companies, the Free Press is trying to figure out how to increase advertising revenue and profit.

Some say that newspapers are a declining business as people get their news online. However, getting news online also entails people writing it and the best writing is that which comes from people who make their living on it.

The Brandon Sun is mostly behind firefalls now. I am not sure how the paper fares compared to its larger counterpart but I'd wager the fact that the previous cutbacks of 14 jobs at the Free Press and 1 at the Brandon Sun were not an accident.

We are seeing more firewalls going up for newspapers all the time. Content has to be paid for somehow. We have gotten used to the idea that things are free and they really aren't.

I think the Free Press has no choice but to go behind a firewall so they can create exclusive content for the local area. The trick will be to create content so that is affordable and unique. That won't be easy without the writers that were let go.

I am wondering if a new model of newspaper by owner/operated news reporters might not work in this city. The big corporate format seems to be driven by management and union issues that won't go away too soon.

It may be that the future job security for journalists is multi-platform like Gary Lawless with the Free Press and TSN or finding reporting work with Shaw cable like Marty Gold on City Circus or Scott Taylor and Goldeyes broadcasts. The first writer likely does well with two strong commercial enterprises paying him. I am not sure about the other two writer/broadcasters but I hope they are self sustaining with their work.

I want strong newspapers and media but fear the corporate and labour structure that seems to put them in conflict.

To the writers who are out of work. Please keep writing! And hope upon hope that jobs are there for you.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

North Dakota Election 2012 Part 1

The North Dakota election is turning into a real dogfight with the decision of Senator Kent Conrad of the Democrats not to run. He is the last Democrat standing in the state at the federal level. Former Governor of the state, John Hoeven (R) is the junior senator for the Republicans elected in 2010 when an opportunity came for change when the former Senator Byron Dorgan (D) decided not to run. On the House of Representatives side, North Dakota's single seat is represented by Rick Berg (R) who defeated Earl Pomeroy (D) primarily over federal Obamacare in 2010. It was the first time that the Republicans would take the seat in 24 years.

North Dakota is not the state it was 20 years ago. It has taken major hits due to flooding both from the Red River and from Devil's Lake and struggled as an agricultural state with a small, spread out population. Events have turned and even in the face of a recession, North Dakota has arisen as the second largest oil producer in the United States. There is a new muscularity to the state as wealth flows in from deep wells in the once sleepy west side of the state.

From Manitoba's perspective, North Dakota has represented itself as a weekend destination for a vacation and shopping. It is a very long and friendly relationship albeit once sided. Not many North Dakota people head north for a holiday, fewer for shopping. Americans now require a passport to travel outside the country and many don't have one. It seems the one sided relationship will continue. One imagines if it suddenly became much cheaper and much more vibrant on the shopping side, North Dakotans would flock across. Alas, it has never been that way.

Manitoba pays little attention to North Dakota politics. It should. Over the years, with a cross the board federal presence of Democrats, we found that Pomeroy, Conrad and Dorgan were no friends to Canada on trade. In short, they hammered us.

Like many Canadians, Manitobans probably skew more Democrat save for a number of Harper Tories who attended the Republican National Convention. In terms of trade and movement of people, the Democrats have not exactly been friendly to us. Some say that Barack Obama appears to have little interest in furthering the relationship with Canada and some academic papers have been written on the subject. Still, we are used to this as we saw that George W. Bush had a single minded interest on Mexico.

In contrast to the Democrats, Senator John Hoeven is a leading advocate for the Keystone XL pipeline. Ultimately, Kent Conrad broke with his party to vote for the pipeline but was undecided right up to the end.

The focus this years for Election 2012 will be filling Kent Conrad's seat. The Democrats and Republicans are fighting hard. For the Democrats, the torch bearer is Heidi Heitkamp, the former state attorney general.  Her links to the energy industry is a far cry from past Democrats linked strongly to agriculture. She has no hesitation supporting Keystone XL.

The Republicans have turned to Representative Rick Berg, a former real estate developer and state legislator. Only two years before Tea Party supporters helped him defeat Earl Pomeroy in the House of Representatives.

It should have been a cakewalk to the Senate. It has been a dogfight instead. The issues have been healthcare, managing the economy and the size of government. While the State has supported every republican since 1964, it has had many years of Democrats on the state and federal level. It isn't a complete right of center state by any means. It is the only state requiring pharmacists to own 51% of the pharmacy, the only state with a state owned bank and a state owned flour mill. Down right communist, don't you think?

There has been a tendency to balance the odds a bit in the state. The Republicans are in control in many offices in the state and there is probably a re-evaluation in part based on that old agricultural axiom: eggs in one basket.

A tracking of various polls has the lead with Rick Berg but Heidi Heitkamp has narrowed the advantage to only four points, practically within the margin of error.

What would be better for Canada? Hard to say. One thing is appears clear and that is the Democrat won't be the thorn in the side on trade that some previous representatives were.

One of the races to watch in November of this year.

Monday, September 10, 2012

St. Mary's Academy Expansion

It has been six years in the making but St. Mary's Academy off of Academy Road has been undertaking a multi-million dollar expansion of its campus. The present construction is in phase 3 of and the most ambitious of the overall project. The previous two phases starting in 2000 brought classrooms up to present electrical standards and installed air conditioning, created a new entrance to the Sister Rita Maureen Gym, added human ecology classrooms and lastly created the Richardson Science Wing.

It was the third phase that really busted out beyond the present walls of the school. In 2010, the construction alongside Academy Road began and a two story addition emerged of. Inside was to be the Durocher Library, a visual arts studio and a fitness room.

The latest work on Phase 3B is being done. It is the heart of the school. Alumnae Hall, a theatre, will receive a massive upgrade, additional classroom and rehearsal spaces, make-up and costume labs and a foyer extension.

Over the last numbers of years we have seen several schools go through infrastructure improvements. I just detailed how St. Paul's High School has begun a building program in support of its renowned sports program. Nearby, Shaftesbury built a two story addition to rid itself of dreaded "temporary" portable classrooms.

We have seen many schools close or merge in recent years. The trend is for schools to be larger and offer more amenities for students. Still, we are marked with very small schools for many elementary students as witnessed by Chapman School in Charleswood and Queenston in River Heights. The province and school divisions seem terrified of of closing these schools so they limp along with crumbling infrastructure or lack of gym, classrooms or other space.

Sprawl and changing demographics also means some schools will continue to shrink. And demand to build schools such as in Whyte Ridge will reach a siren call.

The high schools that expand and meet future needs of students will be destination schools. And it won't all be infrastructure. The schools that offer services, scholarships and support for students will also make them destination schools.

The last major expansion of St. Mary's Academy took place in 1964. It is unlikely in this changing world that they can afford to wait that long again to meet the needs of students.

And for other schools, especially high schools, trustees, principals, parents and students ought to be thinking of what they can do to make this schools better so that they are there for the generations to come.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Fort Whyte By-Election

Brian Pallister Elected to the Legislature

It was a solid win for the new leader of the Progressive Conservatives. By all accounts, the election team of Brian Pallister ran and efficient and enthusiastic campaign in one of the safest city ridings for the PCs in town. It was a lower voter turn-out as one might expect of a summer election but it set the stage for a fall where the governing NDP will face a united opposition party with both a leader the house, a re-shuffled shadow cabinet and a new determination to press on the issues.

The percentage of the vote that Pallister won by was lower than the heady numbers of the previous election. It would have been hard to match the numbers of the former incumbent MLA and leader. Pallister was not well known in the riding and he lived outside of it. As a result, the PC leader was down 7% in the vote but still won a a decisive 55% of the vote.

The NDP ran an outsider in the riding as well. Aside from a cynical promise for 85 daycare spaces in Linden Woods on the eve of the election, the NDP ran a campaign where they tried not to draw too much attention. The result of this strategy was a 18% decline of their vote and third place finish. It was the worst finish for the NDP in the riding since its inception. Their vote total was 11%.

The Liberals running Bob Axworthy as candidate had the best showing in the riding ever. Their vote was up 23% and their overall vote tally was 31%. Axworthy was the only local candidate and drew star power via the family name and with help from senior Liberals. While the overall results were impressive, even a combined opposition vote would not have been enough to win the day. Still, an impressive showing as acknowledged by both Pallister and Greg Selinger.

What does this mean for Greg Selinger and the NDP? Short term: nothing. The election is a long way off. The governing party has a solid majority, money in the bank and a ready campaign team for ridings they need to win again.

Are their long term warning signs? Yes. The Liberals will have a new leader in the coming year. The collapse of the Liberal vote generally works in favour of the NDP. In many suburban ridings, a stronger Liberal vote could spell trouble for NDP candidates.

Major issues related to Manitoba Hydro and provincial finances loom. The NDP ran into trouble in the 1980s a result of having a backlash due to rising rates on a variety of items from Autopac to taxes.

It is a long way away from an election but fixed election dates might not be a good thing for timing. There are some indications that the government might change when the election happens. This is in part to the fact that federal, provincial and city elections could all be around the same times. I expect that we might see an earlier result but it depends on what is happening with the economy.

In the lead up though, I expect the NDP to hammer the PCs on them selling Hydro. They will also try to create a perception of Pallister as heartless and a right wing cutter.

The PCs under Pallister will focus on financial management of the economy.

Greg Selinger is probably hoping that overall economic growth will overshadow the problems Hydro now faces.

Monday, September 3, 2012

St. Paul's High School Expansion

The St. Paul's High School Athletics and Fieldhouse Building Expansion

St. Paul's High School has been a part of the city since 1926. The various teams playing out of this Jesuit school have been known as the Crusaders. Now one might assume that a Catholic school might have come up with that moniker themselves. However, you would be wrong thinking so. The teams for years had been known as Collegians, Paulinians and Paulines. This was wholly unsatisfactory for Winnipeg Tribune and later Free Press writer Vince Leah who called them Crusaders in 1935.

The teams has given so much spirit to the school and the city over the years that it is not surprising that school officials and fundraisers decided it should be a focal point of new development on the campus.

One of the cranes that dots the skyline of Winnipeg is now over St. Paul's High School building the 900 seat fieldhouse. Inside will be basketball and volleyball courts, athletic therapy centre and fitness training area that will also serve the football team. An alumni lounge, dressing rooms, independent washrooms for visitors, storage and offices will occupy the building with parking just off Holland Blvd (named after Father Holland).

The whole facility will be connected by tunnel to the main campus. The $7 million dollar complex will come with a $2 million bursary program. This should make the school an attractive draw for students and parents and very competitive with the 60 other Jesuit secondary schools across the country.

This is a great addition to the city and Charleswood and come on the heels of Shaftesbury School's recent classroom and library expansion and just prior to Canadian Mennonite University's new library and learning centre being built.

This neck of the woods on Grant Avenue has become a vital education power corner.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Fire Hall Redux

The 1780 Taylor Fire Hall - Free Press

City officials who rushed to assure the deal for the fire hall land swap was all above board still can't seem to get their heads around the fact that elected officials still had to approve of the sale. It has been 10 days of confusion, very little or no paper trail, uninformed senior officials and councillors and millions of dollars of spending.

The request that we all go back to sleep and that this is a "wonderful" story defies belief. The lack of information and scrambling over the last several days suggests that things were not as clear as they could have been and protocols were not exactly followed.

It is no wonder some city councillors seem particularly upset. Some land such as Mulvey has been repeatedly been mentioned as not available. It is is amazing that it suddenly becomes available at the last minute.

Is there any wonder why there is suspicion on the disposal of the golf courses? The city is likely to indicate a property has been sold to a developer without ever putting it on the market.

Sam Katz acts upset one moment and then his administration the next moment says everything is going as it is supposed to.

The question I keep asking myself, why was the fire hall built on Taylor before the land was acquired? It seems to me that this should have been settled first. It isn't city owned land yet there stands a city building. Is it no wonder that Shindico put up a rental notice on property they thought they had acquired?

It is difficult not to see this as creating confusion and possibly resentment in investors and taxpayers. No one knows if there is proper value in the deals. No one knows if they need not apply since only insiders get the deals. It is all around bad.

How did we get to this point? It is the mayor? Is it the administration? Is it the council? It is the province who created the system we have now. Are they to blame?

In truth, it is all those things. But it is the people of the city as well. The low voter turn-out, the disinterest in the process or helpless response to it and the general apathy contribute to why the city is the way it is.

I am not saying anything that hasn't been said before. And calling voters out rarely works.

Something has to change though as this free wheeling could end up doing real damage to the city.

Let's see what happens next city council meeting. At the moment, it is in city councillor's hands. And some don't seem happy that they were in the dark. Some have gotten a little angry in fact.

We have not heard the last of thing. The question is: Will it change what is happening?