Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Danger of Academy Road

The yards and the fences of Academy Road have always taken a beating between Wilton and Guelph. It seems a fence is always being run down by a single car that loses control.

On Tuesday there was fog. Thick fog after days of rain. The streets were very wet, filled with leaves, puddles and the painted lines, when they are painted, were invisible dividers on the street.

It is a misconception thinking of Academy Road has completely straight, It isn't. It curves off the bridges from Sherbrook and Maryland past St. Mary's Academy and Kelvin High School and it takes a more another curve after the school that is a bit of a blind spot.

You cannot see traffic coming from the other way.

The speed limit is 50 kilometers and the city had banned left turns on many of the streets into River Heights for westbound traffic. This is done during rush hour times to stop the commuters who use side streets in the neighourhood to race to destinations beyond.

Police radar often sets up shop at Academy Road and Oak Street and there is a red light camera at Academy and Stafford.

The traffic often speeds up between those known radar sites. By the time cars hit Guelph, it is too fast to make the curve under adverse conditions. Fog and rain would be such conditions.

On Tuesday, a young life was lost. Another hangs in the balance. A head on collision between an SUV and a van ended up costing a family dearly.

This wasn't the first accident nor will it be the last on that turn in the road.

The basic lay out of the street can't really be changed. Some people insist that the road is easy to navigate. And yet collisions continue to happen there.

The traffic regulation and calming in River Heights has been an issue for a long time. There are no easy solutions and the roads just get busier and busier.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Seasons of Tuxedo Store Preview Part Deux

Well, looks like a revision of what we saw on the Seasons of Tuxedo video. No longer does IHOP appear and ditto with Montana's Cookhouse or the banks. DQ and Harvey's have disappeared as well.

I can still make out Pita Pit and Subway but can't make out the other two. Looks like restaurants to me. Can anyone tell from the logos?

There are a few store additions beside the Ikea but I can't make those out either.

One new addition: Opening date of Cabela's is listed on the building.

Edit: It looks like it is Winnipeg's first location of Taco Del Mar, a Mexican restaurant.

North Dakota Election 2012 Part 2

Congressman Rick Berg (R) decided not to seek re-election to the House of Representatives only two years after winning the seat. The chance to sit in the open Senate seat was just too tempting and he is now in a tough race with former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp (D).

The result of Berg's decision is that is now an open Congressional seat in the state as well.

North Dakota has only one seat in the House of Representatives chosen at large by the voters of the state. For many years it was held by the Democrats until Rick Berg (R) wrested it away from Earl Pomeroy (D).

The choice for President in North Dakota seems a foregone conclusion  Since 1964, they have always voted Republican. Mitt Romney can probably call this one of the safer states he has.

This doesn't mean there isn't room for Democrats. For a time, the state had two Democrats in the Senate and one in the House of Representatives. In the past two years that dropped to only one: Senator Kent Conrad (D). He retired this year.

Exciting times for North Dakota. The Republicans have chosen a candidate close to the Tea party movement. Kevin Cramer, Commissioner of the North Dakota Public Service Commission that regulates utilities,  is a two time loser in running for the Congressional. Most of his jobs since the 1990s have come from state posts tied to the Republican governor.

The Democrats have chosen Pam Gulleson, a fifth generation farmer and presently a staff officer of the North Dakota Farmers Union. She served in North Dakota House of Representative from 1993 to 2009 as well as chief of staff to former Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan for nine years.

There have been no recent polls out on this election race but some media are calling it an competitive race. There may be some ticket splitting as voters weigh a vote for Romney with how they vote for the Senate and House of Representatives.

In terms of Canada, it appears that both candidates are strong supporters of the oil and coal industry. How this plays out for Canada is anyone's guess but pipelines are a debate that will have happen after this election take place.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

More Changes to River Heights Traffic Circles

River Heights Traffic Circles

They never consulted anyone when they went in, ignored research that indicated they were not more safe for cyclists or pedestrians and then they didn't build them to specifications other jurisdictions have said was needed to actually achieve traffic calming.

And now, before winter, the city has indicated they will once again tinker with the design.

East to west approaches will be narrowed even further to stop cars from speeding through at top speed just by hugging the curb over the bike path. What seems lost on the city is that bikes will have to navigate this bump out as well and that puts them into traffic. The north south routes are to be left alone.

The bike lanes are only as good as the road condition and in a lot of cases, it isn't good. Today, the lanes are full of puddles and leaves and not easy to see. They certainly are near invisible at night.

Lines are being painted for pedestrians as well. Good luck to anyone walking through one of these things. Traffic that used to stop at four way stop signs now coast through on all four sides. Most people wait till all the cars have gone through before risking crossing the street.

And let's not forget about buses, fire trucks or other large vehicles. Wouldn't be just like the city to do this work and find that the buses can't make it around the the circles?

Who does the city consult about these things? A traffic circle should only be put in by neighbourhood request and then the city should conduct a traffic study to see if the site warrants it and can handle the physical changes to the corner.

Why does it seem that disaster is looming once again? After two years, the circles have not achieved their aims. And bike traffic on the street remains minimal.

Lastly, how much is this going to cost?

It is hard not to think that the four way stop signs and the occasional traffic cop ticketing speeders might have been cheaper and more effective.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Two Story Target Polo Park

2 Story Target in Minneapolis

2 story Target in East Liberty, Pittsburgh

It seemed obvious that the 97,000 square feet on second floor occupied by Zellers in Polo Park was a poor choice for a Target store. The site was too small and poor for carts laden with groceries and goods to move about on a snow packed and crowded upper parking deck.

As much as Polo Park might have loved to have them to be in the mall, owners Cadillac Fairfiew probably saw the problems it might pose for for the store and for them. With that in mind, Cadillac Fairview partnered with Shindico for Plan B.

This plan entailed offering to buy the Canad Inns Stadium following the end of this season, demolishing it and trying to entice Target to build a Super Target on the site. A purchase offer was agreed upon and a initial plans were drawn up but no firm commitment was made until now.

Target has now confirmed they are the anchor tenant on the old Winnipeg Stadium site. However, since the initial design was introduced, Target has now changed things up and adopted a style that has been used for more urban locations.

Back in June, I said Target had abandoned Polo Park for the stadium site and in August, I mentioned how Target was developing an urban design. In many cases, the new stores were re-developments of older buildings for a particular type of shopper that needed certain things. The stores were smaller, often a few stories and geared to take Target to markets it had not been in before.

What I wasn't aware of was that Target had created another little pilot project in retailing that was suitable for northern climates and melded some of the ideas it was using in its urban stores.

In 2011, Target created a new concept store in Pittsburgh's East Liberty district. Since the 1960s, city planners and local business developers failed in a plan to support the area with catastrophic choices that destroyed a million square feet of local businesses, re-routed roads, turned many one way and then to added unattractive and low income housing complexes rising 20 stories high.

The largely black neighbourhood of East Liberty was a logistical nightmare of roads that were difficult to navigate, devoid of businesses needed in the community and with housing complexes that were both ugly and dangerous. The area was blighted.

It is not surprising that the Pittsburgh neighbourhood welcomed a new concept Target that the retailer proposed for the area. Local officials first had to offer subsidies, building loans and revert one way roads back to two way.

And what Target built in East Liberty was a two story building with parking tucked under its footprint and something that their suburban stores didn't have: windows on all four sides. They also made a commitment that the store would have fresh produce, a welcome addition for those making the store one of their primary grocers. At 144,000 square feet and around 250 jobs, the store was large enough to serve the needs of the community as a whole.

Now, let's be clear: Polo Park is no East Liberty. For the last 50 years Polo Park has a going concern and the most successful retail area in Manitoba. The location at one point may have been considered a suburb but now it sits sort of at the halfway point between the downtown and city limits. It is close to two major roads: Portage Avenue and Kenaston Route 90. The mall is also surrounded on three sides by residential development and occupies the southern tip of an airport industrial area.

As most will attest, the roads that generally support the airport industrial area are narrower as befitting a business park. The commercialization of St. James as a retail centre has accelerated in recent years and the traffic has gotten to be a headache. The old Winnipeg Arena is gones as is the old CKY building. Both have been swallowed up by Polo Park extending its reach to Maroons Road. The area is now being developed as a mix of retailing and offices.

The Canad Inn Stadium is not long for this world. Two more games remain of the Blue Bomber season and the play-offs this year is not in the cards. As soon as everything is packed up in the dressing rooms, the site will be demolished to make way for the the sale of the site for Target and two other stores. The $30 million dollar price tag will pay for $20 million of road upgrades. Other money will be allocated to the Active Living Centre at the University of Manitoba.

So what will this Target look like? Well, it won't look like any of the other thus far planned in Canada. The retailer has decided that Polo Park is an "urban" location and as such in need of a more urban design. Although East Liberty, Pittsburgh and Polo Park, Winnipeg are far removed in many circumstances, they share the fact that they are in established neighbourhoods, in northern climate and with only so much space to work. The above pictures of East Liberty's Target are what we will see in Winnipeg.

There will be some differences. The store will use red brick in construction and feature a Target logo on the roof which will be easy to spot for air traffic. However, the design will be essentially the same: 145,000 square feet, windows on all sides and parking tucked under the footprint of the store.

SuperTargets are generally around 175,000 square feet. However, regular Targets are around 126,000 feet. This will be a different animal and probably be one of the first of this new breed of stores for Canada in established neighbourhoods.

In terms of size comparison to other future Target sites like Grant Park mall, the size of the Zellers there is 116,000 square feet.

There are a number of hurdles to cross yet not the least of which is what to do with the roads. The road in front of Canad Inn Stadium now is a rutted mess. Empress and Milt Steagall Drive and good candidates for making one way streets. However, making one ways all over the place will create its own problems of accessing businesses and the like.

There will be many who complain about are car-centric country. It is hard to disagree with what is being said. However, change does not happen in a vacuum. Try to force people what to do and they will vote with their feet. Vancouver prevented Wal-Mart from locating in the the city and residents there simply went to suburbs and beyond.

The best thing to do is to keep working to improve areas a bit at a time. Mass transit connections, bike paths, density, mixed use buildings and trying to use a smaller footprint. Cars are not going to disappear because we want them to but because they have become too expensive or less convenient.

The new Target at Polo Park addresses a few things in design and footprint that might make it a lot better retailing experience. To be sure, it will be welcomed by consumers in this city who have long not been overly impressed with Zellers over the years.

The city has to do its part on infrastructure and roads and to push more strongly for design improvements and service roads inside a major development. All in all, a good development this far. And let's not forget, the space in Polo Park that Zellers vacates might be ideal for H&M to finally come to the city.

Monday, October 8, 2012

How to Change Politics Forever Part 2

How to change politics forever

Build a prototype

Mold it

Shape it

Hate it

Start over

Build another prototype

Shape it

 Love it

That's good

Kick out the committees again

Why? Because they lead to compromise

And compromise leads to this

Okay, back to it. More coffee

Give 'em some kick

Give 'em some power. More power! Never too much power!

Give 'em 76 MPs. No 77!

Give 'em a smartphone app that can start the engine

Give 'em a huge display


No, bigger. Good!

Give 'em starting numbers at 23, no 25%

Uh oh, the finance guys

You can't do that! Kick out the finance guys

Take it to the political track

Tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet

Take it to the political shows

Call in the critics

Call in the marketing team.

Win some awards

Get a celebrity leader. Hmm, No




Yes!! He's perfect!

"I am?" Yes, you are.

Making a ground breaking political party. It's that easy.

Add based on this.

How to Change Politics Forever Part 1

How to change politics forever

Start with a simple idea


Think more

Drink Coffee

Stop thinking, start doing

Hatch a Design

Kill the design

More coffee

Design something totally original

Okay, not that original

This original

Now it's time to make something

Do it again!

And again!

That's good

Kick out the committees

Call in the pollsters

Call in the political guys

Call in the nerds

Not those nerds

Those nerds

Blow off lunch

Blow off dinner

Blow off weekends


Okay, that's enough sleeping

More coffee