|Portage Place Imax to Shut Down in March|
The comments of the suburbanists run along this line:
You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.
The outright hatred, dread and disdain of suburbanites of almost anything downtown is so deep, I have heard some people say they won't even go to a Winnipeg Jets game for fear of crime, parking and people who don't look like them.
The surprising thing is that some people do not believe The Forks is downtown and don't harbour the same ill feelings about the place. Why is that? Well, we'll get to that in another post.
All this city wide talk on Portage Place is a result of the impending closure of the Imax Theatre. The theatre built in 1987 with 276 seats has become obsolete in recent years due to its size and inability to land first run movies or 3D. The writing was on the wall. Polo Park's new Imax with 433 seats and 3D hastened the death.
Finding a new use for the theatre won't be easy. It represents challenges when it comes to its structure. That will be up to Peterson Group of Vancouver to decide.
There always seems to be the naive belief that the University of Winnipeg will swoop in and take over all the empty spaces downtown. I supposed it isn't inaccurate to say the university has indeed jumped on abandoned bus stations, racquet courts and army surplus stores. However, there is a limit to how much, how far and how often the university can do this.
The closure of Zellers and long term future of The Bay have a role in what happens to Portage Place. People forget that the goal of the mall was to link the north side of Portage from Eaton's to The Bay. Well, Eaton's is gone and the The Bay may be following.
So what of the future of Portage Place?
Well, the one upside of Portage Place is the parkade. It makes money. A lot of it. However, the Peterson Group doesn't own it. If they did, they might be compelled to make additions to the mall such as a tower atop the east and west pads that have stood ready for years for whatever was desired above the mall.
The Prairie Theatre Exchange continues to thrive in the mall.
Despite the common belief of a completely empty mall, the places does have tenants and more service-based businesses like dental clinics find the place useful as their downtown clients find they are convenient.
I still think the key to leveraging change lies with the parkade but North Portage Development Corporation seems reluctant to discuss that option since they use the money to subsidize other operations.
I have mentioned before and others are starting to repeat it: The food court attracts a bad element. It should be closed in favour of sit down casual dining to attract a hockey, business and an entertainment audience. However, that is a decision for Portage Place management.
It is possible that the LongBoat and Artis development will stimulate Portage Place to do their own makeover. Polo Park and St. Vital have all gone through major renovations whereas the downtown mall has not. Even Winnipeg Square and the Richardson Concourse have had upgrades.
Now that the Jets have returned, there are 10 years of labour peace in the offing. The Manitoba Hydro building is across the street, a hotel and office tower will be soon built. The potential is there for Portage Place to benefit if the ownership and the North Portage Development Coporation is willing.
As a few people have pointed out, it is always one fire after another being put out downtown. Still, we are seeing successes here and there. The continued growth of population around Waterfront Drive will be felt for years. Apartment conversions of hotels will bring a steady population to some streets. And new apartments will help cover surface parking lots. With people comes businesses.
Portage Place is not going anywhere, anytime soon. And this is a problem in more ways than one. Still, there is no need to panic just yet. We have to see what developments around the MTS Centre will bring.
edit: Change CentreVenture to North Portage Development Corporation