Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Trial of Sam Katz

The Free Press picture featuring Harvey Smith's banner regarding the trial of Sam Katz and Joe Chan probably speaks volumes about the relationship between the councillor and the mayor.

The trial involves allegations of conflict of interest by the mayor regarding a taxpayer funded Christmas dinner in December of 2010 that was held in Hu's on Ellice, a restaurant owned by Sam Katz.

Joe Chan, a restauranteur who owns Cathay House, inquired how the contract was won since he was not aware of a tender. As it turns, there was no tender and a decision was made somewhere within the mayor's office.

The laws on conflict of interest law detailed in Manitoba's Municipal Conflict of Interest Act are where potential problems may lie for Sam Katz. If the law has been in fact broken, the mayor may be told to vacate his elected office.

We have seen in Toronto an example of conflict being brought to court in terms of Mayor Rob Ford and his charity. It was decided there that the mayor was indeed in conflict and told to vacate his office. Ford appealed and won in Superior Court and retained his seat as mayor.

The circumstances of the case in Winnipeg as well the legislation could differ in enough ways that anything could happen. One suspects though that if a decision is made that conflict did happen and a vacate order was issued that an appeal would occur.

The mayor's lawyer Robert Tapper has come out hitting hard against Joe Chan accusing him of breaching confidentiality from a settlement and suggests they will go after him for money. The mayor called the claims made by Chan baseless.

It seems likely that Sam Katz could have avoided all this mess if it was possible to separate his business from city affairs. The first promise the mayor broke was putting his private business into a blind trust so as to not run into conflict. This action and others would have ensured the mayor didn't run into accusations of mixing the two areas.

The mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, put his business in a blind trust to avoid any hint of conflict of interest and it appears to have worked for him. In Canada, the example was set by Paul Martin Jr. when he was prime minister. His substantial business interests were in a blind trust as well.

There is nothing wrong with a politician being a business owner. Politics does not last forever. However, it is no joke that conflict between city business and personal business needs be dealt with.

Sam Katz could lose his job over this. Sadly, he doesn't seem to be ensuring that it is not possible for it to happen again. The maxim of "trust me" has been thoroughly undermined by some eyebrow raising activities that make people wonder aloud if there needs to be more solid dividing lines between business and city.

Ultimately, the mayor has only himself to blame for landing in court this Tuesday. It is not an easy thing to let the law have to decide this. Even if a decision goes the mayor's way, the feeling amongst the public might be that Katz might have too much going on to fully focus on his good office.

There are 3 or 4 city councillors itching to run for mayor. If Katz is told by the judge to step down, expect the most competitive race in years for the job.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Seasons of Tuxedo - Restaurant Closings - Arkadash Closed

Seasons of Tuxedo - Phase 1
Anyone driving down Kenaston will notice the sign crews have been busy. Cabela's sign has gone up and last night the store was all lit up on the outside. Dollarama put up its store sign in the last day as well.

Sign crews worked throughout the day Wednesday along Sterling Lyon.

There is so much work being done on site laying down foundations for further work that is difficult to know which building will be completed first.


One note about something reported a few days ago: Kelsey's at McGillivray and Kenaston and Kelsey's at Empress/Polo Festival have closed. Aside from a note in the door thanking people for their patronage, no other information is available. They were both around 5000 square feet restaurants and are now both are up for lease.

Kelsey's closed at Kenaston
Kelsey's closed at Empress
I only went a few times to this restaurant. I am not sure if this is fall out from other places that opened in the city but both locations seem ideally suited for a big player from the U.S. coming in.

Another restaurant bar to close is the large  Dylan O'Connor's at 2609 Portage Avenue. The 7500 foot location has been stripped of signs and is listed for lease.

Dylan O'Connor's...formerly owned by the also closed Brit Cafe family
The Portage Avenue restaurant close potentially be a great opportunity for a local restaurant group to shine.

It is a tough market for restaurant owners. We may see a few more places that have been around for years get uprooted.


This just in this morning.

Arkadash restaurant appears to have closed this morning on Portage Avenue.

Juss Jazz next door closed just a while ago as well.

Thanks to Marty for the tip. Details to follow...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Structube Coming to Winnipeg

Stuctube Furniture and Accessories is coming to Seasons of Tuxedo. The Montreal-based store sells contemporary and modern home furnishings. People interested in IKEA will be interested in this store. The company has been hiring managers this month.

Cabela's opens on May 9 at Seasons of Tuxedo and will employ 175 employees.

Marshalls opens April 4 at Polo Park North. The 28, 000 square foot store will be joined by a 18,000 square foot  in due course. The $36 million million office and retail development has been rumoured to include a Bed, Bath and Beyond.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Fatburger Coming to Winnipeg

Fatburger will be opening soon in the the Seasons of Tuxedo development alongside the IKEA.

New signage went up late last week for the several new stores and restaurants. Bouclair Home sign is all lit up at night and the store officially opens today. On Monday they snuck open. The 8000 square foot store is new to Winnipeg but no stranger to the rest of Canada.

A conglomeration of restaurants opens in April across the parking lot from IKEA and Bouclair's. The signage is already up for Pita Pit. The other restaurants coming are Subway and Taco del Mar.

In the same block of restaurants will be Winnipeg's first Fatburger. The California chain already has locations across western Canada. The very famous hamburger joint also has fairly famous owners such as Magic Johnson as well as franchise owners like Montel Williams and Kanye West. It is also mentioned in many west coast hip hop and rap songs.

Coming hot on the heels of Five Guys Burgers, Winnipeg now has a very crowded premium hamburger joint in the offing.

Further construction in the Seasons of Tuxedo site is still underway with the only sign up indicating Mr. Lube is coming soon. A stand alone casual dining restaurant and Lowe's looks to be underway in the early stages.

The Cabela's looks very close to completion. Bright lights on the inside and many worker vehicles every day suggest it won't be long till we see Canada's biggest Cabela's open.

This is all part of stage 1 of the development. It remains to be seen what comes in stage 2 and stage 3.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Bench incident Chicago Wolves vs Rockford IceHogs 3/17/2013

Bench clearing brawl is now just a bench brawl.

Money and Public Officials

The controversy over public officials (both elected and unelected) in regards to money and privilege is an old story but a good one. There has been some piling on and some defending of the various offences. This is par for the course.

Politicians and public officials are custodians of taxpayer's money. Scrutiny should be expected.

The Canadian Taxpayer's Federation placed in its crosshairs the president of a local college. It is amazing what a freedom of information request can turn up. One Free Press columnist has said that the president should have known better in terms of the optics of buying golf shoes and expensing it. However, the same columnist also said that the CTF should have used journalistic efforts and asked for a response from the president.

My understanding is that the CTF asked the Red River Board for a response as they published. Does that count? Or does the response have to come before publishing?

The reason I ask is that the Free Press had an explosive story on privilege involving loading dock parking and the city's top official. It was revealed that he was not available for an interview and the story went ahead. Should the Free Press have waited? If there had been a response, would the story have been killed?

The Free Press sent a photographer to have picture evidence of the parking incident in February of this year. However, if you go back to June of 2012:

Who is this in June of 2012?
There is a pic there of a car and driver there that I thought was a certain city official.

I am not a journalist nor have the resources of one. I do call people asking for a response and in some cases I get one but I have also been brushed aside a lot times and in some cases outright lied to as revealed in documents received in someone else's freedom of information request. No hard feelings. I try but I don't have any power other than to write. I do care about accuracy and anyone who has read what I have written knows I try to be fair.

I do have an opinion about things and will continue to state it. I thought about publishing that parking picture when I saw it but I thought that the Free Press or CBC would have surely asked the question: Where are the mayor and councillors parking now that the Civic Parkade is closed? It took a while but the story came out.

I was on the phone many a time before the fire hall story came out trying to find out the disposition of the buildings. The real estate department probably got sick of hearing from me but it was where I first heard of the land swap. I didn't publish because I still didn't have all the pieces. And I may never gotten all the information because I am not a journalist.

It is tough being a journalist. I expect this is routine for them in trying to get information and not having access to it or being spun a tale or lied to. I have a lot of respect for the Free Press among other media in the city. This weekend alone I saw a great analysis of first round draft picks of the Winnipeg Jets compared to the rest of the league. In the same paper was terrific work on school division budgets. All that work came from a professional staff with intimate knowledge of the subject, good research and passion.

I know those stories came about because there was a dedicated professional staff writing and having experience and the power of their publication to get the information out.

There is a debate on Twitter about quality and circulation of print news.

Our family buys the Free Press and I pick up the Globe and Mail nearly every Saturday. The Sun and the Metro come free and in bulk to my work every day. I receive Maclean's every week and pick up a few magazines every month. I like quality and pay for it.

I know some people don't pay for content. They probably never will if they never have to.

But let's get back to whether the Canadian Taxpayer's Federation should have to wait for a response before publishing...

I think the answer is no. I don't consider the CTF to be a media group. They are an activist lobby group. They have asked for a response from Red River but I would no less expect them to wait to publish that I would have when Nick Ternette finally got the RCMP and CSIS security files on him after all those years.

The CTF and the late Nick Ternette made public their findings. They left the media to ask the questions.

The Free Press along with the rest of the news media have probably sold a lot of papers and got a lot of viewers and listeners as a result. There has been a lot of debate about what is fair and what is not for public officials in terms of money.

This is good.

Public officials should have their expenses vetted and then published. Government advertising should be vetted for political bias. Slush funds at all levels of government should be revealed and stomped on.

The elected and unelected officials ought not to worry about the information being out there or checked before approval. It makes for better governance. If the CTF wishes to make hay of some of those items, let them. I think the public is smart enough to know when criticism is warranted and unwarranted.

And if activists do make claims and publish them, the media should use their resources and staff to flesh out the story. Ask the tough questions and later in opinion pieces, come up with thoughts on the whole thing.

Last week was a good week for the media. News can break in many ways and this is one of them.

It is not for me to see how the media can monetize its product better. However, lobby groups, pollsters, activists and bloggers can be a good source of content for a professional journalist.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Winnipeg is Metis Land

Metis land according to the Manitoba Act
Winnipeg is Metis land.

The Supreme Court has said that the promise of the Manitoba Act to set aside 566,000 hectares or 1.4 million acres did not live up to the fiduciary responsibility and did not honour the Crown.

The majority of the Justices said this:
 Although the honour of the Crown obliged the government to act with diligence to fulfil Section 31, it acted with persistent inattention and failed to act diligently to achieve the purposes of the Section 31 grant," the ruling said. "This was not a matter of occasional negligence, but of repeated mistakes and inaction that persisted for more than a decade, substantially defeating a purpose of Section 31.
The dissenting Justice Marshall Rothstein said that it would "impossible to predict" the consequences of the decision of the majority of the court.

He continues:
"If this land grant obligation had been made today, we would have expected a more expeditious procedure. However, the obligation was not undertaken by the present day federal government. It was undertaken by the government over 130 years ago, at a time when the government and the country were newly formed and struggling to become established. We cannot hold that government to today's standards when considering circumstances that arose under very different conditions."
The judge is correct is his assessment. But he is also ignoring the corruption that arose as a result of the Metis land deal and how many people were left out in the end.

One Winnipeg journalist called the decision "judicial activism" and a dangerous precedent. The problem is that the Constitution doesn't leave room for considerations that Rothstein states. He basically confirms things were not right according to the Manitoba Act.

The Supreme Court would be wrong to say there is an expiry on the Constitution.  Now that would be judicial activism and political.

Journalists can't say for judges to be strict Constitutionalists and then cry foul when a decision goes against what they want.

If the government believes the Supreme Court have committed the federal government to something unsustainable, Harper might be able to invoke the "notwithstanding clause".

The decision can be set aside for five years and extended indefinitely. This gives Parliament supremacy over this court decision. Now, I didn't hear certain academics and journalists asking for Parliament to do this. The reason is that it would be controversial and it is easier to blame the court for forcing it to do unpopular things.

We simply don't know what this decision by the court will entail just yet. It will be up to the Metis and the federal government to figure out.

We do know that within  days of the decision that Manitoba Hydro's decision to run Bipole III down the west side of the province possibly faces a court challenge if consultations and compensation are not forthcoming.

The Manitoba Metis Federation has said they are not looking to throw people off their lands. This certainly would trigger a notwithstanding clause from the Feds or province.

However, what about Crown lands? Well, those are certainly fair game. In short, if the federal and provincial governments wish to settle what the court points out was unfair, they will have to talk land deals and compensation.

Nearly the entire city of Winnipeg is on Metis land. This raises the interesting idea that surplus Crown land like the Kapyong Barracks has Metis first dibs and NOT First Nations ones.

Let me repeat that:

The federal court has said that the Harper government must consult with First Nations before disposing of the Kapyong Barracks. The latest decision by the Supreme Court puts that in question.

Who has first dibs on Kapyong? Section 31 of the Manitoba Act was brought in on May 12, 1870. Treaty 1 was enacted on August 3, 1871.

The Metis get first dibs on the Kapyong Barracks if this goes to the Supreme Court.

None of any of this will decided in the next days and months. The word game-changer is used far too often but in this case, it is the description for what this all means.

Now, Manitoba doesn't have to come out poorly from all this. If Metis get land and compensation, there could be a very large economic boost to the province. It would be fair to say though that this could get rough and that people should watch for elbows into the corners.

The Chinese as a curse say "hope you live in interesting times."

These are indeed interesting times.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Osborne Village Changes

Confusion Corner Tower at Osborne
It looks like the final approvals are forthcoming from the city on the tower first mentioned back in 2012 for 257 Osborne Street by Confusion Corner. With a few tweaks here and there, the city looks to green light the project. It may the first evidence of density going up near the new rapid transit corridor.

The five storey office tower should be underway soon.

Also getting approval in the next week will be 548 Stradbrook Avenue, site of the boarded up Phi Delta Theta house. Till recently, the city was holding up approvals there for multi-unit housing but a few tweaks and the job is back on track. It will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

The old Papa George's restaurant still remains for sale. After 35 years at 93 Osborne, I think it is good that it is taking some time to figure who would best take over the property. The original location of Papa George's was where Mona Lisa restaurant was on Corydon Avenue. In the 1970s, it was George's...then Papa George's and the 1980s it became Mona Lisa Pizza. For a while there were a few Papa George's locations in the city until owner Nick Contzamanis was left with the iconic Osborne location.

The deal for a new place is complicated because the owner of Papa George's did not own the property. The property is owned by Martin Ringer who also owned the property run by his son at Movie Village as well as the Vi-Anne Restaurant. The Shopper's Drug Mart expansion on those old properties continues.

The demise of Movie Village may have been in the cards but it has not completely disappeared. The store has moved into Music Trader, also a Ringer owned and operated property. Martin Ringer was one of the original investors in the concept of Osborne Village. He did not start as a developer but as owner and operator of Ringer's Pharmacy in Fort Garry.

One other original owner in the Village is Basil Lagopoulos who has just shuttered Bistrot by Basil's. Despite entreaties from his son to hang up his apron and sell the property, he plowed through two years of insurance claims to come back. Over a million was spent on the restaurant. It will likely remain a restaurant but we are seeing this all over the city: Long term restauranteurs with 25 years plus closing in part because of how hard it is to keep on going or have someone take over the business within the family.

Fear not those that worry about Osborne Village, I think you can expect to see restaurants return to Papa George's and Basil's site.

It would be good to see some major initiative on what is an important corner just down the street from the two restaurants. It is the issue of the Number 4 Fire Hall. Now, I know what you're saying...not another freaking fire hall but go with me on this.

The site of the present Number 4 Fire Hall is here:

Number 4 Fire Hall at Osborne and Stradbrook

It is situated by the old but important Osborne Village Inn.

Fire Hall and Osborne Village Inn and beer vendor
Quite a large property if you put them together as one whole piece, right?

Hotel and parking lot and fire hall on the corner of Osborne
The Osborne Village Inn was built in 1962 and is home to The Zoo and Ozzy's.

It is fair to say that the hotel is a cultural touchstone of the area but is not exactly where one might stay for a room. Two years ago, a murder took place that could have been linked to the hotel.

Give the fact that a number of older hotels have closed or slated to close recently such as the Montcalm, Charleswood Motor Inn, Sheraton/York the Hotel and Place Louis should come as no surprise that the future of the Osborne Village Inn should be considered.

If the thinking is that a hotel, vendor and live music place in the Village is good, could the addition of the Number 4 Fire Hall and a complete re-build of the hotel and vendor along with the desired parkade all be part and parcel of a worthy development?

It is interesting to think about. A better quality hotel with restaurants and live music entrances right out to Osborne (suitably sound proofed), a taxi stand and turn in for the hotel, a vendor with drive thru on Wardlaw with parkade connected possibly all the way from Wardlaw to Gertrude would be rather amazing.

I know parking is a dirty word here but look behind Osborne Street on the hotel side and see the scrubby parking now there. It aint pretty but it is used by people working in the area or going to shops and restaurants.

But what to do with Number 4 Fire Hall?

A suggestion:

The old Esso Station at 425 Osborne

The abandoned Esso station at 425 Osborne might be a good bet if still available.

425 Osborne beside Winnipeg Transit Garage
The site is close to the present station but also to some important routes beyond Osborne.

Massive Transit Garage...back is connected to Rapid Transit
The beauty of 425 Osborne is the traffic lights, the private Winnipeg Transit road, the backway entrance to rapid transit and the ability to build a fire hall with you can drive straight through from back to front in the new format of present buildings. No more backing into the fire hall garages.

Okay, am I being pie in the sky here or is this doable? I know no one wants to talk fire halls but giving up that corner lot could be lucrative for the city.

At the moment, we have an old hotel and and old fire hall in the Osborne Village. It would be a shame if the hotel closes and the city was caught flatfooted.

Moving the fire hall could trigger a huge project as well as locating fire service to an area that makes so much sense in a logistical way for the entire city.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Castle is NOT a Sci-Fi Program

New logo for Space Channel - It's all around you

The old logo from 2005

Evolution of old logo
The Space channel was created in 1997 and since that time, it has been home to science fiction and fantasy TV programming for Canada. It has been a quite popular addition to the selection of TV channels.

Bell Media has been re-branding all of its channels lately. Bravo, the Comedy Network and MuchMusic have all seen changes. In Bravo's case, it has brought in some exciting original programming. For Space, we are seeing a change of Internet website address, logo and taglines. However, there are programming changes coming that are decidedly off message.

Space has been home to many sci-fi programs from the BBC and SyFy channels in the U.S. as well as its own original programs. Notably Dr. Who has been one of the mainstays of the network in recent years.

Bell marketing says this about the change:

“This idea that sci-fi is people in polyester onesies running around with taser guns,” explained Bell marketing director Justin Stockman, “that’s not what the genre is about anymore.”

Um, guys...don't insult your audience. I think Space viewers know what they like in terms of fantasy and sci-fi. They are even prepared to accept shows like Face-Off that might qualify.

One thing I think everyone who watches will agree upon is that Castle, the popular detective show is NOT sci-fi or fantasy or anything close to it.

In my humble opinion, Bell Media may be in violation of their CRTC promise by making this program the anchor to their new brand. Yes, you heard that right...Castle is a Space program.

This is not the first time a network has run afoul of the rules. The History Channel once tried to slide JAG into their line-up and was thoroughly thrashed for it and had to remove it. The CRTC agreed that JAG was not history programming despite the song and dance the network made that it was.

Castle is a shocker on the network. What next? NCIS?

There is still some original sci-fi programming coming down the pike but by view is that this might just be the door opening to introduce other material that has nothing to do with their mandate.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

New Tuxedo Housing Development

New Tuxedo development alongside Seasons of Tuxedo

Slender triangle lot that was not part of Seasons of Tuxedo

A good use of old CN Rail land
Pre-Con Builders has built many buildings over the years and had a little bit of controversy along the way. The multi-family dwelling they proposed along McGillivray caused Whyte Ridge to explode in anger despite the fact that the development was outside the fence line of the area and not even on an access road to the neighbourhood. Meanwhile, the massive St. Gianna's church gets built with a crypt inside right on access road by the fence and it escapes notice of those in Whyte Ridge.

Wisely, city council stood up to the hysteria and the development was approved.

For Pre-Con though, they no doubt figured there was easier developments to do that wouldn't result in hundreds of angry protestors. In the recent year, they focused on Wilkes Avenue in Winnipeg. The four story apartment Wilkes Place was recently completed near the Italian Caboto Centre.

It should be noted that former industrial and city land along Wilkes and Sterling Lyon has exploded in multi-unit housing in the last decade.

Pre-Con's Wilkes Place development
The city isn't wrong in thinking that some sort of public transit along this route to connect to the Parker Lands isn't out of the question. I don't know the merits of the dogear rapid transit skip over to Parker. Obviously, a full environmental study and further consultation needs to be done. What won't stand, however, is the demand to do nothing along Parker.

The neigbourhood has done all it can to discourage east and west traffic as well as keep the land along Parker to themselves. Parker Avenue could be the worst road in the city. The city can ill afford to overlook this land for the overall functioning of the city.

But back to Pre-Con and their building plans.

Companies such as Pre-Con have been looking at the potential pieces of land all over Wilkes and Sterling Lyon. The building of IKEA, Cabela's and the rest of the Seasons of Tuxedo site left one small 13 acre segment of CN Rail hands left to buy. It is a triangle section on the north side of Sterling Lyon Parkway east of Shaftesbury.

In the last couple of years, many a person has probably driven past that section and thought how it was ripe for development. My personal view was that it would be commercial development...shops and restaurants.

Pre-Con has taken a different view. Today they have gone before the Assiniboia Community Committee to ask for approval for building 592 multi-family units in seven different buildings. There would be three 7 story units and and four 4 story buildings. Also on site, some small commercial development possibly including  restaurants.

There are plans for two acres of landscaping and transit terminal for city buses.

This is a plan that should proceed as it re-utilizes industrial land using existing infrastructure, it increases density by probably a minimum of a several hundred people, it creates options for those looking to locate near work in the Seasons of Tuxedo area or Tuxedo Business Park or if people are downsizing from homes in Charleswood, Linden Woods, Tuxedo, River Heights and beyond.

All in all a fairly good project to proceed on.

One possible bone of contention: Shaftesbury Blvd. One traffic report has suggested it is a priority for a multi-million twinning. This project and a few others coming down the pike probably make this road an even higher use throughway.

Approve this project but don't ignore Shaftesbury. And for pete's sake, don't ask for a traffic light afterward for the development if no thought was given to turning lanes. I already foresee issues with people wanting to turn left and head east down Sterling Lyon from the site.

Building set up for new Tuxedo Yards development
There is a possible outlet to Seasons of Tuxedo and the traffic lights on their property. This could be a good possibility rather than adding yet another traffic light on Sterling Lyon.

In any event, an excellent project, good use of land and infrastructure, terrific on increasing density and creating housing options when so many other areas surrounding are single family dwellings.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Target Polo Park

12 foot Target sign

The layout of the new Target

The first floor under cover parking lot
The Assiniboia Committee meets this week to approve part of the Polo Park Target store's design.

The store wants a 12 foot Target sign mounted to road traffic to see. The site of construction is on the old Canad Inns Stadium.

Plans seems to be moving along fast for construction to begin on the Manitoba's first built from the ground up SuperTarget.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Restaurant and Store Openings

1575 Regent Wild Wings Now Open
Transcona continues to host the first openings of major U.S. and Canadian restaurant franchises in the last month. In short order, Five Guys Burgers, Famous Dave's Ribs and now Wild Wings have opened up.

The 1575 Regent location for the Canadian Wild Wings location is already thick on the ground with restaurants. However, they all seem to fit in their own niche from sushi to roast beef to wings to burgers to ice cream. Probably a good idea to bring a pair of pants with an elastic waistband.

The mystery of what will replace the Sal's on the Esplanade Riel bridge is solved. It will be a bistro called Chez Sophie that will serve pizza and likely have a gift shop attached. Hopefully, they serve ice cream too for those walks across the bridge.

Target stores are under construction all over the country and they look to have a soft launch in March. The three malls in Winnipeg ton receive Targets are Kildonan Place Shopping Mall, Southdale Centre and Grant Park Shopping Centre. In the case of Grant Park, don't expect it so soon. Zellers just closed the store a short time ago and Target is doing a massive overhaul of the store. It remains to be seen if they are increasing the size of the store but in the various phases of reconstruction of Grant Park, both the Liquor Mart and Shopper's Drug Mart all increased in size.
Kildonan Place Shopping Centre
Kildonan Place Shopping Centre

After a sushi invasion on Academy Road, the Mexicans are coming. The Modern Taco Company opened in the old Frenchway location near the bridge in December. The Free Press did an interesting story about how authentic Mexican food had finally arrived in city. The old Brit Cafe on Portage Avenue saw JC Tacos and More move in last year sometime. They now have three in the city. I expect we will see more authentic Mexican restaurants emerge across the city in the next months.

Modern Taco Company in old Frenchway location
As concerns rise about available choices for food and grocery elsewhere in the city, we see another of the large Rogers stores at 3500 Portage Avenue that was closed last year put to use. Vita Health has taken over the location with a Fresh Health format that features organic food and a deli section. This extra large location should prove popular to St. James residents who have to shlep to Tuxedo to shop now.

Old Rogers becomes Vita Health
In terms of grocery stores, the Free Press has written an excellent story about corner stores and the strong connection to the Korean community. Much like on the west coast of the U.S., Winnipeg has seen and is continuing to see Koreans run these small businesses with heart and soul. Sad to see the follow-up to their story was one of the families talking about their encounter with a weapon carrying robber.

Anecdotally, I have been hearing about more Koreans coming to the city to start a new life. We need more of these hard working families here (Mexicans too) and can't afford to have them vulnerable to strong arm robbery. More community policing, please. And look out for your neighbourhood store.

In terms of new stores aside from Target, Cabela's is really shaping up. The massive Seasons of Tuxedo location by IKEA has their signage up, They still appear to be on schedule for opening a few months from now. The Marshalls store at Polo Park North is slated to open even earlier.

Speaking of Polo Park, the story is that Steve Madden will have a store in the mall soon. If true, it will be another indication of the transformation taking place inside. This footwear store is on many people's must have list.

La Vie en Rose has been around a while. It was thought that Victoria Secret would affect their sales but perhaps not. They are opening an outlet store up on Kenaston that's a fair size at 4500 square feet.

With all the restaurants going up in Transcona, it is good to know that GoodLife Fitness has put up another co-ed location in the area.

The closed Future Shop on Regent
However, those looking for Future Shop will have to go out of the area. It seems the best combination for Future Shop or Best Buy is when they are side by side. A stand alone store in this market was probably not enough of a draw.

The economy was slowing in December. The province of Manitoba had momentum coming out of 2012. Businesses are still investing but there is no doubt that North America could stand a big boost heading into March. And it is pretty painful start when gas keeps going up.