Thursday, October 31, 2013

H & M Coming to Winnipeg

The company has been teasing up since 2009 about coming.

There is no doubt they wanted to be in Polo Park Mall but outside of it or in was the big question. The redevelopment plans for the old Winnipeg Arena and Canad Inns Stadium probably played a part in the indecision of where to go.

The company lost its nerve on the spot that Forever 21 eventually chose in the mall. The thinking was: Will there be enough traffic down that corridor? How wrong they were. Forever 21 has been a runaway success in the old Safeway space.

The various store closures of Safeway, McNally Robinson's and Zeller's have represented opportunities for Polo Park even when it might have first been pretty bruising losing big tenants.

The loss of Safeway allowed the mall to pick up popular Forever 21 and BCBG as two replacements. The loss of McNally Robinson allowed the mall to pick up Urban Planet in a big location.

The loss of Zellers means that just under 100,000 square feet of space comes available with three separate entrances into the space. H & M has indicated the store will be 25,000 square feet and employ around 75 people.  Although the mall was cagey about where H & M would go, it seems compelling they would be somewhere in the old space belonging to Zellers.

Old Zellers Spot Up Top

Old Zellers, one entrance inside, two outside

Now, it doesn't take a genius to realize that even if H & M moves into the spot, the space remains largely empty. It also remains configured for a large store.

Polo Park has indicated that it will in October of 2014 before the store opens. The main reason is that a reconfiguration of old Zellers is coming. While H & M might be the main attraction in the space, it lends itself to the idea that Abercrombie and Fitch and J. Crew are coming as well.

Actually expect a few announcements and more in 2014.

H & M, the big Swedish fashion retailer has been on a lot of shopper's wish list for a long time. The recent opening of a store in Ottawa saw massive line ups and excitement. There is no doubt that Polo Park will benefit strongly from the store coming to the mall.

As a footnote, five more Sears have had their leases bought out in Canada this week including the flagship store in Eaton Centre Toronto. Rumours continue to circulate that Sears Polo Park is next to go. There are at least three retailers interested with the lead going to Nordstrom's.

Big things ahead for Polo Park.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Target Grant Park to Open November 13

The Wall Street Journal reports Target at Grant Park Shopping Centre is to open November 13.

Let's hope the rest of the interior renovations of the mall are done by then as well.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The New Liberal Leader

Rana Bokhari, New Manitoba Liberal Leader
I have worked Saturdays since childhood. I was newspaper carrier when there were still evening papers. I delivered the Winnipeg Tribune, Winnipeg Free Press and Winnipeg Sun.

For much of my life, I have worked more evenings and weekends that I care to remember.

I still do.

I try to take some Saturdays off occasionally but generally it is an extremely busy work day for me.  This Saturday was another busy one.

I take a rare Saturday off and would have this week for the Liberal leadership vote. However, there were a mail-in ballot and advance poll.

I love advance polls in that on election day, I like to be able to avoid any crowds and get my vote in. I do take time do go over my candidate lists and policy platforms. However, by a week before the election or so, I am more or less confirmed in what my decision will be. So far I have been lucky and there has not been a reason for me to regret voting before the actual election date.

The Liberal advance poll was a preferential vote numbering 1 through 3. There were were three worthwhile candidates in Rana Bokhari, Dougald Lamont and Bob Axworthy.

I made my selection based on a variety of criteria for and chose Rana Bokhari as my first choice. I didn't make my decision widely known but did tell a few people. I did not want to influence anyone and I should be clear that I would have supported any of the three had they become leader.  I told only a few people what my decision was. In my view, all of them would be preferable to the two main parties for their leadership.

It will be a tough time for the new leader. No seat in the legislature and probably the loss of two staff members. Those staff are assigned to elected leaders and had worked for Jon Gerrard. Since he is no longer leader, the positions are likely to be terminated unless the other parties agree to a change. The NDP might want to cripple the Liberals and say no. It might be in the Conservatives interest to say yes.

Why? Because every time the Liberal vote goes up, it gives the PCs a chance at becoming government.

I was not present when the leader was elected on the first ballot. However, I was happy to see Rana Bokhari become youngest Liberal leader in provincial history.

Some Liberals expressed dismay from other camps and made disparaging remarks about demographics dictating the vote. I can't say what the break down was but I am white and older than the candidate chosen. I saw a mix of people at the advance polls and on TV supporting the chosen candidate.

The Free Press mentioned that not enough eligible voters actually voted and too many voted in the advance polls. I suppose a delegate election could have ensured more people in the room and dispensed with the advance polls. I don't know. I have been part of both processes. It will always come down to how many memberships sold and voter turn out.

I think my reasons for not going to the actual leadership convention are fairly solid. I still think things have been fairly exciting and interest seemed to grow. But people are going to take their time assessing.

I know that I will be putting more time in but in what capacity, I don't know.

I think one thing I am certain of and that is our two party polarized system has made a lot of people wonder out loud if we could do better.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Save on Foods Coming to Winnipeg?

Save on Foods in B.C and Alberta
The rumour mill has been going strong ever since the Sobey's announcement of taking over Safeway.

The story goes that the Harper government through the Competion Bureau is going to order Sobey's to sell off some Safeway locations before the government approves the sale. This is likely to include warehouses and manufacturing sites.

The government will not take kindly to a massive amount of people being laid off. Safeway and Sobey's practically square off across the street from one another and barring the Competition Bureau intervention, numerous duplicate locations would be shut down. Not only does such a shut down hurt employees but property owners can be left with large holes to fill. Left to its own ends, Sobey's might pay property taxes or rent on a closed store for some time after just to prevent a competitor from moving into the old spot.

The Empire Group which owns Sobey's knows full well how the Competition Bureau operates. Empire sold their movie theatres in part to fund their purchase of Safeway. The government expressed concern about some of the Ontario movie theatres going to Cineplex so Sobey's sought out a second buyer.

And so it goes. Competition is good so it seems unlikely that the closure of so many stores, warehouses and manufacturers is going to stand. And so this is where the rumours start.

As mentioned in this blog, Whole Foods has been sniffing around Winnipeg for locations. Even before the Sobey's purchase of Safeway, the American grocer had a strategy to spread out across Canada. The big problem for Whole Foods is logistics. At present, they use their established store locations to help supply new stores. To move into Winnipeg would create a very long supply chain. To mitigate this problem, the creation of two or three stores would go a long way to bring the costs down. You had better believe that Whole Foods has their eye on the prize which is grab some Safeway locations should they come available.

Sobey's would probably be comfortable selling some locations to Whole Foods and the organic seller caters to a slight different dynamic. However, there is no way Whole Foods will buy all the locations Sobey's will likely have to sell.

This means the likely buyers are Quebec-based Metro and B.C.-based Save on Foods.

Metro is a dominant force in the east but it is still digesting the large purchase of stores in Ontario that include Dominion and A&P. Could they make a play for stores in the west that Sobey's is forced to give up? Most certainly. Will they? It is possible as they will not get this chance again to grab choice locations all across western Canada.

In the case of Save On Foods, there is very little doubt they were moving eastward and the rumour has been for some time that Manitoba and Saskatchewan are on their radar. Just this week Save on Foods moves into the Calgary market for the first time in force. Four stores are planned over the next dozen months. The company already has stores across Alberta.

Save on Foods is owned by one of Canada's richest men Jimmy Pattison of Vancouver. In 1968, he took over the Overwaitea supermarket, a grocer for B.C. since 1915. In 1990, the Save On Foods concept was spun off from the namesake Overwaitea group. Since then, it has been the primary store concept of the company.

The availability of stores, distributions centres and possibly some manufacturing being put on the market by Sobey's would be hard for Save on Foods to ignore. In one fell swoop, they could get great locations and scare Metro out of the market and possibly get the share of consumers that doesn't care for Sobey's as much as they did for Safeway.

It would not be the first time that Jimmy Pattison has rode in to Manitoba to pick up assets in the last while. He has picked up some car dealerships and radio stations in the last year. In some cases, the Competition Bureau has ordered large mergers of radio stations to sell some of their assets and Pattison has been there to scoop them up.

It is likely that the decision on Sobey's takeover of Safeway comes in the next months, possibly the new year.

It could be very possible that Winnipeg sees a few Save on Foods in the 2014 year.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Courtesy in Winnipeg

The Persian proverb "Courteous men learn courtesy from the discourteous" might be only half true.

In reality, discourtesy might also teach someone to be discourteous themselves.

Perhaps that is no more well demonstrated than when one driving a car. No one lets you in when you are trying to change lanes and in turn, you don't let anyone in either.

The list of discourteous driving infractions is a long one. I have been guilty of it but have tried and continue to try to be polite and use courtesy when driving. Confusion, distraction, impatience, anger and selfishness all need to be controlled on the road. Give yourself time to get to where you need to go and mapping out your route is common sense and contributes to your courtesy on the road.

Speed limits aren't suggestions, the car ahead of you isn't "winning", bikes, people and cars are not merely pylons, the horn is not an instrument and turn signals are not options. This isn't NASCAR and tailgating isn't a strategy to push the driver ahead of you or to zig zag in front of them. Meals, shaving and make-up...sometimes all three at the same time can lead to no good. Your brights while driving can be someone else's blinds.

Mistakes happen and that is why it is important to allow for them. If a driver swings their door out suddenly from being parked, it doesn't mean that was ensues is a Winnipeg version of Max Mad, Return to Thunderdome. Check the rage.

I am not a perfect driver but I try to do a few things to limit my exposure to being discourteous and in turn try to show courtesy. I use my turn signals and don't drift from lane to lane. I leave a car length between when driving (although it sometimes leaves me vulnerable to being cut off in front of). I try to drive and park between the lines even when they are hard to see on Winnipeg streets. I try not to speed. I try to be aware and not overly distracted. I let people have turns at intersections. I pull in and tuck the car when I don't have the right of way for approaching traffic.

It is not easy driving in Winnipeg. Sometimes city planners leave you vulnerable to error with lanes that suddenly disappear or have lanes such as Kenaston that people whip down than rush into other lanes at breakneck speed resulting in close calls or aggressive driving.

Diamond lanes and bike lanes that become invisible in snow or cause confusion as to when you can access them to go down other streets are particularly troubling.

I have mentioned traffic a lot because rage in this area seems to occur daily. It is also the area where government unwittingly or deliberately seem to set up things for maximum trouble.

In our daily life outside of driving, good parents tell their kids to mind their Ps and Qs. Say please, say thank you. This goes a long way for being courteous. The trick is communication. I'm sorry if you slept poor and haven't had your coffee yet. Don't be rude and bark at people.

Try not to be the source of frustration for others in stores by being rude, pushy or unprepared when you shop, arrive at the till, walk down the aisles. Living and dying by your debit card sometimes means taking more time at the till and in a few cases, finding out it isn't working and not having even the money for a cup of coffee with you. It is funny how some people don't even have one buck in their pockets. Not so funny when they have to abandon their carts or product at the till in front of you.

Cart etiquette at the grocery store can be used to express courtesy. Tuck your cart in, be watchful of those around you, don't walk as a family five people across the aisle at the slowest pace possible, don't talk on your cell phone the whole time and walk or push your cart with reckless abandon. If their are no automatic doors, look to hold the door occasionally rather than skitter in and have quickly close behind you as the elderly lady reaches out futilely as it swings past her hand.

At your home, courtesy can be just keeping your grass cut...but not at 7 am Sunday, shovelling your snow...and not piling it in front of your neighbour's driveway, watching out for the safety and well being of your community.

In an increasingly busy world, it can be challenging being patient. It is frustrating when it seems that by design a road, building, system or other human created plan appears to be set up specifically cause you to lose it.

But don't. Keep it together. Be patient, show courtesy. Don't go out of your way to be rude and obnoxious. It isn't cute acting like a brat. It is annoying. Use polite language, be prepared and take time to achieve your objectives and don't act like that you are the only one in the world.

Perhaps then courtesy would beget courtesy.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Waverley Development at Lee Boulevard

Waverley at Lee Boulevard Development
Lost in the rapid growth of Waverley West is the fact that it has opened development opportunities in the gaps east of Waverley.

Lee Boulevard bisects the area east from Shore Street near Pembina Highway all the way west to Brady Road. South of Lee has been filled with home for Richmond West for many years.

North of Lee has been home to South East Collegiate since 1995. The school has 160 aboriginal students from Grade 10 to 12.  Beside the school is the South East Personal Care home built in 2011 for $21 million. The 80 bed facility for elderly Indian, Metis and Inuit was the first of its kind in Winnipeg.

Without anyone really taking notice, Lee Boulevard north has become a center for First Nations health and education.

A section of land beside the school used for baseball and soccer has now become very valuable as it situated beside the recently reconstructed Waverley and the quickly developing Waverley West with neighbourhoods of Bridgwater and South Pointe.

Development Site...South East Collegiate on the right
A proposal has been sent to the city to turn the corner lot into 166 condominium townhouses.

I see no reason why this project won't go ahead and be fairly successful. However, it is another reminder as to why concern over traffic along Waverley will will not go away.

The north and south traffic flows along Kenaston and Waverley will only continue as new and infill housing goes in.

A better response is probably needed for what surely will be traffic chaos along the streets.

166 Condos for Lee Boulevard

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

More Condos for Osborne Village

New condos for 570-578 Stradbrook Osborne Village
570-578 two houses on large lots
Significant land size in the heart of Osborne

Wide and deep lots at 570-578 Osborne
The houses present already have a series of large garages for multiple families
Plans for 570-578 call for two buildings, 41 condos
 In case anyone wasn't noticing, Osborne Village is spreading across Stradbrook and all the along that stretch from Wellington Crescent to Donald?

New condos for 320 Stradbrook
4 floors, 18 condos
Side of 320 Stradbrook
Back of 320 Stradbrook
Osborne Village is limited to where it can spread out to. The Assiniboine River is the hard limit to growth to the north and west insofar as the river winds downward to form Armstrong Point on one side of the river and Wellington Crescent on the Osborne side.

Donald Street represents a man-made limit to the east although some people might consider the Mayfair East area up to Main Street and the Red River to be part of that dynamic. I disagree. I think Donald Street represents a pretty strong limit to Osborne Village till it reaches Confusion Corner.

Confusion Corner breaks up a seamless pathway for Osborne to expand further southward. The underpass, bus transit station and rail lines and several industrial buildings make it a very long walk before you feel you are in a community again.

That has left Osborne Village to build some of the tallest apartments in the city of Winnipeg, mostly along the Assiniboine River and down Wellington Crescent. However, since the 1980s, condo and apartment growth has moved steadily away from the river, first across River Aver and now Stradbrook Avenue.

Without a doubt, Winnipeg will see and is seeing density increases in and around Osborne and Corydon areas. Older houses sitting on large lots are now being eyed everywhere for condos or apartments.

At Nassau and Stradbrook, a new 2 building condo complex with 41 units will go up on a three lot section. That section at the moment has two houses, already subdivided for families. The houses will give way to the condos. The 570-578 Stradbrook address along Nassau represents a continued movement of development in the area that has accelerated in recent years.

Farther down Stradbrook, another condo unit is going up where an older house was hemmed in by apartments. 320 Stradbrook will make way for a 4 floor, 18 units condo complex.

The announcements these past 2 years have been fast paced and had to keep track of. However, one thing is clear...the distinction between Osborne Village and Corydon area will be less distinct as the two neighbourhoods move toward each other in commercial and residential development.

It isn't like there aren't people living on Stradbrook, Wardlaw, Gertrude, McMillan and Corydon now but the density is increasing every year. And it isn't uncommon now for people to stroll down Osborne and head down Corydon or vice versa.

In essence, we are seeing Osborne Village and Corydon areas increasingly forming up as a greater neighbourhood sharing the same dynamic of grocery, small shops and restaurants and higher density neighbourhoods.

It has almost been impossible to keep track of how much condo and apartment building construction that has been taking place in both areas.

Moves have been made to ensure that Nassau doesn't become a speedway from one area to another. It is a very narrow street with roundabouts on it and one section blocked off near Corydon and made one one. And yet, we see growth looking to explode down the very same street.

It certainly makes for interesting times in terms of managing traffic flows and population. However, the walk-ability aspect of Osborne continues to rise. Still not exactly safe for bikes though. And cars...well, the issue of a future parkade for Osborne and possibly Corydon is going to come up again and again in the future.