Friday, November 21, 2014

Bermax Caffe + Bistro Opening Soon

In the 1970s there were few restaurants in River Heights at all. You could count them on your fingers really. Even in the 1980s, the restaurants were a bit spotty. There would be a Chinese good place there, a take-out pizza joint there. It was the early 1980s when a few places sprouted up on Grant to great success. Grapes and Pepper's filled a crying need on the border of River Heights and Tuxedo and both places were filled for many years to come.

To be fair River Heights is very residential. There are only a certain few places where any commercial development is even permissible. The spots that are available and often small and only offer street parking. During the 1980s a number of the gas stations that were on Academy Road closed and this set the stage for some more exclusive retailing such as Eyelot Dove, Laughing Giraffe and Paper Gallery. It still took some time before restaurants like Fusion and Saucers found their way in 1996 and beyond.

In short, many restauranteurs might want to ply their trade in River Heights but alas there are few spots to do so.

The closure of the CN Oakbank line has seen commercial development extend on streets like Academy and Grant. It has also seen many new condos go up all along that narrow property as well.

In front of the condos at Corydon Avenue, a commercial development went up. It started up in 2012 and the first tenants was a hair salon but paper is over the windows telling us that Bermax is opening soon.

Under construction in 2012 on Corydon
Bermax Caffee + Bistro has their website up but no menu. The indication though is that it will be kosher and that the coffee will be top notch. Will be looking to see what comes in the days and weeks ahead!

The Ting Tings - That's Not My Name

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Kelvin High School's New Gym

Kelvin High School Seen from Academy Road
Kelvin High School was first built between 1910 and 1912 right along Academy Road. The houses of River Heights came quickly after.

L.B. Foote Picture from roof of Kelvin High
The first Kelvin was named Kelvin Technical High School and was designed by provincial architect J.B. Mitchell. It was constructed for a total of $265,000 and stood four floors. Tyndall stone and Leary red brick was used for the materials. Much of River Heights was empty in 1912 but by 1922 an addition J.N. Semmens needed to be added as the neighboorhood was surging following World War I.

Kelvin had an identical twin school built on Machray Avenue in St. John's Technical High School. The rules on naming back then was alternating between British lords and saints. Hence, Kelvin and St. John's.

The name Kelvin presumably fit a technical school as Lord Kelvin also known as Sir William Thomson was a brilliant mathematician and physicist. Today he is best known for the absolute temperature scale or Kelvin Scale. He never visited his namesake school as he died in 1907 but he did come to Canada a number of times.

The school would stand through two World Wars and lose many students to the conflicts. 55 of 527 died in WWI and 225 died of 2,640 in WWII. They were honoured on a wall within the old school.

By the 1950s, the school began to fall into disrepair. The center town had to be removed because it was unstable in 1957. Eventually the building was literally falling apart in a post-war baby boom.

A huge need for additional classroom space led to an expansion in 1963. By 1964, an entire new building for the whole school was under construction along Kingsway for around $1.4 million. The new school was ready to go in 1965 and the old school was knocked down in 1965 and is the present track and soccer field.

Kelvin officially became know as Kelvin High School in 1965. The school had always been a grade 10 to 12 school but in 1995 the school added grade 9 students. Special education and physical disabilities requirements saw elevators added and in 2002, two art rooms, two classrooms and a computer lab were built out toward Stafford Street.

Kelvin's addition in 2002
The staff parking lot has grown as the faculty has grown and many students drive now so almost every street nearby has cars parked on it with kids running out to change spots as time runs out. Parking patrols make quick work of the heedless.

The new addition in 2002 used traditional red brick and modern dark windows. I have never been a fan of the yellow frames on the rest of the school. They always seemed out of date even in the 1970s.

The latest addition will be a new gym to accommodate the increased number of students.

Kelvin students created a visual of what the new gym will look like.

In 2015, the new Kelvin building will be 50 years old. The new gym addition is probably not the last change we see to the school. Hope they start with taking out the yellow panel windows.

Monday, November 3, 2014

One Big Synagogue for Winnipeg?

The discussion about a merger of two large Jewish synagogues is an intriguing one. While I'm not Jewish, it is reasonable to say that the merger could have a huge impact on a number areas of the city. Much like how the Asper Jewish Community Campus transformed the old Fort Osborne Barracks into a $28 million powerhouse of education, culture and wellness for Jews and Winnipeg-at-large, the merger of two powerful synagogues onto a possible site by the campus could create a religious and housing center of substantial strength and influence.

The Etz Chayim Synagogue on Matheson is a 1952 structure while the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue is 1950 structure. Both buildings are quite beautiful but will be in need of costly repairs to upgrade. The Etz Chayim has more parking and a housing component but a fact of life in Winnipeg is that many Jews in Winnipeg have moved south of the Assiniboine over many decades. This fact has seen synagogue mergers such as Ezt Chayim in 2002 when three congregations merged on the old Rosh Pina site on Matheson.

The 1997 Asper Jewish Community Campus was also a gathering of school, fitness and cultural components into a successful larger group.

Has there been any losers in the mergers within the Jewish community? The answer is yes. If are a faithful Jewish person and live in Garden City, the sad fact is your kids have a long way to go a Jewish school, a long way to go a Synagogue, a long way to a Jewish fitness center and a long way to a Jewish home when you retire.

The answer in a nutshell for many Jewish people is: Move south young man...or old man or woman or...errr. Well, you get the point. It isn't like Jewish people have not been isolated and away from fellow Jews before? Many in the Jewish community worked hard in rural areas building this country. It has been a very long process where Jewish people have drawn closer and closer together for a variety of reasons.

There are two possible places for a synagogue at the Asper Jewish Community Campus in my opinion. The first is on the field in front of Tuxedo and running along Doncaster. It has a baseball field on it right now and while a huge school is next door, it is under utilized to say the least. The other possibility is a large parking lot opposite the campus on Willow Avenue.

In a perfect world, the sale of both synagogues and other assets as well as fundraising sees Willow Avenue turned parking for the Rady Centre and Gray Academy, a new merged synagogue and possibly housing.

I don't think I have to tell anyway that Doncaster is turning into a crazy place for traffic. While supportive of a possible new super synagogue, the issue with parking, traffic, Rady Centre, school drop off and Folklorama can't be put off any longer. Greater minds than mine need to think about traffic flows before someone dies at Doncaster and Tuxedo.

Still, there is not much not to like in the synagogues merging onto the campus. The benefits to the city as a whole are easily demonstrated.

It will be interesting as well too see what becomes of the old properties especially the one on Academy Road. It will be sought after by many.