Thursday, February 27, 2014

Don't Negotiate in Secret

What have we learned from the fire hall issue at City Hall?

Apparently, it looks like that better deals can be negotiated in secret.

The inescapable conclusion from fire union spokesman and from certain other officials both elected and non-elected is that the city got four excellent fire halls and who cares how it was done and if it cost more. Moreover, the argument is being made that we need more fire halls done and to stop obsessing about how it gets done.

Well. Contrary to what some union officials believe and what some city administration and Councillors believe, we need a fair, transparent and competitive approach to how the city does business.

Justin Swandel has initiated negotiations with Shindico over the fiasco of the fire hall construction in the city of Winnipeg. It is difficult to know what to make of this and on the face of it, the message it sends is that companies just need to dig in their heels to get what they want and the city will ride to the rescue with a deal and more money.

Why the need to even negotiate with the city civil servants? Just call your local Councillor and draw up a deal on a paper napkin.

Our police headquarters is ramping up to nearly $250 million and our fire halls are much higher than budgeted and no one can even say why things ended up the way they did. Finger pointing is happening while others are asking everyone to shush as if it will all go away.

It won't go away.

Too many projects have run off the rails in terms of how long they take, how much they cost, how they were put together.

And now we undermine things again by trying to repair damage from a far from transparent project by negotiating a deal away from council chambers.

Deals that try to save us time and money often don't do that at all. It is high time we stuck to a clear process, a competitive process and stop treating people like we're asking for the moon. The disdain and annoyance some people have for the public wanting transparency is unseemly.

An election taken place this year in October. It will be interesting to see how the public reacts to how politics has been done at City Hall the last while.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

H&M Polo Park Cladding Up

On the Main Floor Polo Park
The cladding has gone up and all the rumours about a two floor H&M have been false. The new store slated to open in fall of this year will be 25,000 square feet making the third largest in Canada. Only Toronto's Eaton Centre and Vancouver's Pacific Centre will be larger.

The question of what is going up in the nearly 100,000 square foot Zellers on the second floor is a mystery. Suffice to say though that several stores have been displaced to make way for H&M. Mexx, Dyamite, Garage and Fairweather all closed and relocating somewhere.

In the competition to attract shoppers, malls are always looking to re-fresh things. St. Vital Mall went through and extensive re-modelling on the inside the brighten their look. Grant Park Mall is almost complete in its mission to keep Target happy in their new home with a full mall upgrade.

There will be further announcements to be sure in regards to Polo Park and what goes up in the old Zellers.

Lastly, Sears still hangs on my their fingers. This could be the last year for the store in Polo Park if they can't turn things around.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Red River Co-op Takes Over Four Safeways

A newer Co-Op in Alberta
Surprise, surprise.

After the Competition Bureau ordered Sobey's to dispose of 23 store locations before it would approve the takeover of Safeway grocery, I mused that Pattison-owned Save On Foods was the logical buyer. It was no secret that Save-On Food had been pushing eastward from their Vancouver roots and had their eye on locations in the west.

It seemed the only other contender was Metro from eastern Canada finally making a move west. I deemed that that problematic due to supply chain issue since the Competition Bureau allowed Sobey's to hold onto all the Safeway warehouses and manufacturing.

There was one option I thought was a longshot and that was Co-Op moving into grocery again in Manitoba. It was just over 30 years ago that Co-Op tottered on the edge of collapse, partly due to the grocery business.

Co-Op stores in Winnipeg were sold off in 1983 along with everything that was not fuel and gas related. The company hunkered down and licked wounds after for the better part of a decade or more. Slowly, every so slowly, the member owned company crawled back from the brink.

It is hard to say why Red River sank when Calgary Co-Op grocery continued to succeed in the same timeframe. Perhaps it was the resilience of the Alberta economy, better management, better locations...who knows?

The refrain of why we didn't have Co-Op grocery stores like Calgary did was heard more than once over the years.

And yet...was there even a viable way to do it after so many years out of the market? There was a competitive group of private stores already in place and no locations to choose from that were not already served well. It didn't seem to make sense to open one store at a time with tiny margins for profit.

The Sobey's takeover represented that once in a lifetime opportunity to get back in the market and it seems Co-Op ran with it.

And now the company had the strength to do it. Red River Co-Op's membership has soared 70,000 members in the last five years alone to 240,000 members. The multiple locations for the food, carwash and convenience stores has returned over $200 million to members at an average of $200 to $300 a person.

The takeover of the former Safeway locations at 1441 Main St., 77 Vermillion Rd., 850 Dakota St. and 1120 Grant Ave give the Co-Op a good base of already profitable stores in established neighbourhoods. It seems a good bet that Co-Op members will take advantage of buying there but more likely, it seems a whole new group of members will come in as a result of buying there.

It isn't all smooth sailing. The margins on food are so much lower than on fuel. It will be a straight up battle to maintain market share.

The Co-Op in Britain suffered their worst year in 150 years and they have cover grocery, pharmacy and the like. The good results for Red River Co-Op could go off the rails without careful management.

Still, it is hard not to see the positives of this move by Co-Op for the company and for the market.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

1021 Wellington Crescent Burns to the Ground

Terrible, terrible.

Even now it is hard to say how bad the fire damage is on this day. Suffice to isn't good.

Photography by Profo Fotograf and Syverson Monteyne Architecture
In 2009, one of the most elegant houses in River Heights along Wellington Crescent was given a redux of luxury that was simply stunning. The Austrian family of Karl Dornetshuber moved in that year. The family made the house base of operations for Marquette Gravel, a large supplier for the Canadian market. Since 1999, Dornetshuber has owned nearly 700 acres just 40 kilometers outside of Winnipeg.

At the time of the fire the entire Dornetshuber family was away in Edmonton and no one was hurt in the blaze.

1021 Wellington Crescent from the air
The multi-million mansion has been home to many prominent families over the years since construction by Lount Construction in 1933. The Sures family was first to call it home right up to 1950. In the years that followed came Smith, Peterson, Halter, Sifton and Asper.

At at time when many Wellington Crescent homes have been knocked down for brand new construction, 1021 Wellington Crescent was lovingly restored so the best of the old and newest of the new was inside it.

The closure of Wellington on Sundays allowed people a lazy stroll or bike ride down the street to see the stately homes of many of Winnipeg's earliest wealthy citizens, many of whom were in the grain trade.

It is hard to say what will be left of the house when fire crews are done.

The house was valued at nearly $2 million ten years ago. It is very likely this could be the largest fire insurance claim for a house in Winnipeg history.

It is clear though that a little bit of Winnipeg history has been lost today.

One again, thankfully no one was hurt.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Store Makeovers at Polo Park in Advance of H&M

Will H& M Be Two Floors?
The Sears Polo Park death watch continues. Every month, Sears bleeds more workers and loses more money. Leases have been bought up all over the country and Nordstrom ends up being the first choice to take over the space.

Sears in Winnipeg has four stores, Polo Park being the largest.  Nordstrom and Quebec-based La Masion Simons are both anxious to grab the location. One more bad quarter and the whole apple car of Sears Canada might collapse. Expect some sort of announcement soon.

In the mean time, major makeovers and closures are taking place in the mall. Mexx, Dyamite, Garage and Fairweather are closed and relocating within the mall. Why? The reason increasingly looks like H&M wishes to make Winnipeg the location of one of its few two floor designs.

It remains to be seen what the final outcome of the movement within the mall will look like but most of the work will be done by fall of 2014.

There have been lots of rumours about Winnipeg's first Microsoft store opening at Polo Park. Will continue to monitor this. There are now four in country.

Outside of the mall, construction of the two story Target continues apace also slated for a fall opening. No word on what other stores will accompany the big retailer on the old Canad Inns Stadium site.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Treehouse, Bulk Barn Locate to Old Video Stores

Rogers Video old location Kenaston Village

Blockbuster Video old location Portage Avenue
Many of the old Rogers Video and Blockbuster Video locations were picked up quickly by retailers as well as Snap Fitness.

There were a few larger locations or awkward locations that have been waiting some time to be filled.

In quick succession, two old old video store locations have found tenants.

The large Rogers Video location in Kenaston Village Mall is soon to be a location for Bulk Barn. It is sort of full circle for that space as it one held a grocery store. I believe it was a Family Fare which held its own for many years against its larger rival across the street due to a strong Sunday traffic. That end when Superstore was not allowed to open Sundays.

Eventually, once that exclusive day was gone, the store closed and a renovation and expansion put a Giselle's in place. Giselle's is gone as well from Winnipeg and what has replaced it is the First Glace Aesthetic Clinic.

The old Rogers was fairly sizable and Bulk Barn will have a roomy space appreciated by those who might want to combine their Superstore, Harvest Bread and bulk shopping.

One last note on Kenaston Village Mall is the new arrival Papa Murphy's in the old Academy Florist location. The take and bake pizza restaurant now has two locations in the city.

The old Blockbuster location in a former store on Portage Avenue near Deer Lodge Hospital is another large and somewhat awkward location. Despite having parking, the space has sat empty till now. No longer. Treehouse Furniture has moved their location on St. James Avenue in the Polo Park area to this building.

Treehouse Furniture probably will benefit from cheaper rent and to be honest, better recognition from the street.

It has taken a while but nearly everyone of the old Rogers and Blockbuster have been re-tasked and in the end, some of what has gone up instead has been quite excellent.

Chris Isaak - Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing (Uncensored Official Video) HQ HD