Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Return of the IKEA Sign

The old IKEA sign
The first IKEA sign made up of chicken wire and paper mache went up in 2012. It required a number of expensive cranes and multiple people to put up on its perch and there is stayed for not a very long time. Winnipeg winds proved to be too much for it and the I and the K tore and the whole sign on one side was damaged. At first they took down just a part of it. Then all whole thing came down.

And there it sat.

It sat for months and then more months and then more. Much of 2016 and a good portion of 2015. Hard to remember just how long now.

We were becoming known as the place where IKEA has a store and a empty signpost because Winnipeg eats signs for breakfast.

A number of weeks ago, special vehicles from Alberta arrived and with others already based here in the city, the lowered off a truck Winnipeg's new IKEA sign. As with all things from IKEA some assembly was required. Piece by piece the three side sign was assembled on the ground.

Unlike the old sign which was soft, the new sign was made of solid material. One suspects this must have been handcrafted by the elves at IKEA headquarters.

And so it began again. Multiple cranes assembled and lifted the beast of a sign into the air and then with much work fastened it up high. Happy pilots flying by waved as they saw their navigation took for finding the airport. No longer would they fly past and glide to Gimli.

Drivers at Kenaston smiled as the sign say high and reminded them that they needed a new IKEA kitchen or at the very least... Swedish meatballs.

All is right with the world and a sign made of sturdier stuff is secured high above.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Movie Review: Bad Moms

I'm not a movie reviewer in that I never attended journalism school or had classes in film history. Like the majority of people out there, I just love films. In the past, I wrote screenplays and even sold some but have had a career elsewhere for some time. What I continue to do though is write and blog. In recent years, Access Winnipeg has published on their website my writing. This has resulted in movie passes and other media invites that I've tried to attend.

Once again, I'm not so much a media person. I don't get paid for my opinion nor do I have an editor who checks for my many typos. Please let me know when I make an error. What I will try do from here on in is is provide either a preview or review of the movie I've seen. I'll try not to spoil any movies but give some background where I can and my honest opinion of what I saw.

I'd like to thank Access Winnipeg and all of you for reading even when it looks like I've been over tired. In recent months, the overall reads has come in at around 40,000 a month. Access Winnipeg is likely even higher than that.

The first review is for Bad Moms written by John Lucas and Scott Moore who cut their teeth on the screenplay for the Hangover.  In this movie, they also share co-director roles. To say these two men have a certain comedy style is an understatement. They have come to define vulgar, profane, ridiculous and outrageous comedy with few limits. What the writer/director team have not done to this point is a female drive storyline.

So how do they do after so many bad men, bad dads and funny movies making the switch to bad moms? They do very well. The storyline follows Amy (Mila Kunis) as a mom who is stressed to the max with two children in middle school, a job asking lots given that it is part-time and a husband who is less than helpful at home. The result of all this is an inevitable meltdown. She finds support from two other overworked moms Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn).

The break from conformity earns the scorn of the Gwendolyn (Christina Applegate), head of the PTA. She does not approve of Amy saying no to overachieving at school events such as the bake sale. Gwendolyn, assisted by her mean team of Stacy (Jada Pinkett-Smith) and Vicky (Amy Mumolo) try and stop Amy. The result is a hilarious battle for the PTA presidency.

The audience reaction to moms behaving badly was one of delight. The escalation of raunchiness rips a page from The Hangover and few men escape ridicule, scorn or contempt from the women unless you're a widowed, hunky man raising a child on your own.

The end of the movie is a case of wish fulfillment for the women in the the story. They all achieve some sort of peace in not being perfect but that this in itself brings happiness. Perhaps the male writer/director team has in fact captured what women want. It is hard to imagine The Hangover having such life lessons.

One feature worth staying through the credits if watching the actresses with their real life mothers taking about their childhoods and also about bad mom moments. A very nice touch.

No Oscars will be awarded this kind of movie but in a summer of re-makes, superheros, horror and the like, this movie may end up being a breakout hit.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Altona Mall Lands New Stores

Altona is south of Winnipeg near the U.S. border and one of the successful rural communities that dot the Manitoba Prairies. Like other growing places, it also has local requirements plus a bucket list of stores and restaurants it would like in their town. In 2013, new ownership took over the mall in the center of town. Since then they have renovated and tried to bring new retailers in.

Home Hardware has just opened in the mall which leaves just 12,000 square feet of available space left to fill. A Tim Horton's was not in the cards because the available space won't accommodate a drive-thru. Unlike other rural malls, the central location doesn't make it as easy to simply expand out. Altona is already a town spread out so the mall with a grocer, drug store and a variety of services inside has become a magnet for the people living there.

Many Winnipeggers see the ads for Home Hardware stores on TV but likely have no idea the reach the store has in Manitoba with at least a dozen locations in the province. Friesen's, the big printing company remains a powerful force in the town and churches are in every section of the community. The hard working people in Altona are likely to see additional growth in the coming years.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Shoppers Mall Brandon Gets $30 Million Upgrade

Shoppers Mall before and after
Shoppers Mall in Brandon is the biggest retail center in Manitoba's second largest city. The chaos of the last few years which has seen stores like Safeway, Zellers, Target and others merge or close has left many malls scrambling to replace vacant spots. At 367,000 square feet the Shoppers Mall is sizeable enough to attract major retailers. However, Morguard Real Estate had decided the mall needs a freshen up and a few new stores and will pay $30 million to improve front entrance and common areas.

As reported here, GoodLife Fitness is moving into the mall in the old Safeway location. Also coming to the mall in the old Target will be a Sobey's Extra which will be a strong anchor. It will occupy 62,000 square feet so it has some size. Inside the mall Thai Express will join others in the food court.

Outside the mall and occupying the parking lot will be Brandon's first Swiss Chalet and Harvey's locations.

Also joining and sharing space with Fionn Macool's restaurant will be Brandon's first East Side Mario's.

Other retailers inside the mall are to be announced closer to the 2017 completion of renovations.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Charleswood Medical Centre Closed

After 35 years, the Charleswood Centre closed their second floor clinic in what is old downtown Charleswood at 3660 Roblin. The last official day was June 30 and the 10 plus doctors with a variety of specialist have scattered to other clinics in the city.

It is unknown why this large clinic closed which included X-ray and other services onsite. The entire second floor is now up for lease but given the size of the place it is  going to be a substantial space to fill.

There are substantial changes taking place in Charleswood but this particular building was the largest medical facility in the district. Will keep monitoring the building for updates.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Mountain Warehouse Coming to Kildonan Place

Kildonan Place has announced that British retailer Mountain Warehouse will be opening in August in the mall with 15 employees. It will be the first Manitoba location for the company that has over 200 stores around the world primarily in Britain.

Mountrain Warehouse was founded in 1997 and specializes in outdoor stuff for camping, hiking and the like. The company designs its own products.

There is a fair amount of competition for outfitters in Canada but the company may have found their niche with specialized product of their own. It is a coup for Kildonan Place as it was though this store was going to go into the Outlet Collection Mall.

Innovation Centre for Richardson International to Build New Downtown Building

Closing of Public Lane
Building on parking lots
It was talked about last year and many people thought that perhaps the Richardson family might put their research and development arm in one of the new towers proposed by the MTS Centre. When that didn't happen, some thought it might go into one of the empty spaces left when some law firms at Portage and Main relocated.

It is now revealed that the Richardson family had other plans altogether. At the corner of Lombard and Westbrook between the Goldeyes stadium, a parking lot and lane will be converted to to the $20 million Innovation Centre for Richardson International.

The biggest division of the Richardson family holding is in agriculture and and the 2013 acquisition of Can Oat milling has triggered a need to consolidate research and development near the James Richardson and Sons Ltd. headquarters at Portage and Main. The work is being moved from Lethbridge, Alberta and Yorkton, Saskatchewan. The Winnipeg center will develop new canola and oat products such as margarine and oils.

The Richardson family often flies below the radar even in their own hometown but it is important to remember they run one of Canada's largest private companies and they spend hundreds of millions in development and acquisitions. The family is also one of the largest for charitable donations and have been significant sustainers across a host of institutions across Manitoba.

The new Innovation Centre will take over a Richardson owned surface lot as well as a public lane owned by the city. In essence a Richardson campus is being created that encompasses several family owned properties.

Urbanists often fret about all the surface lots and they are right. They are forlorn, wasteful and inefficient uses of space. In the last year, we have seen a number of surface lots become important parts of a greater development. In this case, we might see one that relies strictly on private capital.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

White House Restaurant to move to Charleswood

For many decades the White House restaurant has been a mainstay of River Heights take out and delivery on Grant Avenue. Their byline is "World Famous Ribs and Chicken" and they have fans who have eaten their for 60 years.

There are only a select few restaurants in River Heights proper and the ones that are there often last a very long time. This is why the closed sign and removal of signs from their 1535 Grant location is a bit of a shock. The owners have said they are on the move for only the third time in their history. They have shared a building with the Grant Dental Clinic for years now.

The first incarnation of the White House was on Selkirk Avenue in Winnipeg in the 1940s and 50s. It was the place to hang out and colourful people met there to be secreted away to craps and card games. This was a time when men still wore suits and felt hats.

The move to River Heights coincided with a lot of their customer becoming prosperous and moving south of the Assiniboine. For many in the Jewish community, it was a point of pride to move into the south which still had rules in place for keeping certain people out based on racism.

In the recent year there has been something of a rejuvenation of Charleswood restaurants. The area has seen the arrival Boulevard taking over and expanding the old White Tower restaurant site and Capitol taking over the old Asahi and before that KFC site. Pappas restaurant inside the old Toronto Dominion bank remains a the decades long veteran.

It looks like Pappas will have a neighbour a few doors down with White Restaurant moving into one of three spots that Vi's Interiors occupies. Many years past it was a hair salon. The address is 3312 Roblin Boulevard.

The White House website mentioned a June opening but it looks like it will be July. Welcome to Charleswood! I'm sure they deliver to River Heights.