Thursday, March 28, 2019

Portage and Main 1922

In 1922 streetcars were still main transportation from Portage and Main all the way to Selkirk, Manitoba and to Headingley, Manitoba. They travelled in the two middle lanes. Diagonal parking was permitted on the east side of north Main for cars along banking row. Parallel parking was opposite.

Only one lane of traffic northbound to Higgins. Two lanes travelled southbound. Cars were far fewer in those years when Winnipeg was the fourth largest city in Canada. Vancouver had just surpassed our population in the decade earlier.

Future Winnipeg's needs might still find the wide roads of Winnipeg useful if trams or LRT once again take over the center lanes. Compared to a subway, it may Winnipeg's most viable option for a growing city.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Fionn MacCool's Closed on Regent

Fionn MacCool's Crossroads Station shopping center is closed today with a notice thanking people for their patronage. The Irish pub has been a fixture of the street since 2014 and is directly across from Kildonan Place. It seems suppliers were not even informed of the quick shutdown.

The notice in the window recommends that patrons go to the Grant Park location which has been open since 2017. It is not known what led to the shutdown of the Regent location. It is interesting to note that Hudson Bay Home behind it is also closing but one probably is not linked to the other.

Kildonan Place across the street is getting a multi-million expansion so the lucrativeness of that location should probably remain.

Will be interesting to see what comes in place of the Irish pub in the months ahead.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Union Stock Yard and Meatpacking Plants

In 1911 the movers and shakers convinced three different railways to partner up and become shareholders on industrial land in St. Boniface with the public having a say in the development as directors. Investor raised $1.5 million which is around $35 million today. The result was the Union Stock Yards off of what is Marion. It was a huge complex that included the stock yards, rail connections for all the rail lines, deep water well, administration building, restaurant and bank and concrete internal roads when it was common to have gravel roads elsewhere in the province. As the third largest city in Canada in 1911, Winnipeg was able to attract a fair amount of investment and was not afraid to think big

The above picture was taken most likely in the 1960 and features two of the six meatpacking plants that were built between 1918 and 1939. Harris Abattoir became Canada Packers and the plant next door was the Swift Plant. Prior to this near 70 per cent of processing was done in the United States. By 1922 the Union Stock Yards was the largest meat processor in the British empire with $20 million in production.

Nearly 3000 people would work at the Union Stock Yards and several hundred would work in each of the meatpacking plants. The picture below shows just how rural the Harris Abattoir (Canada Packers) was from St. Boniface and Winnipeg. A steam engine hints at how old the picture is and the Swift plant doesn't seem to have been built yet.

The above shows the Swift Plant in 1939. The scale of the building indicates just how important an industry this one was for Winnipeg.

By the 1980s the golden era of Union Stock Yards and the meatpacking district was over. Canada Packers and Swifts shut down in 1980 putting nearly 1600 workers out of jobs. Nearly the entire site is still awaiting it next purpose save for the Maple Leaf plant at the back end of the expansive property.

The Union Stock Yard water tower only hints at how many thousands used to work in the area.One of the last pictures below in 1988 before the stockyards were demolished.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Osborne Village in 1975

In the very early 1970s Osborne Village was very much in flux. The area around Roslyn Road remained popular as it connected to Wellington Crescent. A mix of nice home and high rise rentals popped up including the very new 55 Nassau at 38 storeys. However, some other stately homes were falling into disrepair and being turned into rooming houses. Some parts of River as as well Stradbrook got a lot rougher.

Osborne Street itself saw a change in businesses. At least two or three families began buying property and attracting renters and operating their own businesses that would given Osborne its cache in years ahead.

Most of the towers along the Assiniboine or the Village were very new in 1975. The density jumped in ways that were surprising. In today's day and age it might not happen with so many complaining that no development should happen in their own neighbourhoods. Even the present Safeway had its detractors although safe to say it has been essential in making Osborne Village the success it is.

Good design is important and there can always be debate on that. However, we have come to a period where no change at all ever is becoming the default position. At least four own neighbourhoods. Then 30 kilometer speed limits, speed bumps and road closures to through drivers are all the wage while same said neighbourhood wants a 12 lane 150 kilometer speed limit to get to the gates of the closed community.

The very new Winnipeg Convention Centre pre-expansion days is seen as well along with the very new Lakeview Square. Beside the Great-West Life building is the former Labatt's brewery. It became insurance company's second office on Osborne in the 1980s. The handsome Granite Club Curling Rink is visible beside the river across from the Village.

Osborne Village has gone through several incarnations including now but it has allowed density development that has made it vital over the years. The future is probably how to keep the neighbourhood safe and secure, affordable and avoid luxury blight where places are shuttered just because the rent is too high.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Cork and Flame Coming to St. James

It has been a while since the Nook and Cranny restaurant shut down in St. James. It was a second location for The Nook on Sherbrook with some added features such as a lounge. Around 2011 The Nook St. James opened but in the ever tough hospitality industry closed quietly last year. St. James is littered with some closed restaurant locations. Robin's, Mandarin and Gasthaus Gutenberg have all shuttered and remain closed.

The Nook and Cranny itself took over for the long running Schmeckers which had two locations and was the master of late nights for many years. The Big Schmeck would take a good long time to eat even for the ravenous. As for The Cranny, it seemed to be busy but running a restaurant is a seven days a week, at least two meals operation. And if you have a lounge, it means longer hours. It is backbreaking.

A sign along Portage Avenue says that Cork and Flame is coming soon. It has been up for a number of weeks now and contractor work vehicles have been outside all the time. The big trend lately for Winnipeg restaurants is a grill and it has seen some places in Charleswood transformed.

No word yet but will look to see the 350+ restaurant putting in the signage and opening soon.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Labatt's Broadway and Osborne

It used to be Manitoba's own Shea's but for many others it was remembered as the Labatt's beer plant across from the Manitoba Legislature. It was in 1953 the Shea's became Labatt's and the smokestack loomed large at Osborne Street and Broadway. It was Shea's that originally had the Clydesdale horses and Budweiser liked them so much he bought them and hired their Winnipeg trainer to come to St. Louis. Today's Budweiser Clydesdale horses are all descendants of the Winnipeg teams.

The name Labatt's Blue came from Winnipeg because fans of the Bombers and sportscaster Jack Wells kept calling the Pilsner "Blue" because of the label. The brewery eventually gave up and the name stuck as well as the connection to CFL football.

Old Exhibition Stadium was where the older of the two Great-West Life buildings is. For some time Great-West Life and Labatt's shared the land when the insurace company redeveloped the old stadium in 1957. The brewery had a beer store right on Osborne by the Great-West Life building entrance.

The Labatt's plant suffered a major fire in 1975 and in 1979 what remained was bulldozed setting up the expansion of Great-West Life into a second building. The new Labatt's plant was built in 1970 on Notre Dame and remained in operation till 1996.

One amazing view is in 1957-58 along Osborne Street where the smokestack of Labatt's can be seen along with the construction of the new Great-West Life building. Osborne Village looks like a real village. One thing I don't miss is all the hydro polls and trolley lines.

Kildonan Place Mall to Expand

The three large Sears locations have remained stubbornly closed at Polo Park, St. Vital and Kildonan Place. It stands to reason that all of them have been looking for a large size replacement or at the very least two retailers to share the holes left by Sears.

For Kildonan Place, it is second time looking for a replacement after Target closed in their mall. This triggered one of their largest and expensive makeovers that added H&M, Marshalls and several others to the space. The closure of Sears must have made them say "not again."

However, with this closure might have come opportunity. The original Kildonan Place built in 1980 had a Dominion grocery store. The stores closed in western Canada leaving malls like Polo Park and Kildonan  scrambling to fill the space. Polo Park got a larger Safeway and Kildonan just replaced with other stores.

Today's malls do not have a large line-up of other large retailers ready to jump in the moment a competitor falters. Heck, with the closures of Payless and HBC Home/Outfitters and others, there are a lack of even mid to small retailers ready in the wings.

The closure of Target and the takeover of Safeway by Sobey's has represented opportunities for grocers to enter the Manitoba market who are new or have been on a long hiatus. Co-Op stores via the Competition Act took over some Safeways and now operate three grocery stores in Winnipeg through Red River Co-Op. The Grant Park location is presently going through a major makeover. The other new entrant is British Columbia-based Save on Foods which took over McPhillips old Zellers location, the old Polo park Future Shop location and built a band new Bridgwater location.

As for the biggies. Extra Foods stores have been converted to franchise-owned No Frills stores and some Safeway/Sobey's stores are being converted Freshco grocery stores. It has all been a bit of a whirl. Suffice to say though that grocery stores still have a bricks and mortar presence even in a delivery world.

Kildonan Place's old Sears is set for a grocery conversion. Best guess by most people is a Save on Foods location based on exterior design although no name appears just yet.

The store would face out to Regent based on the designs being presented to the city this week. As big as the grocer is though, the mall had some extra space as well as ideas left. It would appear the back space facing out to Reenders will be a new space and an upgrade for Cineplex Odeon movie theatres. No word on whether it will be the same six theatres or more.

Another huge improvement will be the food court which has always been undersized given the square footage of the mall.

It will be quite a sizable food court when done and much more of a gathering spot than what presently exists.
The new mall will see changes to the back end parking as well as entrances to street but more landscaping as well.

There are a few other spaces for some larger retailers who now presently known yet. In terms of costs this expansions will be tens of millions and that is on top the millions spent to convert the old Target location. It is a complete affirmation of the owners in the space and the largest refresh done since the mall was built.

This is also a shot across the bow for Polo Park and St. Vital as Kildonan will be the first to fill its space where Sears left while the two larger cousins may enter yet another Christmas with empty retail.

The rumour is that both malls are ready to make announcements soon. In other words, it is game on but we'll see just how retailing is changing in what comes.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Netflix Review: The Code

One of the things that many mystery and thriller lovers have gravitated towards is Nordic Noir.  The international fare from Sweden, Norway and Iceland have gripped audiences world-wide. But is this type of noir only limited to the icy north? The Code from Australia would seem to disagree. It was produced in 2014 and Season 1 is on the Netflix now. One more season is expected to be added soon.

Canadians have enjoyed series from Australia before. We just don't see them as often as say Britain who eat up all content from down under. Netflix is now bring more Australian content than ever into Canada.

The plot of The Code is set around two brothers. One of the brother's is a political reporter for an online news organization and the other is an autistic hacker who is barely functional after brushes with the law. The journalist Ned played by Dan Spielman stumbles onto a story in the outback of an accident involving a death that has political implications all the way to the capital. Against his better judge Ned asks his brother Jesse played by Ashley Zukerman to use his skills to clean up a cellphone video that might shed some light on what happened. As per usual Jesse goes too far and while investigating further hacks into a site sensitive to the government setting off a trail of violence that follows the two brothers around. Jesse has a form of autism that makes his adept at computers and not so good with people. His journalist brother has always looked out for him through it has worn him down in terms of not having a life truly his own.

Creator Shelley Birse focuses on a deeply ingrained fear of what the security apparatus of the country has done to Australia's liberties. Canberra features almost like a character in the series for those who have really never seen the capital say versus Sydney. The other beautiful but fly ridden place featured is Broken Hill in New South Wales. It is out in the Outback where a suspicious accident leaves one teenager dead and other suffering an unknown malady.

A blonde Lucy Lawless is a teacher named Alex out in the town of Lindara in the Broken Hill area and senses something is deeply wrong and connects with Ned who has received a tip from an old flame working in the Deputy Prime Minister's office in Australia. Eventually a cellphone video reveals something more sinister took place besides a collision and that the government is involved. The video becomes a McGuffin with people pursuing it and trying to shut it down.

The series taps into a very deep seated fear that seems to permeate Australia about the government, police and intelligence services. If Canadians feel they fixate too much on the United States, they should see Australian TV. The Code builds up the paranoia and fear to a crescendo as the two brothers try to figure out and get out of the mess of cracking the computer code of a government linked Corporation called Physanto.

At six episodes, the series moves at a great clip and concludes with just a little bit of paranoia at the end to make it all worthwhile. A fun series shot in an area of Australia not usually seen in a noir like way not done nearly often enough in Australia. Try catching it if you like thrillers, espionage, conspiracy and murder.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Vita Health and Mark's Warehouse Coming to Linden Ridge

The last few areas of Linden Ridge mall are set to be developed in 2019. The new Lowe's will see two buildings constructed across from their parking lot. This is quite a coup for the mall as Kenaston Common just north of their location will be seeing a contraction as Payless ShoeSource and HBC Home close there. In all, three HBC Home and eight Payless will close in the city this year.

The new construction appears to be triggered by two major retailers locating in Linden Ridge namely Vita Health and Mark's Warehouse.

Both retailers should find a market for their goods in the growing area.

Once the buildings are complete, Linden Ridge will be more or less fully developed in their very slow and steady approach over the last few decades.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Union Bank Building in 1904

A few interesting things to note about the construction of the Union Bank Tower in 1904. The first is that they appear to fill in the floors from the middle rather than the bottom. My speculation is that because they constructed this skyscraper without a crane, they needed to bring in building material though both the first three floors and up inside the structure. That, in addition to, a pully system on the outside.

Pretty much all horses up and down Main Street at this time. Streetcars were not allowed in the downtown area even though the first electric ones appeared by the 1890s further down Main Street. City council was against the electric lines and when they did finally approve construction, used a bigtime railway company rather than the local who built the system in the first place. Bribes were suspected.

The luxurious Leland Hotel is seen behind the Union Bank building. It was destroyed in a fire in this century after being abandoned.

Today's Union Bank building in now a vital part of Red River College's downtown campus serving as residence and home for the culinary arts school.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Portage and Main 1960

In 1960 Winnipeg still had trolley buses but five years earlier there were still streetcars throughout the city. The middle two lanes were replaced with cars along Portage and Main Streets as well as all over the city.

Polo Park was just a year old and still not yet enclosed. The city was not unified and other cities like St. Boniface and St. James were part of the urban conglomeration with some basic services covered by Metro Winnipeg but everyone had their own city halls, police and fire departments.

Not seen in this picture is the fact that the present site of the Richardson building had been largely a car station and parking lot for a few decades already. It was also filled with billboards that could be seen all the way down Portage Avenue. Construction of the Richardson building would not start for another eight years.

The Nanton building can be seen in the background flying the Red Ensign of Canada. The new flag for Canada featuring a maple leaf was still five years away, There are also flags of France flying which gives an indication that this may have been taken around Remembrance Day as so many Manitobans had their final resting place in that country as a result of two wars. In many ways Canada was still very much British in its establishment although Manitoba itself had quite a lot of European diversity as well as Metis and First Nations. We also had many re-located Japanese Canadians from the war fifteen years earlier. The first Filipinos started coming to Canada mostly doctors in what what would become a steady flow of immigrants from that country.

 Winnipeg was still very much the biggest city in the prairies at the time. Only Vancouver rivaled in the west. Rail still ruled compared the flying. And highways all over were nothing to get excited about. Most were two lanes.

Cars themselves, however as you can see from the picture, were getting bigger as gas was plentiful and cheap. Most neighbourhoods had a few gas stations and mechanics in them and that included downtown where an abundance of repair shops existed.

Winnipeg like much of Canada had an increasing amount of confidence that only built as the country neared its 100th birthday,