Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Hudson's Bay Company Store 1960 Winnipeg

In this picture the Bay Parkade is only 3 storeys. It was built in 1954 to 1955 as two floors only. It proved so popular they added a third floor later in 1955.

In 1959 the Winnipeg Clinic added 6 floors to their medical building next door. It is the taller building in the foreground.

This photo is 1960. It would another four years before the Bay Parkade would have an additional fourth floor added for a 800 car capacity in 1964.

The Bay sold the Parkade in 1987. Estimates are that it takes in between $2 and $3 million a year profit. It is very likely that if HBC continued to own the parking lot that the building and lot would have been sold together for development.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Portage and Main 1967

In 1967 Portage and Main was preparing for the development of Canada's famous corner, For decades its stood as a gas station and parking lot when the Great Depression stalled plans for a building for Manitoba's richest family: The Richardsons.

Following World War II there was growth in all aspects of the economy as soldiers returned from overseas, went to school or entered the workforce and then had families. Downtown Winnipeg remained the center of activity even as the suburbs grew through the 1950s and 60s.

Still, it took a long time for gas station/parking lot to become what we now know as the Richardson Building. The announcement came in 1967 and by 1969 the 34 storey building was complete. It became the first of a number a towers at Portage and Main but retained the tallest title until 1987.

Prior to being built though, it was possible to see billboards from a long distance away. Coca Cola took advantage of that and built a clock billboard that that can be seen in the picture, Another clock/billboard is in the foreground and can be seen by anyone coming down north Main Street.

Billboards of this kind were banned in later decades by City Hall for the downtown area.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

The Fate of Pantages

There are not a lot of Pantages theatres left in North America. They once numbered 75. Ours is in remarkable shape and still being used. The city did own it and with some justification they sold it so that deeper pockets could maintain and possibly expand it. Or so they sold it. This was to have happened in March with a 120 day due diligence taking place.

The city says it hasn't been sold yet and the 120 day period has not yet begun. This is while the building remains empty and unused.

This seems typical for the city. The deal is not really a deal.

Meanwhile, arts groups who would book are now left scrambling.

City Council is in the dark. The asking price was something over $500,000. Have we got developers only interested in demolishing it and putting up a parking lot? Where is the city's due diligence? How about a non-refundable deposit for serious bidders.

It is hard not to be cynical when a working building is shut down with no plan, no comment and no answers.

Monday, July 22, 2019

McIvor Mall Henderson Highway

Is there life for an old mall? The answer is yes. We have seen rejuvenation for Northgate, Grant Park, Charleswood and biggest turnaround Unicity over a number of years. McIvor Mall, built in 1980, had been a less glamorous mall than River East to the south on Henderson.

The mall had a Marketplace Co-op grocer, a restaurant, Blaine's Books and served its local community. Over the years though this has not been enough and a number of businesses have closed and the mall, like the fore mentioned, needed a re-fresh.

Sadly, Blaine's won't be part of it as he will retire after outlasting every other music retailer out there except Sunshine Records.

The most important part of of the rejuvenation of McIvor Mall is that a No Frills store will be an anchor. The Loblaw's franchise are independently owned grocers with supply agreement from the company. In some ways this might be better than what was there before because a local owner might have his finger on the pulse of the neighbourhood a lot better.

A Rexall pharmacy anchors the other side which is good since every community needs a drug store. Inside the mall so far are services, dry cleaner, Pizza Hotline, Subway, a fitness center and some restaurants. It will be the other shops that set up that will that distinguish it as a success or not but a good grocer goes a long way. There will also be a roadside restaurant which could be a keep to the mall's future success.

So many stores have closed lately but some places that have a combination of staples and local attractions will still bring people in.

Prime Review: Jack Ryan

Amazon Prime is going up head to head with Netflix. To do this requires more exclusive material. To that end they acquired TV rights to one of feature films most popular characters over the last few decades who wasn't a superhero. Jack Ryan, the CIA agent from novelist Tom Clancy book series, has been played by some of Hollywood's leading actors including Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and Chris Prine. Joining that list is John Krasinski who not only had the lead role but server as one of the producers of the show.

Season 1 aired in 2018 and was so successful that a second season and then a third was ordered by Amazon. The first season ran as an origin story for Jack Ryan which we have seen a little bit of in the feature films but with an eight episode arc, the audience gets to see a little more of a how a CIA agent begins dating the woman who will becomes his future wife.

The series differs from the books and movies in that Ryan in the book/movie past had a Soviet profiling job in the CIA whereas in a contemporary setting he is a financial analyst tracking money. His girlfriend Cathy works in infectious diseases rather than as an eye surgeon. Other back stories of some of the characters have changed according to present day threats.

The first season runs eight episodes and show how Jack goes from low level financial analyst to full CIA operative out in the field in pursuit of a terrorist. John Krasinski as Jack Ryan and Abbie Cornish as Cathy Mueller make for compelling characters as they begin to intersect both romantically and professionally.

The action cross crosses the world and the threat remains elusive as to whether it is chemical, biological or something else. All the while, the politics in CIA and elsewhere threaten to put Jack on the shelf.

Second season on Prime is coming soon as 8 episodes went all too fast. Look forward to where they take this version of Jack Ryan in coming seasons.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Long and McQuade Coming to Henderson Highway

There are two streets in Winnipeg that are known for a number of music related businesses along them, some in close proximity. Quest Music, St. John's Music and Long and McQuade are all along Portage Avenue or just off of it. There used to be three more stores as well but the market is tough, especially for piano sales.

Another road that has an abundance of music related businesses is Henderson Highway. It is there that you will find Croft Music and Mar Schells Music in terms of instrument sales.

Now we learn that Canada's biggest music seller is adding heft to Henderson Highway. Presently cladding is up around the former location of River City Sports. The sports equipment retailer that once had multiple locations in the city has consolidated at their St. James location across from Polo Park. Founded in 1991, it may have expanded too fast and their location at Seasons of Tuxedo probably was a bridge too far.

The building at 1074 Henderson Highway has Akman Construction busy gutting and re-building the 10,000 square feet inside. The exterior will be getting a new glazing replacement with the famous colours of Long and McQuade. 

The store itself will be very open in concept and concentrate on sales, rentals, lessons and repairs. The basement will be staff related and repair related.

Henderson Highway has quite the mix of businesses along it despite how busy it can get. In that way it is like portions of Portage Avenue with right to the curb businesses.

Long and McQuade has had many locations and now multiple ones in recent years but Henderson Highway might be its most intimate street location in the city.

Portage Place...the Future

This is what was envisioned for Portage Place way back. Many people don't seem to realize it was built to have towers on the east and in this picture, the west pad. This is an office but the talk now is that it will be residential, possibly student housing.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

TV and Movie Reviews Snapshot...Chernobyl

With so many competing streaming services, cable and premium channels and regular TV, it could generally be said peak TV has arrived. Streaming is even competing with movies now with a short window in theatres and then exclusive rights on Netflix or Amazon or whatever.

I occasionally review movies here but don't get to as many as I once did. That's the price of work and also trying to do other recreational things within and outside the city. Time and a budget are always at a premium.

In the days of fewer channels, the shared experience of watching things together at the same time on TV or theatres was huge in its immediacy. Now, only live sports is that immediate. Video recording starting in the 1980s changed things a lot but it was more about the speed than total loss of immediacy. For example, recording TV usually meant you tried to watch the recorded program within a short timespan. The reasoning behind that was that blank tapes were not exactly cheap in the beginning.

TV series were rarely rented or sold on tape as they would take up so much space.  I remember how the only video cassettes I often saw of series were Seinfelds.

Streaming has killed both the video rentals market as well as downloads. The only recordings people make now are with PVRs for TV. Even that is not really owned by you. It is digitally stored and has some limits. It can expire and delete. You can reach maximum amount of storage. It is not the same as having the movie or TV series in your hand. But then again people seem to have accepted that.

My big complaint about cable has been and still is that despite so many channels there is not as much international TV series or movies on it. Netflix and others in the never ending drive to feed content goes everywhere to find as well as fund it. And now other streamers are doing it too.

Truth be told the big studios and broadcasters are all reaching a convergence where they do everything from theatrical releases, DVDs, Video on Demand, network and cable, streaming and downloads. And working with partners to create bigger productions, shared budgets or access to other markets including broadcast and production.

HBO has become more than a premium cable channel. In Canada it is now an anchor for Crave TV in Canada for their streamer. Game of Thrones has been an important part of driving traffic to the channel in recent years. However, it is not the only quality program that has come from there. In some ways HBO originally faced the same accusation that it mostly made money from movie content produced by other studios including its own. If that was once true, it isn't the case now. They have produced their own material from all the way back to the 1980s. In 1983, they produced Fraggle Rock which was filmed in Canada in partnership with CBC.

Following Game of Thrones many wondered if HBO still had the chops to draw eyeballs to their network. That has proved true with Chernobyl.


This is a five part mini-series based on the real event of the explosion in a nuclear plant in the USSR in 1986. It is by the far the scariest series I have ever seen. The first episode I could only take in short amounts. So deep was my sense of dread that I winced every time a decision was made that was truly and curled up in fear as it unfolded.

There has been a great deal made about how authentic the series is. Complaints and kudos are all over the place. The producers went to great lengths to tell the story and make it look and feel like 1986. However, it is a dramatization and some characters are a composite. And the dialogue is at best a guess as the interactions among the players. 

While there is a large cast, there main focus is on three. The actors are Jared Harris, Stellan Skargard and Emily Watson. Essentially, the represent the political and scientific response to the nuclear disaster. Quite simply the performances by the stars is simply the best are are likely to be forgotten during award season.

As for the story, the first episode starts off with a bang and confusion and absolute terror. That horror comes from the fact that no one seems to know what happened or how bad it is. There is denial even as evidence of people being exposed to huge doses of radiation is exhibited. Once the extent of the continuing disaster happens, the story in future episodes tells what the response is in terms of evacuations, putting the fire out and the capping the damage.

The continued exposure and deaths of those responding to the crisis weighs even as the investigation goes on side by side of the response to the explosion. And throughout this, the oppressive and secret Soviet society denies, covers up or otherwise inhibits the truth until it threatens all the Soviet Union and Europe.

The final episode takes place in a court and re-creates how and why the explosion takes place. It is still frightening but intercut with explanations that make it more clinical. In the end, the story concludes with vignettes about the players in the story.

All in all it is great television. The best. I suspect the ending might have been more conclusive with an a death estimate but even now there is controversy in regards to it all in both the east and the west. Still, great television on a subject you would not expect such great writing and acting from.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Popeyes Coming to Crossroads Station

A short time ago I mentioned that Popeyes was going to built in the former Hakim Optical on West Portage. Now we have a Popeyes announcement for the east of Winnipeg on Regent at Crossroad Station.

The closing of Payless Shoes across North America left a glut of real estate in many communities including Winnipeg where we had several locations. Some of those locations are attracting interest while others sit empty as most of the continent looks to find new uses for retail space.

In the case of Crossroad Station the wait for a new use came quick. The popularity of Popeyes in Winnipeg is evident any time you drive past Seasons of Tuxedo. The location there is always busy both inside the store  and the drive-thru. There is no doubt that the location on Regent will be extremely popular.

Also part of the complex where Popeyes will be located is an EB Games and an Ultracuts.

Zoning is just going through so expect a few months to pass before we see Crossroad Station Popeyes go up but should be ready for fall/winter of 2019.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Movie Review: Spider-Man Far From Home Review

In fifteen years we have seen a lot of Spider-Mans. Sony has done origin stories with two different actors and the first started well and ended off worse and the second didn't gain traction. Good but quite enough for the marquee hero of the Marvel universe. More concerning for Sony/Columbia Pictures was that their asset was on the outside looking in at Marvel Entertainment/Disney's 22 film enterprise with dozens of superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

This is no longer the case as Marvel Entertainment bridged the gap between Spider-Man's two studios, Sony and Disney, and made it possible for Spider-Man to be with his Avenger superhero friends. As of the time of this review, Far From Home has scored one of the most successful 4th of July openings in history. Already it is being talked about as possibly saving the summer box office as the latest X-Men and Men in Black franchises fizzled.

The young actor chosen to play Spider-Man Tom Holland was put under the wing of Iron Man's Robert Downey Jr. both figuratively and literally.  The two had real chemistry together in the first Spider-Man movie Homecoming as well as the Avengers movie. For those not wanting to be spoiled read no further. The new movie Far From Home is how young Peter Parker/Spider-Man is coping with the loss of his mentor Tony Stark/Iron Man. He is mourning and wants to take a break from the monstrous responsibility of being an Avenger.

The timeline of Spider-Man makes it a direct follow-up of Avengers: Endgame. Not only does Peter Parker have to still cope with high school, he has to cope that like half his class, he didn't age during "the snap." This means he goes back to school where he left off five years later with kids who would have been in junior high when half the universe disappeared. A funny scene in the movie demonstrates how students from the marching band appear in the gym when the snap is undone. Everyone is bumping into one another as it is so unexpected and sudden.

Suffice to say everyone is still adjusting to the new world including Peter Parker. All he would like to do is going on a field trip and tell the girl he likes how he feels and perhaps kiss her for the first time. If only Nick Fury as played by Samuel Jackson would let him. He and former SHIELD member Maria Hill (Colbie Smulders) need Spider-Man as the ranks of the Avengers are depleted due to deaths and other assignments. Peter dodges the calls even as Happy (Jon Favreau) warns him Fury won't be put off. Happy, Iron Man's best friend and still working for Pepper Potts at Stark Industries looks out for Peter and gives him a gift of Tony's glasses as per the inventor's last request. To confuse things more it appears that Happy and his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) might be dating.

Peter continues to ghost Nick Fury even as the world seems to be fighting off a new threat known as the Elementals. Since it seems far away, Peter concentrate on his European trip and his plan to get next to his crush MJ played by Zendaya who capture the awkward, geeky but beautiful girl perfectly. At every turn his plans seem to be thwarted and his best pal Ned (Jacob Batalon) who said they should be bachelor's in Europe suddenly has a girlfriend even before their flight arrives.

The gift that Peter gets from Tony is the man's glasses which we learn is tied to an Artificial Intelligence called E.D.I.T.H. that controls the database and battle drones of Stark Industries. In his haste to remove a potential rival for MJ's attention, he almost has a drone strike do the job for him. It once again affirms to him that he is over his head.

The humour and action are never far away and even as Nick Fury highjacks his school trip and even gets him a superhero disguise which gets dubbed the Night Monkey. He fight the Elemental threat with the aid of Jake Gyllenhaal's character of Beck/Mysterio. It is then in desperation to shake the unworthiness, he gives Beck Tony's glasses and the key to the database.

It is only after in the presence of MJ where she reveals to him that she knows he is Spider-Man that he sees evidence that Mysterio is a fraud and how dangerous he is. This inevitably sets up a high profile clash, various turns and surprises and incredible CGI action.

For an audience, it never completely overwhelms because Tom Holland makes you believe everything you see and hear with an authenticity and humour throughout. It feels like this movie is both the close of story behind and a representation of the story ahead. In other words, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in good hands.

Double secret spoiler ahead!

The mid credit scenes have so many twists and funny parts and action that it is a shocker when Spider-Man is outed as Peter Parker.

And in the very end credit, we see Nick Fury in a funny scene in space. Only seeing it will somehow explain it.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Barstool Pub and Eatery Coming to St. James Hotel

The St. James Hotel has been undergoing a pretty extensive rehabilitation. A fire in 2017 could have been the end of the 1928 built hotel. The second floor damage included smoke and water damage to the Fox and Hounds pub on the first floor. It certainly looked like curtains for the landmark historic building that greeted people as they passed down Portage Avenue to St. James.

One of the frequent questions as people drove by was whether the classic British style pub The Fox and Hounds would rise from the dead. The answer is no. A pub shall return but it will come with a new name: Barstool Pub and Eatery.

The marquee sign gets a digital upgrade as well for Portage Avenue drivers advertising the fare inside.

More to report as we get closer to it all being done.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Portage Place and Parkade for Sale?

Portage Place can stir up some raw emotions in Winnipeg. As a mall it has been barely hanging on. The Vancouver-based owner has few ways to make real money there and no incentive to do anything. Why? Because they don't own the land or the parking lot.

The parking lot and other parts of the land earn the The Forks, owner of the parkade, a whopping $3 million a year. in 1994, The Forks was borrowing money just to pay staff. It is not a stretch to say Portage Place saved The Forks and made it what it is today.

There is 1000 parking spaces at Portage Place and they are used all the time. At Jets and Moose game and concerts, the place is packed and customers pay premium parking. It is a cash cow. And the milk has gone to The Forks. In 2017, The Forks started charging for parking at its parkade and then surface parking lots. The parkade is around 300 cars. Forks Market is around another 100 around meters and Railside has just shy of 600. No recent tally of how much parking brings in at The Forks takes in but let's say it is significant. It may even be more than Portage Place takes in given we're talking about almost the same amount of spaces.

And that is fine. Some people said they will never go to The Forks again if they have to pay for parking. Seems pretty drastic and raises the question of whether their boycott is in effect for sports, concerts and the like where free parking may be difficult to find in proximity to an event. I won't even go into hospital parking and its costs. Suffice to say it is unavoidable if you drive a car. Build 2000 spaces for parking and you will find people park free all day. Like The Forks once had happening.

In any event, The Forks now has two revenue streams...North Portage parking and Forks parking. And life is good. However, they also have two mandates which is to promote and develop not just The Forks but North Portage. To that end, North Portage has been neglected.

The owner of the mall, Peterson Group from Vancouver, bought the mall for around $20 million from Consolidated who bought it for around $45 million from Cadillac Fairview who built it for $92 million. That is quite the depreciation since 1987. Still the mall stumbles along. It has a number or stores that service the businesses in the Monday to Friday day hours. The food court which has been the source of scorn and danger makes money. However, the owner has NO incentive to do more.

There have been some conversion of retail into offices. That has helped. However, the west and east pads atop the mall remain undeveloped because any business or hotel would want to have parking. And that is owned by The Forks. Moreover, the land is not even owned by Portage Place. It is also owned by North Portage/Forks. Portage Place only has a long term lease and agreement to turn everything over for $1 after it expires.

The Forks has no interest in investing in Portage Place as they don't own it. And the present owners are not interested in buying the lease out. They just want out. Winnipeg may only get to know after the weekend what's what as a closed door session with the city in planned with the major principals involved.

It is quite possible that what we'll here is that someone is interested in buying Portage Place, the parking lot and the lease. If this is the case, it is likely to trigger a major investment atop the two pad of Portage Place. A hotel, presumably a new Westin, will go up on the east side and offices or residential units or both will go up on the west side. The food court is toast. A hotel lobby, meeting rooms and ballrooms are likely to take up the first three floors. The overpasses will be preserved as well as the mall corridor. If residential goes up, I suspect we see a grocery store go up. A street presence and patios is no doubt a possibility.

Assuming a hotel goes up, the rear drive behind Portage Place will be the obvious valet pick-up/drop off and check-in space. The whole dynamic behind the building changes to serve two potential towers. A new owner would know that $3 million would be coming in annually just from the parking. That's a lot of lettuce.

How do we know this will work? It works because this is exactly what happened with Winnipeg Square parking. The 900 spaces there made oodles of money for the city. When they sold the parking lot, it was an incentive for a owner to own both the tower, the mall and the parking lot together. Lots of incoming cash. Enough for the owner to completely re-do the building and then plan for Winnipeg's tallest tower, a new gym and a grocery store (if the renderings are accurate) on the two unused pads behind Trizec tower. One can make an argument that CityPlace also was more lucrative for any owner because of the parkade inside.

This looks to be the biggest obstacle to seeing Portage Place be something different than how it is viewed now. A new owner can make money and do things with the property. No, it won't result in the whole building being torn down. No, it won't result in housing for below $1000 a month. But we will see changes that have density, serve new business and public access needs and probably more people living right on site. And very likely a less hostile street presence.

And let's not forget...there will be millions from the sale of the parking lot. Everyone and their dog will want a say on it. Not all of it should be sent to The Forks. It should be well planned out with the goal of bringing self sufficiency and prosperity to both the areas it was created to serve.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Za Pizza Bistro Finally Coming to Osborne Village

It took 12 months. Yes, you read that right. From the time it was first talked about to the sign going up in the window, it took 12 months to say Za Pizza Bistro is coming to Osborne Village. Why? Who knows. But all of the buildings have problems borne of being many decades old. Electric, water, false ceilings, multiple layers of flooring, heating and cooling and the big one in the Village: landlords. Most of the landlords were once business operators themselves who transformed the community and led beloved stores and restaurants. Today, they own high rent assets that have seen little infrastructure improvement and newer entrepreneurs who look further down Osborne or Corydon or Sherbrook or Sargent.

A few things have happened though. Some landlords have sold their buildings and new landlords have arrived. Some new business people have come to revitalize once proud corners of Osborne Village with a new restaurant concept. A few gyms have opened in spaces deemed to big for stores but useful to a growing community where apartments and condos abound.

And then there is the cannabis stores. The deep pocketed cannabis stores have grabbed large retail spaces in the last year. That has left a few gaps where some new businesses see an opening. Some new immigrants have opened some ethnic restaurants that could be set to take off. Everyone you look there are opening soon signs.

However, where Second Cup once stood for many years, the first floor has been vacant and waiting for the the promise of a licensed pizza restaurant. Some said it would never come. And then the sign went up. Za Pizza Bistro Coming soon.

Osborne Village had a very successful Canada Day event. Moreover, since Assiniboine Park pretty much shut down at 7 PM on the big day, it left very few late night places to celebrate. The Forks did its job, of course, but Osborne felt like it was reaching a tipping point to being a busy, social and successful street once again.

At some point possibly in August, we might see very few vacancies for a few blocks. Some notable exceptions though...The Osborne Hotel remains closed and with no obvious work being done. What a waste for a place that lived on music, a busy beer vendor and restaurant and being the centerpoint to beer gardens to wrestling.

Yay for Za Pizza Bistro coming and hope it inspires a long overdue focus to do something with the hotel that doesn't feel like a real letdown of what looks to be a bright future.