Thursday, July 9, 2020

Original Stores in St. Vital Centre 1979

I often get asked what the original stores were in St. Vital Shopping Centre were and where was the foodcourt before. Here it is.
Some of this information is available but not easily searchable so I'm posting because then people will be able to find easier. It will tun up in Google searches better.
Posting about Woolco opening in St. Vital Centre. It remained there till Walmart took them over in 1994.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

CBC's Ismaila Alfa to Host Toronto's Metro Morning

The plum jobs for local radio broadcasting are morning slots in both private and public stations. While there are very good afternoon and evening broadcasts, if a radio station doesn't have its act together in the morning it will suffer the rest of the day.

Two radio hosts came on board in 2013. Marcy Markusa became host of Information Radio and Ismaila Alfa became host of Up to Speed. They had plenty of time to know the Portage Avenue studios of the radio station since they had been working for years there already making the 990/89.3 the top station in the city.

It was not easy. Nearly two decades earlier, CBC Radio was middle to lower end of the ratings. While there was excellence in programming, it was hard to shake the music-only habits of many listeners.

There is much that can wrong trying to come up with the right hosts for radio stations. First you want to build an audience. Get too impatient on that and make changes and it is like not waiting for talent on a hockey team take leadership.

By the time Markusa and Alfa came on board, they were able to slide into chairs with teams that would go into the corners for them. Ratings have been solid. However, morning shows are still everyone's key to success. But what do you do with two hosts that came on in the same year? In radio, you wait for a golden opportunity.

Sometimes that doesn't come in your market. Matt Galloway, the longtime and beloved host of Toronto's Metro Morning was bumped up to CBC's The Current, the national broadcaster's big joint in the AM. This left a huge hole top fill because the morning radio gig can turn into a decade or longer job.

Markusa, a lifelong Winnipegger has her dream job. But Alfa, by way of Nigeria, Edmonton and then Winnipeg must have been thinking: Morning jobs don't come up too often. Is Toronto the right fit? Given his musical background, genial disposition and advocacy, Alfa probably thought how exciting it might be to explore Toronto.

Auditions happened with some of the biggest names in TV and Radio CBC land and today Alfa announce he was taking on the spot at Metro Morning.  It is quite possible we'll still hear Alfa from time to time nationally. That's how it goes with CBC. You are fill in host for holidays and such so don't be surprised to hear Alfa on Q or The Current in years to come.

Winnipeg's loss is Toronto's gain. There are a list of people who might be good in the Up to Speed slot. I think CBC Manitoba has their eyes on someone already but they are likely letting some auditions take place before they announce.

It doesn't hurt to have CBC Manitoba people in the Big Smoke. In recent years they are often the first to correct Toronto born and bred types about Winnipeg and have zero tolerance for nabobs of ignorance.

Congratulations to Alfa. There is a reason why Winnipggers land top jobs. They are usually well rounded because they learn their craft with skilled people who take pride in what they do.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Mr. Mike's Steakhouse Casual Kenaston Closed

I got tip about this. I waited because after I heard the tip was told that a deal might be in place once restaurants opened. But we here we are in July. Mr Mike's SteakhouseCasual is closed and it won't be re-opening.

Even before the pandemic, there were rumours of trouble. At $25,000 per month rent you have to be busy from day 1. By January rent was not being paid.
Perhaps Keg-like prices without Keg-like service was just not going to work in a city like Winnipeg that loves its steaks.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Kildonan Place in 1980 Original Stores

The anchor stores are all gone but some stores have remained this entire time. Hello Coles Books. Sad to say that Coles Books at Cityolace didn't survive. The both opened within a year of each other.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Four Safeways to be Converted to Freshcos

The Safeway at McGillivary and Pembina last Thursday on one of my last walks. It will be the site of one of the four new Freshcos.

Some time ago I reported that Safeway/Sobeys was going to be converting stores into Freshcos. So far Winnipeg has two which are operated as franchises at Regent and Lagiomediere and at Jefferson and McPhillips.
Aside from the Pembina location, the other three Freshcos will be Safeways at Niakwa Village and on Sargent that will be converted to Freshcos and a former location at Bronx and Henderson that has stood empty since 2015 will be renovated and also be a Freshco but not till 2021.
All Freshcos will have pharmacies and be locally owned. The re-opening of the Bronx and Henderson location will create 100 new jobs while 100 jobs will be retained with the other stores.
There were far too many Safeway/Sobeys when the merger took place. Even when the combined company was forced to sell four stores by the federal government they still have stores across the street from one another operating under the same flyer and the same corporate policy. It made the overall company vulnerable to new competitors.

The benefits of local ownership have been demonstrated often by having Food Fare, No Frills and others here. They choose to sponsor different things, give chance to other products and more keyed in to local needs.

Obviously some union people will be affected. They will lose their jobs with the corporation and I'm assuming will be re-hired by the franchise owner. This could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on wage or working conditions. It will depend on the person. However, in the end there will be more jobs to be had that what existed before.

In all, some great news and for Winnipeg consumers, it could mean better prices overall for groceries.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Addition Elle, Thyme and Walmart Tire and Lube Express to Close

The retail collapse that existed before the pandemic continues even as stores slowly re-open across Canada. Reitman's which owns Addition Elle and Thyme Maternity stores will be closing on of them coast to coast before end of summer.

In Winnipeg that will be affect Addition Elle's Kenastton Smart park location and the location across from Polo Park on Empress. Thyme Maternity has a location in St. Vital Centre.

Walmart is closing its Tie and Lube Lube Express. across Canada. The only one that appears open in Winnipeg is at the St. Vital Walmart. Others at St. Vital Centre and Portage Avenue West appear to have already closed. And some Walmart seem to have never had them in the first place,.

There is little doubt Walmart will be able to re-purpose the space but this should as an example that even the mighty merchandiser has a tough time competing in this market.

Total number of jobs lost is unknown. However, it is the spaces left that might be hard to fill with the closure of Reitman properties. The power centre at Kenaston has been hot over and over recently. Could they be the one that starts converting to residential first in Winnipeg?

Monday, June 1, 2020

High and Lonesome Club to Open Huge New Patio

Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club will be opening a patio between the Fortune Building and the Winnipeg Hotel. I saw it on my walk on Saturday and checked their website and indeed there is an announcement there plus a zoning announcement.
Construction is taking place this week. The placed will be called The Beer Can and in one fell swoop, it can help change the summer on Main Street. A large patio allows for distancing, creates streetlife and is a great use for a space without turning it into a surface parking lot.
It is not immediately in front of the High and Lonesome which makes it unique. It is on the far left.
The site being prepared in this picture. Big enough for music too?
High and Lonesome Club has gotten a second life from its building being preserved. The Beer Can could take it to a whole new level.  I suspect there will be huge excitement about this the day it opens.

We may have entered Phase 2 today but there is nothing normal about this summer. The patio on Main will be the most exciting thing this section of street has seen since the turn of the century.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Empress Bike and Walking Path

When the Winnipeg Blue Bombers moved to the University of Manitoba campus, the city promised that the sale of the both arena and stadium land would lead to road improvements with the new cash. Well, it didn't quite work out that way for the land sale. However, the cash has come regardless because after years of heavy use from retail and recreation, St. James, Empress and several cross streets were in rough shape.

St. James has been improved for a long stretch and they continue in and around Sargent where the Superstore is. Empress has been worked on from the overpass to Ellice or so. As the soil indicates, they are doing the landscape as well as sidewalk and cycling path construction now.
What is coming is wide, beside the creek, on a path that has been used for decades by citizens even when not official.
It will be lined with ornamental lamps and if Polo Park is developed for residential, this pathway will prove prescient. Empty or underutilized parking lots helps no one. Polo Park has used more of their space for restaurants and retail but I don't think anyone can disagree that the online world is changing eating and shopping habits.
The city deserves full credit. Well marked off parking spaces, smooth road, nice touch with lights, wide sidewalk and walking path coming.
This is very much going to be liked by a whole lots of people when it is done.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Manitoba Metis Federation to Take Over Bank of Montreal Building

A view of the the Bank of Montreal from the Fairmont Hotel.

It has been announced that the bank has sold the building to the Manitoba Metis Federation. The bank itself will be moving the branch across to 201 Portage which presently as a RBC sign at the top of the bulding.
Work being down at 201 Portage Avenue. This used to an inside corridor. At one time there were metal doors that closed at either end. At some point they were stolen and sold for scrap presumably. The space has been dead space ever since. Some people used to sneak down there to smoke.

For 201 Portage Avenue which used to be the TD building and then Canwest building, it was not a good look. It seems the banks are changing spot on the street regularly now. The TD logo is now across the street.

The Bank of Montreal building built in 1913 and declared a heritage site in 1980 has a memorial out front commemorates the 200 employees who died in WWI. It has been lovingly been upkept but in recent years the corner has decayed and it isn't easy to access.

The handover seemed done on Manitoba's 150th birthday was done with a high degree of bonhomie. The bank's sale is a statement that it did not want its old building to sit empty. The purchase by the MMF is also a statement that they are there to do business and and bringing their not inconsiderable financial offices into the building.
Presently, the Manitoba Metis Federation have their offices in a large building built to house all the Canadian Pacific offices at 150 Henry. It is a handsome building and fairly large right by the Disraeli Freeway, I have no special insight to what they will do with their old building but it does house their vocational college which could benefit from having more space.

However, consider this: The MMF hinted that they will be making an announcement soon on bigger property than the Bank of Montreal at Portage and Main.

Lest anyone wonder if MMF has the money for purchases, keep in mind they were awarded $154 million in 2018 by the Supreme Court on a 1981 challenge on a failure to compensate for 1.4 million acres they were promised 150 years ago.
The MMF has been pushing hard for Metis to seek higher learning and a list each year those getting medical, legal, engineering, educational and social sciences degrees. It is impressive. Education is how you can really assist people in living fulfilling lives where they contribute to the overall benefit of themselves and society.

A number of people have reacted negatively or fearfully or in many cases with darker feelings to this announcement. Manitoba joined Confederation with the Metis leading the way. It has become a strong province but it has tried to absolve itself of the agreement they signed to 150 years ago. It has taken decades for the courts to resolve all this.

People complain about the poverty and the permanent underclass in Manitoba. The solution for that is not prison or death. It is fulfilling the obligation that was made and watching the Metis become the Manitobans they always wanted to be when this originally started.

I am happy the Bank of Montreal will not whither in neglect or as we dithered on what to do with it. It will be a cultural and business centre for the Metis and in some we'll see the province lifted in ways that show we are in this together.

Monday, May 4, 2020

The Last Arby's in Winnipeg Closed

And then there was none.

It is reported that Kildonan Place Arby's closed and will not be re-opening.

Kildonan is undergoing a major renovation and a new food court. Arby's will not be going.

In 2013, there was two mall restaurants and one stand-alone.

Is it the end?

Well, we have seen Swiss Chalet leave and then come back, KFC to a lot of closings and then come back. But will people come back for curly fries? Time will tell.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

River Heights/Sir John Franklin Walk March 29

A look down the back lane at Kingway and Lanark March 29 Friday. Several sunny days in a row and on off work since March 15. Working at my parent's every day and going for a walk to create a routine.
Along Lanark from Academy to Taylor are bays. There is only one street that does this from one end to the other in the neighbourhood. Above is Lanark bay between Kingsway and Academy.


Kids gravitate to the parks. Many have picnic tables, some parks have kids toys in them year round. In this bad it was not unusual for 50 or more kids playing in one of the largest of the Lanark bays.

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Heading south down Lanark towards Grosvenor, you reach the section that used to be Sir John Frankin School but had been a field from 1991 to 2018. The school itself was built in 1921 and served the surrounding area for Kindergarten to Grade 6.

Above are the 31 homes (some still being built) on the former school ground with a new cross street between Beaverbrook and Lanark called Greenlawn Street. Kind of messes the tradition of streets running north and south and avenues running east and west. Bottom photo is Greenlawn Street from Lanark.

A look down Greenlawn towards beaverbrook Street. The houses are expensive even compared to River Heights standards.


Greenlawn is designer homes that are completely different from each other in look. Only a few empty lots remain. Lots of families seem to have moved in so far.
A look back towards Lanark Street. They planted trees last year. Only a few years ago, there were 40 or 40 people a day or more taking their dogs here even though it was a school field not a park. The school division granted Sir John Franklin Community Club use of fields for soccer and other sports. Dog owners torn the fence to get inside and the fields were left in bad shape.
A look down Beaverbrook Street toward Grosvenor. Sir John Franklin elementary school used to face out this way and in the 1980s had a play structure built out front.

The school division held onto the land for years as surplus. Truth is that some schools come back like Sir William Osler whhen certain programs like French immersion take off.
Beaverbrook Street has some of the finest elms you will find in River Heights.
The corner of Beaverbook and Grosvenor.

Eventually, the school division sold the land. The city wanted no part of buy land at market value nor the upkeep of it. Dog owners took umbrage.
Looking back down Beaverbook.
Looking down Grosvenor. Westworth Church is on the right.
During the pandemic you can see many houses with kids drawings in the windows. This house on Grosvenor opposite Westworth Church.



Westworth was name that came from west River Heights and Dr. H.B. Duckworth, the first minister. It opened in 1954.
A look back down Grosvenor at the new houses on Sir John Frankin's old site.

Leo Mol did the stained glass windows here. They really are something to see from inside or out at night.

The roundabouts were added with no consultation, no study. The bike path along Grosvenor in much the same way. They are dangerous to cars, bikes, people and animals.
This controversial former fire hall should never have been the subject of land trades. The backroom self-dealing is poor governance. I wish we could say it has ended but even today we see one land holder as in the airport have sway of other landholders in Polo Park. If noise and height is truly a concern of the airport, should hotel development on airport land not be curtailed?

The north rink and satellite building are among the oldest components of Sir John Franklin Community Centre. The building has for decades been a wreck and the rink has been been through it as well.

The playground, slide and wading pool are pretty basic. The satellite building is not fit for any recreation facility.
The main building for Sir John Franklin and a urban basketball court right next to the dumpster.
The only entrance to the community centre fore decades used used to though the backlane. This entrance used to be smaller so when they built Sir John Frankin Road, it could only be used for pedestrians.

The urban basketball court and the main building. And addition in the late 1970s allowed for the community center to host hockey tournaments when my change areas were added as well as space to service the rinks. The two southern rinks became the focus of activity and have hosted as many as three rinks back there.

The main building in recent years had an active social rental business but the combination of three community clubs of Crecentwood and River Heights has meant more is done to keep only one of them active for that business.

Sir John Franklin has a little of every sport and recreation but it could stand to to replace and re-purpose some of the land. The absence of a dog park is perhaps the most obvious need in the area.

The two southern rinks for Sir John Franklin and the dressing room section that was built around the same time as Sir John Franklin Road was built in 1978/79. Prior, the dressing rooms were down some stairs and players had to walk down stairs to crowded space limited to two teams at a time. The entrance off the backlane on Lanark was closed.

The old Sir John Franklin Community Centre logo featuring Explorers. The building was a warming hut more than anything for in-between periods when rinks sometimes had to be shoveled off.

Sir John was the oldest of the community clubs in River Heights. It first started at Wellington Crescent in 1922 beside footbridge. It is now only a playground and tennis courts, It has been re-done so check it out if you haven't done so in a while. In 1940-46 a facility was built at Kingsway and Lindsay and in 1966, the current building was built.

River Heights (1946) and Crescentwood (1946) are babies compared to SJF as community centers, And yet in 2012, the Cardinals, Grizzlies and Explorers merged together as they all needed strength is shared services. The combined team is called the Comets. Go Comets.

Community clubs need some love. It is why I believe a dog park is a possible use of SJF land with a reconfiguration of the north part of the property.
Popping out of the alley at Lanark and walking down the street, you can see across at Renfrew a Circle K. Used to be Mac's. The award-winning Enoteco and Chinese food restaurant round out the tenants. For a long time River Heights used to be a food desert and people went to Kenaston just to go Grapes or Peppers.
In 1985, the old Safeway which closed in 1979 in favour of the newly re-done Tuxedo Safeway. It say empty till was converted to multiple shops. Bernstein's became an anchor Village Streetwear was another. The second building opened around 1993 when Royal Bank moved across the street. Just New Releases became an anchor as well as a video store.
In 1983, Domino's opened its first international location here on Corydon. It has been there ever since. Carellan Sewing Centre and Corydon Animal have been here even longer.
Safeway moved around a lot in River Heights with several locations but eventually moved out entirely in favour of the Tuxedo location.
Where Enteco is now used to be a Quiznos. However, many of them closed in Winnipeg with on St. James Street coming to mind as remaining.
The VQ Salon used to be Styx Comics for a while before a move to Academy Road as Comics America. Prior to that it was a Royal Bank until early 1990s when it moved across the street.
La Cantina portion of Mona Lisa used to be Nieman's Pharmacy. The middle section of Mona Lisa used to be Papa George's till 1982. Before that it was George's in the 1970s. The far end of Mona Lisa was Tony's barbers shop and beside the a women's hair salon.
Gatewest Coin used to also also house Styx Comics for a a number of years.
The nature of this mall since 1985 has been very local in nature. It has had very little in the way of big operators here. It is an important place for business who don't fit traditional mall, street location or big box business operations.
Corydon has been getting rehabilitation section by section. They are trying trees in the median again. I hope they can withstand salt and sand. Several have been struck too by speeding vehicles.
Lanark Gardens apartments have gone through upgrades the last few years. One thing that hasn't changed is there are more cars than parking spaces for residents.
The Anglican Christ Church was on Corydon at Lanark from 1956 to 2008 when it was sold to Diamond Gallery. The parish had grown too small for the church that was once home to a daycare and for decades sold plant seeds every year.
Heading back north on Lanark. This is another example of new housing going up in River Heights. Every street has an example of this. For years it was unheard of to see complete re-builds in the neighbourhood.
Westworth back in March offered assistance to those kept in by the pandemic. This is assistance is being offered all over the city by people.

And back to Greenlawn and Lanark. The trees that always lined the fence of Sir John Franklin Elementary remain today. Everyone insisted they stay.

So ended my walk from Sundasy, March 29, 2020