City needs a long-term plan to strengthen downtown core

Diners at the beautiful Metropolitan Entertainment Centre, an upcycled historical relic.
Diners at the beautiful Metropolitan Entertainment Centre, an upcycled historical relic.

By Paula Havixbeck

We live in a world of instant gratification and connectivity, where media content syncs up on any device you use, and where you can connect with anyone in a couple clicks. Everything is so close – yet our housing is so far.
One of the keys to any great city is a vibrant and lively downtown core. Winnipeg is making great strides, but there is still a long journey. Driving out to a suburb after a long day at the office is not the dream of a younger generation; the desire is to have a trendy pad to relax in before going out with some friends and making the most of the evening. So why isn’t this happening?
It may have something to do with high expectation. The same people who want everything at their fingertips want that extended to their living quarters, and due to slow development, that simply isn’t happening. There is a lack of resources for basic necessities in the downtown area. Rectifying this is one of the first stepping stones to creating a diverse and thriving downtown core. Typically, in business, the market dictates business activity, but in some cases such as this, other factors may have to play a role. A startup may require financial assistance for the first few years to ensure a sustainable business.
This is where the city, as well as different levels of government, must come together to formulate a plan to grow the downtown, both in services and in population. There has been some excellent work done on revitalizing Waterfront Drive, but this has been long overdue.
There will also be ongoing conflicts unless a master plan is developed to manage the growth. Winnipeg has blindly thrown money at development before – and without a plan, we end up with things like poorly designed roadways, wasted space, and an angered population.
With some time, money, and effort invested into our downtown, it has the possibility to grow to something spectacular. Modern construction cannot compare to the intricacy and detail of some of the historic buildings that we have, and there have been many successful efforts to revive them.
Majestic pillars are located in front of the Fox and Fiddle on Main Street, a glorious and detailed interior is found at The Met across from the MTS Centre, and numerous other examples show how a fusion of new and old can benefit the city.
As a city, we don’t have to forget about how we developed, grew and changed; instead, let’s put effort into showcasing what we have become.
As these transformations happen, they will inspire more. Instead of putting money toward hiding an eyesore (in some cases), constructive things which can benefit the city should occur.
People will come. At first, it may just be a short visit for coffee downtown, but those visits will become more frequent. Slowly it will grow into something that we can be proud of and show off to the rest of the country.
Winnipeg has a very interesting and unique history, and as these buildings get transformed and repurposed, the story will emerge, giving us yet another reminder of why we live in this city.


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