By Lennard Taylor
Portage Place: if we build it, will they come? That’s always been the question with Portage Place. The mall was built to resurrect downtown; it didn’t work then, but is now the time?
I’ve lived downtown for the past seven years, seeing the development and change spanning across downtown, especially the SHED district.
I believe now is the right time to start asking questions about Portage Place. What is it? What would we like to see it become? Can it be the change downtown needs? I think YES is the answer!
I recently was part of the Downtown BIZ’s Launch It! program, a pop-up shop featuring seven young Winnipeg businesses. The idea was to get young entrepreneurs excited about creating a business downtown. I would have never thought to put my retail store in Portage Place, however I experienced good sales with my clothing line (Lennard Taylor).
The business crowd that frequents the mall on its coffee/lunch breaks came out to support change in the mall. I was surprised at the reaction I got, so much so that I decided to take on a six-month lease until the end of October. Many who come through the store ask “Is this store from New York or Europe?” The answer is no! In fact, the store is 90 per cent designed or manufactured in Manitoba.
For me, that’s what I would like to see the mall become, a community mall that boasts the best of what Manitoba has to offer! Where you can get what you need before heading home from work, or you can meet before the game/concerts at MTS Centre.
Imagine the green trees and gardens filled with fruit and vegetables; imagine the gardens around the fountain as lemon or lime trees?
Imagine the food court with gourmet Winnipeg food establishments such as deer + almond, Bistro 7¼, Segovia or Deseo Bistro. Imagine the mall filled with young, exciting Winnipeg businesses and community resources/support.
Imagine coffee shops like Parlour Coffee or Thom Bargen bringing together community at all levels.
Most important of all might be the need for a grocery store/farmers market. It has long been discussed that we need a grocery store downtown – what if that grocery store was located in the mall so you could grab groceries before heading home. Would you support it?
I strongly believe the mall needs some sort of outreach program for those who are less fortunate; give them a place to go rather than the food court! We as a society need to embrace those individuals and give them guidance and hope, for too long have we ignored, it’s time for us to help our neighbours.
I urge you to come down to this mall and see the beauty that it has and see the potential of what it can become. Start thinking about what you would like to see here. This is your city; together we can change it for the better.
Local makers featured at Lennard Taylor
-Jose & Markham
-Stella Mazza Designs