Downtown brings happiness to the city all year long

By Stefano Grande (photo by Megan Tymura)

Charles Montgomery, the author of Happy City, spoke to hundreds of planning students, urbanists and the general public as part of the Canadian Association of Planning Students (CAPS) Conference. His main question was: can urban design make cities and people happier?
In Winnipeg, new initiatives and ideas are helping to transform the way in which we use, experience, and enjoy public space. We are beginning to embrace -40 C with pop-up restaurants on frozen rivers.
We are reclaiming surface parking lots by turning them into drive-in movie theatres. We are adding interactive and playful public art throughout our downtown’s major thoroughfares.
We are hosting dinners for more than 1,200 people in unusual and unexpected spaces. We are becoming a friendly, lively, and enjoyable city – a convivial city. So what more can we do?
Green spaces are not an urban luxury.
We should just have more of them. Green spaces help foster connections between communities and the natural environment, allowing for a more breathable and liveable city.
Downtown Winnipeg strives to increase and maintain the amount of green space available to residents, visitors, and workers. While Winnipeg has a forest canopy of 8 million trees, downtown’s tree stock is estimated to be close to 3,000. Our city can support residential growth and tourism attraction by adding more green space for people to gather and enjoy.
Festivals and events bring people outdoors and create lasting memories.
From wine tastings outdoors, dancing in the street, giant movies at the park, and musical performances, over 950,000 Winnipeggers came downtown to enjoy more than 50 festivals and events in 2014. Over 8 million people frequent downtown arts, cultural, and entertainment venues annually.
There is no doubt that Winnipeggers have an appetite for arts and theatre, concerts, and sporting events. Our city needs to continue to support organizations, people and innovators who are positioning downtown Winnipeg as a premier entertainment destination.
Tours take people by the hand and help unearth new experiences.
We all remember our most favourite moments downtown – whether it’s a night out on a patio during the hot summer, or a visit to one of downtown’s many architectural hidden gems.
Our intimate city experiences are often what we share, celebrate and boast about with our friends, peers, and family. Rather than placing an ad in the paper or paying for a billboard spot, the Downtown BIZ continues to take people by the hand and show them what’s new and exciting in the heart of our city.
From cycling, to wine tastings, to an adventure atop rooftop gardens and a trek along the river trail leading to the historical site of The Forks, Winnipeggers have the opportunity with a raft of special tours to discover firsthand what makes downtown Winnipeg such a unique place to visit this year.
Focused, personal and intimate tours, in my opinion, are what’s needed in our downtown – and will help expose more and more people to all of what’s great about our city’s core.
And sometimes it takes just a simple nudge for people’s perceptions to change for the better, and so the Downtown BIZ, with these tours, is asking people to give their downtown a chance.
Public spaces need to be open, inclusive, and accepting of people from all walks of life.
When we look at design and how our cities were built, it is clear that they were built by and for individuals with privilege. Our city needs to continue to discuss ways in which we can transform public spaces to be inclusive for all – places where all people belong.
When we create places that give Winnipeggers opportunities to gather, play and interact – we are sure to boost our city’s overall health and happiness.

2 thoughts on “Downtown brings happiness to the city all year long”

  1. Another idea for downtown:
    It would be great to see the shared bicycle systems like Ottawa and Montreal have. Would be a great addition to many areas of the city where people wouldn’t have to have their own bike but just pick one up from a dispenser and drop it off at their location in another dispenser. The idea might increase traffic in particular areas of interest like the Universities and landmarks, parks, etc and also increase people’s fitness without having to drag a bike then worry about it.

    1. Super good point, Karen! I love that idea! I’ve always admired it in other cities too – and the reality of bike theft would be nice to not have to worry about!

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