Where the young people are

When word got out that Talia Syrie was opening the sequel to The Tallest Poppy in the Sherbrook Inn, all she heard was how happy people were going to be to have it just down the street from them.
“I feel like everyone I know lives in West Broadway,” she said. “I love it. It’s just so easy.
“I can’t really imagine us anywhere else.”
Coming from the woman whose heart is in the North End, this is top honours.
Her co-conspirators from Synonym Art Consultation, who host The Tallest Poppy Residency Program in her space, have also been outspoken about their love for the area – and they’ve added their sophisticated touch of contemporary art to some of its walls through various events and programming.
“This is the best neighbourhood in Winnipeg, in my opinion,” says Andrew Eastman of Synonym. “It feels like you’d come up off a subway and see it.”
For decades, the bohemian paradise for young people was Osborne Village – it’s close to everything (a short commute anywhere), and there are tons of shops and restaurants from which to rack up a credit card bill.
But now it’s got competition.
Whether it’s a question of availability or a change in perceptions, young people are now congregating in droves in West Broadway.
“You’re on the fringe of Wolseley and the downtown,” explains Leah McCormick, executive director of the West Broadway BIZ. “There’s great walking, great cycling, and great connection to the buses.
“(Young people) want to do everything fun and simple and easy, and West Broadway has that.”
                                                          A fresh face
A huge part of the attraction is the changing façade of the neighbourhood – new business is being welcomed rapidly, much of it destination-worthy. “It’s exploding now, which is great,” says Leah. “And I think what’s going to happen next is we’re going to see Maryland (Street) developing.”
Some of that is already in motion. Ranjjan Developments tore down a decrepit house to build a mixed-use condo project with rooftop terrace and expansive windows. Sales have started and construction is set to begin soon at its 54 Maryland St. location.
An ambitious plan for 40 rental units in a four-storey development is slated for the corner of Westminster Avenue and Maryland, with two floors designated for commercial use. Most modern urban planning trends are adhered to in the area – and it’s obvious that young people gravitate to them.
In a 2011 neighbourhood profile of the area, 26 per cent of West Broadway’s residents consisted of the 20- to 29-year-old age group, though this group represents roughly 14 per cent of Winnipeg’s total population. A striking 85 per cent of area residents live in apartment buildings, while the city-wide average is around 30 per cent. This creates more density in the neighbourhood, with 7,896 people per square kilometre, far outnumbering the city’s average of 1,365.
New eateries like The Tallest Poppy and Sherbrook Street Delicatessen have added to the neighbourhood’s established collection of revered restaurants like Stella’s Café & Bakery, Boon Burger Café, Charisma of India and Wasabi on Broadway.
“It’s almost like you don’t have to leave West Broadway now,” says Leah, of the local businesses. “I think this neighbourhood is so conducive to how people want to live these days.”
Hip coffee shop? Check. (Thom Bargen Coffee & Tea.) Cheap watering hole? Check. (Cousin’s Deli & Lounge.) Late-night gathering spot? Check. (The Handsome Daughter.)
Pair this with the hair salons, convenience stores, and local boutiques and businesses, and you’ve got a pretty complete and livable neighbourhood.
The City of Winnipeg has also taken notice of the neighbourhood’s plethora of active commuters, and greenlit a defined bike path in the area as a testing ground for the concept.
Wanting to draw attention to its trailblazing feature, there are talks of incorporating the raised concrete platforms into West Broadway’s streetscaping plans.
                                                 Letting their freak flag fly
West Broadway loves to play up its distinctions; last year, it added grapevine sphere lights to its many prevalent trees. The BIZ is hoping to incorporate more eye-catching public art, much of it initiated by Synonym Art Consultation’s second annual Wall-to-Wall Mural Exhibition & Festival in the area.
Coming up, West Broadway will play host to a WildWoodRose Vintage Market (July 18), and the annual Sherbrook Street Festival is in September. “I think stuff like that (the festival) has had a huge impact on changing perceptions of the area,” says Leah. “When I first opened my store (Brave New World 14 years ago), people were like, ‘What are you doing here?’
“Now there’s all kinds of people looking for retail and commercial space for everything… But we want to have a say in what types of businesses come here.
“We want to embrace our inner freak still.”

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