by Stefano Grande and Jason Syvixay, Downtown Winnipeg BIZ
According to Statistics Canada, a base population of 1.2 million in the Manitoba Capital Region will increase to 1.6 by 2036, and trends are clear, more and more people are moving to urban centres. With rising costs to infrastructure, health care, jobs, and transportation networks, managing this population growth should be a central concern during the upcoming provincial election. True global cities are competitive when their knowledge, capital, and people are concentrated. With this in mind, social, economic, and environmental concerns that pose a barrier to a sustainable province may be reconciled with greater investments in downtowns. Continue reading Building a resilient Manitoba starts with a vibrant downtown
By Stefano Grande
In a city as diverse as ours, downtown truly matters. It’s full of activity, welcomes people of all backgrounds and is the economic engine of our city. With continued strategic investment and attention, it will once again be the pride of Winnipeggers.
The success of our entire province rests on this understanding. And there are many partners and stakeholders who are committed to this goal.
So, it’s important to ask: after years of progress, how healthy is our downtown today?
Trends suggest the downtown’s health has improved significantly over the last several years. This newfound health, however, is as fragile as it is encouraging – and it needs continued and sustained commitment from the public to nurture it.
A pledge of funding from the province’s Winnipeg Regeneration Strategy and continued use of tax-increment financing will help the area become a vibrant neighbourhood. Rapid transit and policies that provide a more sustainable alternative to urban sprawl are also desperately needed, because they help to direct market forces and development inwards. These are but some of the broad conclusions formed at the Health of the Downtown Summit, an assembly convened by the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ and its partners.
Some of the city’s most influential urban minds gathered to not only celebrate current and emerging downtown successes, but to discuss our downtown’s future. Some of their recommendations were presented to the candidates of this year’s mayoral election. Continue reading City must go downtown or downhill
By Stefano Grande
The pace of downtown revitalization is directly related to the opinions, beliefs, and knowledge of the mayor.
Whether you agree with this or not is a topic that’s ripe for a good conversation. But the reality is this: if the mayor of a city believes in the importance of the downtown creating a socially-inclusive, economically-rich and sustainable city, then great things will happen – and quickly. And organizations like the BIZ are tools for this change, to help mayor and council.
If a mayor is of a different mindset, then organizations like the BIZ take on a different role – influencers, advocates, capacity builders and educators.
This is why it’s important that the BIZ board has led the charge in meeting all of the mayoral candidates to have a discussion and find out: Who is in favour of downtown? Why? And what are the ideas and solutions?
Should panhandlers be banned from public spaces, or helped off the street in a comprehensive manner that includes assistance with social services and housing?
Should we wait for a full-line grocer, or create an innovative partnership with the private sector to stimulate more residential development?
Should there be adequate police foot patrols downtown regularly, or only when the events that draw suburbanites downtown are on?
Should a restaurant owner submit four different applications for a patio, or one? And should it take three months, or three weeks?
These and other questions are key to the future of our downtown over the next four years, if not more. Continue reading Meeting the mayoral candidates
Toppling stacks of jeans line tables the entirety of the store, and an equally voluminous slew of stock rests in boxes underneath. There are about 14,000 pairs of jeans on inventory at any given time – and the most miraculous part is, the loyal staffers know where to find virtually every one of them.
“It’s more of an experience,” says president and CEO of Sargent Blue Jeans, Mohamed El Tassi.
“It’s like a personal shopping experience. They’ll tell you what looks good, what doesn’t look good. They take in clothing; they’ll custom make you something if you want. And they’ll work with budget.”
Mohamed is referring to the bustling worker bees at Sargent Blue Jeans, Kathy, Laura and Maria. The trio is synonymous of the store, having worked there for 31, 28, and 10 years respectively.
Mohamed, also a Sargent Blue Jeans veteran who’s worked there since he was 14, says “We’re like one big family. It’s more than just work associates.”
Though he’s beginning to tap into other business ventures, Mohamed says “I’ll never, ever leave here.
“Every day I come to work, it’s wicked.”
The unique environment at Sargent Blue Jeans is the tipping point. Perhaps the biggest perk of the service is the fact that the attentive shopping assistants are also some of the swiftest seamstresses in the business.
Every pair of jeans purchased at the store receives complimentary alterations in about the time it takes for you to pull out your debit card. The ladies are the best in the biz, and they’ve got the devotees to prove it.
“There are some ladies here that are so loyal to these ladies they won’t even shop in the United States when they’re there,” says Mohamed.
As much as its community has been loyal to it, Sargent Blue Jeans likes to give right back.
Most recently, the local jean store gave the generous donation of a vehicle (valued at $8,000) to the Community Homeless Assistance Team (CHAT), the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ’s outreach program for those experiencing homelessness. Continue reading Sargent Blue Jeans’ culture is about giving back