I attended over 9 hours of the public hearing on the "Tuxedo Yards Redevelopment" yesterday. I am far less than impressed. Mostly at the Executive Policy Committee, who displayed true wisdom and Winnipegisms that will see this city develop as a backassward prairie town who wants to hang around with the big kids. In other words, about the same it's always been. Here was an opportunity to change things, and well, it's all but gone now.
I struggled to find any good.
After sitting through over 6 hours worth of crap that included a presentation by the developer, traffic people, and then question after question from councilors over absolutely ridiculous things like the positioning of loading docks. Where sidewalks will go. How wide the sidewalks are. Question after question about traffic, how will I turn left, how many parking spots are there, where do the trucks go, how many trucks every day will be going to IKEA, where their product is shipped from. About bike racks and how many bike spots there will be.
After all that we finally got to stand up and say something. The thing is, all those questions, they aren't approval questions. They aren't Executive Policy questions. They're questions with the implication that, well hey, this thing is going through anyway, might as well try to understand it.
It took six hours for that, and by the time it was time for the opposed citizens to speak, it was like the councilors' eyes had glazed over and whatever anyone said went in one ear and out the other.
NOBODY in opposition was actually opposed to the IKEA. I want to say that and make it clear because it's important. The problems people have with this, myself included, is not actually the IKEA store. It's the rest. It's what's happening north of Sterling. While we're claiming to be advancing the city by getting an IKEA and it's going to be basically the best big box store ever (more on that later), the rest is going to be the same shit we have all over the place in this city, including what currently resides on Kenaston and other places like Kildonan Crossroads.
Absolutely no public consultation happened. There was an open house, and a public hearing. The plans were only available to the public for a whopping 13 days. 13 days, for a project that will severely impact the way this city functions for decades to come, was only consulted for 13 days. I'm no expert, but if I applied to put a shed up on my property that exceeded zoning limitations, it would take a lot more than 13 fucking days to get it passed.
Nothing changed. The plans are going through as you see them. Despite hours worth of "public consultation," many of whom gave compelling, legitimate arguments may I add, absolutely no concerns raised were addressed by EPC. After what I said, the councilors seemed to nod their head in agreement and say "thank you." Fielding was the only one who asked me a question, I don't know if he was playing on his Blackberry or what. Despite my whole speech being about how Phase 2 and Phase 3 don't make sense and would be better suited elsewhere in the city, he asked "so...you want to put IKEA downtown?" (IKEA is Phase 1 for those of you who have not actually looked at anything)
Despite all the concerns raised by councilors, nothing is changed. Nothing. I'd love to be a developer in Winnipeg, everything gets approved! I'm sorry, I must correct myself. One thing did change. IKEA now has a clause to, after 2 years, re-examine the use of their bike racks to determine if 50 spaces is adequate.
This shifts the balance of power in Winnipeg. Kenaston and Sterling Lyon should be re-named Portage and Main. 11 fucking lanes. Triple turning lanes. Asphalt everywhere. 8 to 10 years to finish this monster. Does that not have impact on Winnipeg? I cannot forsee any retail development happening anywhere else, other than this place, for the next 10 years. They are isolating it.
Plan Winnipeg is being completely ignored. Yes, they passed the amendment. But in doing so, and not even by voting on it, passed another amendment. The amendment of the entire fucking document.
What use is a plan if we don't follow it? Plan Winnipeg actually makes SOME sense. The first section, 1A, is about downtown. The importance of it, to promote it, promote development, and make downtown the bustling centre it once was. To evaluate the effects of new development on downtown. To get more people living downtown.
There's all kinds, sections on Transportation and Transit. The best they could do? Is re-route the 78 to IKEA. 11 fucking lanes of traffic and there's not a fucking bus lane. There's not any priority lights at the intersections. There is nothing else, despite IKEA claiming they are helping us out with public transit. They're not. They're adding to our problems at this point. Although the EPC seemed to understand this, they paid no mind to it when passing the plan.
Effects on other neighborhoods, concerns with the development, just about the entire fucking thing was axed yesterday. So I ask, what's the point of having a plan? And, furthermore, what is the point of drafting a new PW when it clearly won't be followed?
IKEA. They pulled the wool over the EPC's collective brains.
It's better than any box store we've ever seen. They have sidewalks in their parking lot. They have trees and landscaping in their parking lot. They exceeded the minimum required number of parking spaces. They even have special lights for the NIMBYs.
But it's what we don't have. Compared to other IKEAs, this is complete garbage. This kind of shit plan doesn't pass in other places. It's just that compared to everything else we have, it's phenomenal. I suppose when you get used to mediocrity a small improvement seems exciting.
I didn't realize it until some of the opposed citizens started mentioning other stores. But Winnipeg really is getting fucked here. In the UK, IKEA gives all their employees bikes. At multiple IKEA locations, you get a discount at the store if you travel by public transit. In some other city, they have their own buses that go to and from downtown, an IKEA shuttle service. In Vancouver, they deliver your shit to your door. In Winnipeg, we have trees in our parking lot.
All of this only indicated to me, is that if you were to twist IKEA's arm, they would cough it up. All they want to do is become the cornerstone store in whichever city they are building in. They want to make it the best, they want to make it stand out and they want to make themselves seem like the best corporate citizen ever. Your best pal. They do it by doing things that other box stores don't do.
In our case, we don't have landscaping in our parking lots. The councilors didn't seem to notice that maybe we could get them to build a diamond lane. Maybe we could get them to agree to do more with public transit. Maybe we could get them to give back to Winnipeg a little more.
But nope...the best we can do is get IKEA to agree that, after 2 years, they will re-evaluate the number of bike spots. Thank you Mr Wyatt for that wonderful clause that is now in their contract.