Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Good, the bad, the ugly, the uglier and the ugliest

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.

The Good

I struggled to find any good.

The Bad

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.

The Ugly

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 " 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.

The Uglier

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?

The Ugliest

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.


Deb said...

"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."

Are you certain that they aren't implementing these things? said...

The whole thing council has no vision for Winnipeg at all.

Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight, you approve of a 400 million BRT piece of junk to a suburb but you have a hard time with a Box store in a suburb.

Seriously, I hear and appreciate your pain, my suggestion, think about moving to a new City. You are young and you can lay roots down in a place that reflects your ideals. Nothing will change in the peg, not in your lifetime.

That was a good rant by the way.

Graham said...

@ Deb

Yes. The only thing we get from IKEA is 50 bike spots, trees in our parking lot and sidewalks in our parking lot. Also a generous 150 extra parking spaces over the limit set in the by-law.

@ Nobody

I don't think I've ever said I approve of the BRT. I've made many rants and whatnot against it, but, correct me if I'm wrong. I'm for the concept, but think the design stinks about as much as this new development.

And yes, I'm pretty sure I'll be moving away. I'll be over 30 by the time this is completed and there will still be no downtown improvement or places to live. Hell by the time I get my degree vacancy might be down to 0.1%

Anonymous said...

In the book by John Ralston Saul that I'm currently reading, he would say that Winnipeg's elite planners have "a colonial mind". In other words, that elites want us to mimic the bigger, better places - the imperial power centers which lead the way. So, we bend over backwards to bring the store here to mimic them. But, we fail to see that we could demand something in return. We could instead insist that our landscape is not scarred, our identity is protected, our culture is maintained, and that they are expected to blend into our world. But, we insist on nothing. That is the colonial mind at work.

Anonymous said...

i just went shopping with my wife at Kenaston commons this aft, and i suggested we walk the area.

I gotta tellya, its the dumbest thing.

What they've built ( I guess some call it Arizona Style shopping ) , is a mall, without a roof. A Mall , with a parking lot in the middle. A mall, that requires you to "drive to every store even though they may be 100 ft. apart.

Its idiotic, and yes, you will definetly need a car to navigate..

Deb said...

Graham - do you know if bike lanes are part of the plan? I think it would be really neat to have them down Sterling (from Waverley) heading into Assiniboine Forest and even the North entrance of Fort Whyte. If they are increasing the width of the roads anyway, why not include this addition (rather than just painting "Bike Lane" on the curb lane). Doubt it was mentioned though. :/

I disagree with Mr. Nobody...I don't think you *need* a car to navigate the Kenaston Commons area. Most people WANT to and it's become an ingrained attitude. Just like most people feel the need to park closest to the door, even though there are numerous parking spots 30ft further away.

Deb said...

...and I just recalled there are bike lanes/pedestrian paths, I believe on the south side of Sterling, west of Kenaston. Not sure if they plan on adding to that though.

Jasonthepear said...

Thank GOD, Graham is leaving Winnipeg. May God have mercy on the souls of the citizens of whatever unlucky city he is moving to. Obnoxious, arrogant, whiny, self-important jerk that he appears to be.

Jasonthepear said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Graham said...

@ Deb

Bike paths...if I can recall, there are bike paths to be built west of Kenaston. I had to pull up a map to see if I could remember the bike path information presented yesterday.

I'm pretty sure, if I remember correctly, there will be a bike path west of Kenaston from Taylor to Sterling Lyon at least, although I'm not sure how far it extends. For that matter, I'm not sure if it extends north of Tuxedo either.

I do know that IKEA has nothing to do with the bike paths. That is all city investment and various bike lobby groups. How people are going to cross an 11 lane intersection to get to the east side of Kenaston to park their bike at IKEA, is well beyond me.

@ Nobody

Yeah you bring up a point that is not often brought up: the fact that you pretty much have to drive from store to store. Walking doesn't make sense in the winter. Also doesn't make sense in the summer when it's 35C, and on the asphalt it's easily over 40C.

Unfortunately...I've thought of this before, is too bad these two developments at Kenaston were not planned out earlier. We could have had an indoor mall, which, I'm sure would be frowned upon by our trend-following planners.

What's currently at Kenaston though, was planned and built when an IKEA in Winnipeg was still a pipe dream. If they were closer together maybe an indoor mall would have been possible.

@ Jason

You're still here? Glad to see you're still reading. For the record, I also read things I don't agree with. It's healthy for an informed opinion.

Be glad I believe in freedom of speech. Also be glad I have a thick skin, as your personal attacks against me which have nothing to do with what I write, are on the border of getting deleted.

Graham said...

Whops, sorry Deb. I made a mistake, I said how were people going to cross to the east side of Kenaston? It slipped my mind that they don't have to, the IKEA is on the west side of Kenaston in the southwest corner of the intersection.

It might be that the bike paths they intend to build go all the way down to Rothwell.

jonathan said...

I'm not sure what this talk about bike paths is all about. There is already a bike path along Sterling Lyon from Shaftesbury to Victor Lewis (Lindenwoods).

The only problem with the path is the number of cuts in the section just east of Kenaston allowing access to the various industrial and storage facilities. This would only get worse with a high traffic parking lot along the way.

Anonymous said...

Graham, I know it's cliched but if you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem. Why don't you actually put yourself in a legitimate position to incite the positive changes this city needs?

Graham said...


How do you suggest I do that?

I attempted to be a part of the solution by attending the public hearing and speaking to the executive policy committee on how I think things should be changed.

I will do what I can, I am not standing by idly.

But in the end I'm the little guy here, we are talking about multi-billion dollar corporations with slick development plans, lawyers, nice presentations, and I'm also going up against politicians who seem to want to do nothing more than pass everything the developers table, because supposedly Winnipeggers want this -- all of it. Councilors cannot get past the word "IKEA" anymore than the average Winnipegger.

Dude trust me, if I had the money, power and resources these developers have, I'd be buying up surface parking lots downtown and erecting apartment buildings.

I do what I can. I use Transit, I shop downtown, I eat downtown, I support local businesses. I go to public hearings and I go on the record right here and put my ideas out there. I applied for the Mayor's Environment Committee, but unfortunately did not make the final cut.

If you have suggestions, feel free to suggest. I'm willing to listen.

Jasonthepear said...

so graham eats downtown and shops downtown. I live downtown. I'm better. yay me.