Friday, April 24, 2009

Plan Winnipeg Forum: Part 1

"700 000 people live in Winnipeg, but only 13 000 live in the heart of the city: our downtown. "

This forum is about sustainability. In fact, that's exactly what it says on the City of Winnipeg website, "The Mayor's Symposium on Sustainability."

The focus here is on sustainability. I have no reason to believe that the ideas floated during the course of tomorrow's events won't actually be taken at least semi-seriously. "Smiling and nodding" is generally how this kind of thing is perceived around here, but given that the entire point of this forum is to address sustainability, I think results will go a lot farther than "smiling and nodding."

I had a choice to make about setting up my message. What I wanted to do was compare these numbers to a number from Waverly West, but the time limit crept in and if I had 60 seconds instead of 30, I would have done so. Staying on the general message of focusing on downtown and linking a dense core to sustainability (theres that magic word again) seemed more important than taking a shot at Winnipeg's biggest suburb.

This has been, perhaps, my #1 point that I try to get across here on my site. I seem to have a history with this idea: two years ago I presented a project about building a mid-rise apartment tower on a surface parking lot (note: was not well received by city planners.) Recently, I cited focus on downtown and discouraging suburban growth as my go-to subject during the interview I had for MEAC. And now I'm doing it again for this Sustainability Forum.

The following number, IMO, perfectly illustrates how far away from sustainability Winnipeg continues to position itself: by the time it is finished at 10 000 homes, more people will live in the Waverly West subdivision than downtown. The only way to describe what this is, is Winnipeg shooting itself in the foot.

Of course, the approval of this plan happened all the while people were talking about "downtown revitalization" and the Mayor was boasting about his plans for BRT. Sustainability? Clearly nobody was thinking about that word at the time, BRT was planned to....NOT go to Waverly West.

The underlying reason why our population continues to grow while the downtown population remains completely stagnant is quite simple: we construct new places for people to live all the time, except that what we never do is construct new places for people to live downtown. When a chance comes up, it is squashed for one reason or another. Interpretive centres or not enough incentives for renovations, don't take away our green space (read: gravel lots) at The Forks.

Winnipeg's downtown has a staggering, enormous amount of potential. Will that potential ever be realized? It has the potential to be the beating heart of the city. It has the potential to be the place everyone talks about. Even the potential to be the place where people want to live.

Plan Winnipeg Forum: Prologue

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Winnipeg's downtown has a staggering, enormous amount of potential. Will that potential ever be realized?

I wouldn't say it was "staggerring " unless you are sitting on an army of bulldozers and can canoodle a railway to get out of dodge. Oh, yes, and decide to bring 25 Thousand people to the core...each and every day ( but thats too late now )