Recognizing that "the Exchange District is a highly pedestrian traveled destination in the City of Winnipeg", and its historical designation, the City has made changes to make the Exchange District easier to travel in winter by car and on foot.
On January 16, 2012, city council has approved a change to upgrade the snow clearing of streets and sidewalks within the Exchange District from Priority 2 to Priority 1.
We have had such little snow so far this year, the change many not be noticeable this year, but it will no doubt have a positive effect on getting around.
In the fall of 2010, we had quite the race going on for mayor of Winnipeg, with the incumbent Mayor Sam Katz running even in the polls against his main challenger Judy Wasylycia-Leis.
While a lot of the city's voters are quite apathetic about civic elections, our members were not. The nature of the Exchange District, as a downtown area, with its heritage status, development issues, growth problems, vast surface parking lots and an abundance of opportunity to create a vibrant place to live, all contributes to it being subject to the policies of the people in power in city hall and the legislative building.
To help members with their voting decision, we hosted a presentation by each of the main candidates for mayor.
Mayor Sam Katz spoke to us on Monday October 18 in the evening and Judy Wasylycia-Leis spoke on Saturday October 23. Both made a brief speech on their platform and their vision for the Exchange District and left a lot of time for a Q&A after the speeches.
This was a great opportunity to hear these two speak in a small setting on issues that are relevant to us and an easy forum to ask a few questions.
A recent Winnipeg Free Press article, highlighted the amazing 41 year career of Cynthia and Fred Brick in the furniture business. Brick's Fine Furniture started on Princess, then moved to Lombard Avenue, and this past year, to their current location at 145 Market Avenue.
In spite of the location changes (always wanting to be downtown), the economy and a long naming battle with The Brick, Cynthia has thrived. Her passion for downtown goes beyond her store location, Cynthia and Fred live in the Exchange District too.
If you have not been to the new location of Brick's Fine Furniture -- you should, it is large, gorgeous and filled with elegant furnishings.
Cynthia is a devoted R:ED member, and has volunteered to host our next meeting at her store. The meeting will feature a talk by Martin Maykut of StreetSide (a Qualico company) about the new development of a whole block of buildings on Market Avenue (including the building that houses Brick's Fine Furniture) and a block on Market Avenue. Register now for the R:ED event on June 9th.
Without any review, announcement or public input, the City has approved demolition of the oldest portion of the Smart Bag Co. building, built in 1884, just on the fringe of the Exchange District National Historic Site.
Sport Manitoba purchased a 5 story building on Pacific Ave, and have just recently opened their doors. They initially announced plans to demolish the Grade III heritage building next door to make room for a sports complex. Now through some clever maneuvering, they have managed to avoid any public input and even prevented Heritage Winnipeg from having any say -- it was all internal to the City and the planning, property and development department has just given the okay to tear it down (Winnipeg Free Press article).
Along the way, and engineer's report and fire officials report were supposedly obtained that said the building was "unsafe." Is that sufficient reason to tear it down? How many of the heritage buildings in and around the Exchange District could fail to meet today's code and thus be considered "unsafe?" And why is it unsafe -- did the owner not maintain it? How much would it cost to make it "safe?" Well, as this demolition order was issued without any involvement of the public or heritage officials, we will never know the answers.
What we do know is that the City as recently as 2008 felt there were many elements of this building that deserved the level III heritage status. Listed on the City's conservation list, their heritage assessment of this, the oldest portion of the Smart Bag Co. building stated:
"Elements of the building that would require approval if alterations were planned are:
• The three masonry walls (north, south and west) of the three-storey, north facing structure
• The metal decorative cornice of the main façade
• The paired and arched second and third storey windows with continuous stone sills and brick accenting
• Other main façade details including pilasters with decorative metal caps and decorative brick panels
• The railway track lintels on the ground floor windows and the original windows on the third floor of the west façade
• The structural elements (wood beams and posts) and wood floors of the second and third floors"Soon the building will be gone, replaced with a new fieldhouse / gym. Will the new building respect the historic nature of the area and adjacent building? Given what we see in terms of new construction along Main Street, the United Way, and the WRHA building (both incidentally still in the "character zone" as defined by the City), their appears to be little precedent to pay homage to the past. If the City felt this building's facade was of worthy of protection, why did they not mandate that Sport Manitoba retain part of the facade -- perhaps as Red River College did.
After a year of speculation and waiting, the City and Province has unveiled their new "Downtown Residential Development Grant" program. Premier Sellinger and Mayor Katz, in a press conference on Waterfront Street, announced that $20 million would be available over the next three years to developers to help stimulate residential housing in the downtown.
The announcement is a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program, that essentially recognizes that the new development will increase property values and taxes, creating higher tax revenues in the future; a portion of these increased tax revenues are granted to the developer at the time the building is finished to assist with the cost of the development.
Recognizing that the cost of development in downtown (and especially in the Exchange District) is high due to existing buildings, new building codes, heritage restrictions, etc, the grant will make available to the developers up to $40,000 per residential unit.
To qualify, the developments must meet minimum requirements for "affordability" and accessibility to the disabled. Details were not released.
At the maximum payout of $40,000 per door, the three year program could help finance 500 units, or maybe 1,000 - 1,500 new downtown residents.
Its not a lot, but its a start.
The way to maximize the benefit is to focus the funds. The "downtown" is too big - 500 units will have negligible effect on creating vibrancy. We need to focus the $20 million on the Exchange District and Portage Ave. When the first 500 units are built, let's fund the next 500 and 500 after that...
This $20 million is not a cost. Its an investment, one that will be easily repaid in 10 - 15 years through the higher property taxes that will result from the development. Its a good investment, not only from a financial point of view, but from the social aspect as well.
Many Winnipegers want to live downtown. Those that don't want to at least feel proud of their downtown. Downtown residential investment is the single best way to build an urban environment that is vibrant, fun, funky and alive.
We need to build a community.(News reports: Free Press story, CBC story, CBC video)
The Forks has announced plans for residential development. It is still very preliminary, but plans call for a 10 story residential building to be built across from the new museum. The main floor and promenade area will be commercial. The building will hold about 350 residential units.
Hidden between the building and the train track will be a parking structure that will hold 600 - 700 cars. While that sounds like a good addition to the Forks parking needs, the building of the structure will result in the loss of about 350 existing surface parking spots. Even if not all of the 350 new residential units get a single parking spot, it will not leave more than a few net new spots for the museum or Forks use.
There has been controversy about having residential development at the Forks site. I was interviewed on CBC Radio on April 19th where I voiced general support for having more residents "downtown." My one caution -- the $100+ million project could take away from the funds for downtown development. The recent City / Province announcement of the TIFF program was for only $20 million over three years to build over 500 residential units.
The TIFF program is expected to spur considerable development in the Exchange, but it is just a start -- it will need to be expanded and extended. I would hate to think that a "mega-project" at the Forks could dry up available government funding, but we know that governments love mega-projects.
The on its way through Winnipeg, the Olympic Torch run weaved its way through the Exchange District. The runners made their way down Waterfront to Bannatyne, then Bannatyne to Rorie where the flame was transferred to a new runner who when down Rorie and them Market toward Main Street.
A small crowd of excited residents awaited the torch arrival, some sipping on hot chocolate from the Exchange Cafe. Others lit sparklers while they waited the entourage, preceded by what seemed like 20 police cars, closing off streets and ensuring the run was unimpeded.
The Exchange District BIZ along with the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, Centreventure and the City of Winnipeg and Forks North Portage Development Corp have released the results of a study on a new retail strategy for downtown Winnipeg.
The report notes that "The Exchange District was identified through its "cool factor", "casual-chic" atmosphere and the need to balance its hipster (creative pioneers of the revived Exchange) demographic with an emerging yupster (a yuppie hipster hybrid) population."
For details of the retail strategy, see the Executive Summary (18 pages!) or the Full Report (109 pages).
In a December 5, 2009 Winnipeg Free Press article, columnist Morley Walker notes that while the MTS Centre has been very successful, it has, through no fault of its own, done little to stimulate downtown development. He does mention one interesting idea -- maybe the MTS Centre should reward (and attract) downtown residents by offering a Downtowners' Pass.
The pass, given to residents of downtown, would allow free admittance to any MTS Centre event that is not sold out. Like flying standby, residents could fill unused seats.
It sounds like a great idea, that would benefit downtown residents, provide a small attraction to those considering moving downtown, be simple and easy to administer and would cost the MTS Centre nothing.
I'm sure many R:ED members would be more than happy to participate!
The Exchange Patrol program helps to provide a safe and friendly environment for everyone in the district. Members of the Exchange Patrol are always ready to help, whether you need a safe walk to your car or bus stop, directions around the area or to report an issue of concern. Exchange Patrols are easily identified in their black and yellow uniforms. Their constant, dependable and uniformed presence sends a positive message to merchants, citizens, and tourists that the Exchange District is a welcoming destination where safety is valued.Currently there are two full time personnel: Lisa Knievel and Josiah Cook. During the busy summer months, volunteer Exchange Patrol personnel will be added.
On Sunday, September 13 from 8am until 6pm, the entire north side of Broadway was closed to motorized vehicles from Main to Osborne connecting Assiniboine Park to The Forks for Ciclovia.
The event featured a hay maze, a farmers’ market, street vendors, a kids’ zone, buskers, horse drawn wagons, outdoor fitness classes and other non-motorized fun.
Ciclovia, meaning “bike way,” began in Bogotá, Colombia, where every Sunday major roads are blocked off and millions of people fill them running, walking, biking while enjoying free outdoor fitness classes like yoga and aerobics.
The Winnipeg event was well attended – many blocks of Broadway were packed with people cycling and walking past the vendors and entertainment. It was a beautiful day, and people were relaxing on the boulevards, and taking in the bands and polo game (where the players were on bikes!).
After starting at the Forks, and taking in all that Ciclovia had to offer, it was clear riding through the regular Sunday bike-restricted roadways through Wolsley and down Wellington Crescent to get to Assiniboine Park. After a pit-stop at Sargent Sundae’s (a sunny day requirement), an easy return ride along the bike trail ending at the Forks.
Our congratulations to the organizers – it was well planned and attendance was outstanding, especially for a first time event. The only suggestion for improvement, maybe next year continue the marked bike path through the Forks and down Waterfront, continuing the route along the scenic Red River.
Uptown Magazine, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, has published a story by James Howard alleging that our City Planners have gone over the edge. An excerpt:The city's historic Exchange District has been a headache for civic planners in recent years, with many of its signature character buildings either demolished for newer projects or left to 'demolition by neglect' by owners. The sweeping new proposal, passed 12 to four by council yesterday, will see the entire region bulldozed and paved to make room for a district-wide parking complex. Construction estimates were set at $150 million, then immediately declared out of date and bumped to $215 million. (full story)
A recent Free Press article quotes from a Colliers International annual global parking survey that Winnipeg parking rates have increased 72% over last year -- one of the highest increases in the survey. The huge increase contrasts with the Canadian average of 9.9% for monthly rates.The survey reports the median daily rate is now $18 and the monthly median is $190 ($110 last year).
As summer nears, new life springs into the Exchange District. The Exchange Café has opened in the 126 year old Swiss Building at 137 Bannatyne. The café features authentic Italian espresso, cappuccino, American coffee and teas. The bright café serves an assortment of panini, soups, salads and desserts. For a refreshing taste, try their assorted flavours of Italian gelati.The heritage decor is a throw back to a provincial café found in Southern Europe. Co-owners Abby Mann (pictured above) and Mario Aiello are “excited to be in the Exchange District and provide a comfortable gathering space for residents.” The café will be open 9:30 a.m. to 7:00 pm Monday to Thursday. Friday and Saturday this will be open until 11 pm. They will also be open in conjunction with special events happening in the Exchange.
The District Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge is open! The former Liberty Grill restaurant and Bull and Bear lounge space have been updated looking fresh and new while retaining its heritage glory. The bright open restaurant features a wide assortment of high-end offerings.
The lounge is dark and inviting with lots of cushy lounge seating, jazzy art and subtle music -- a great backdrop for conversation. There are six full size billiard tables making it a great place to spend a casual evening.
Co-owners Glen Tate (pictured, left) and Doug Vossen (right) are thrilled to be open and to be part of the community.
The International Downtown Assn has named Winnipeg's Exchange District as Downtown of the Month. (article)
The opening event in the Exchange District summer outdoor event calendar was the Rockin' the District Block Party. The event drew a large crowd who took in a fashion show, wake and skate demos and a big evening concert featuring Shiny Toy Guns.
Now the newly upgraded Old Market Square prepares for the week long Jazz Festival with a weekend of free concerts at Old Market Square in addition to some lunch concerts.
July 15 - 26, the focus will shift to the very popular Winnipeg Fringe Festival. This is the 22nd year of the Fringe, and it will feature 146 theatre companies from around the world.Yes, another busy summer in the Exchange.
Looking to lose some of that "winter weight" now that the promise of spring is upon us? A recent article in the Winnipeg Free Press suggests that we should walk for groceries.
Apparently a University of B.C. study reports that "people who live within a kilometer of a grocery store are half as likely to be overweight, compared to those living in the neighbourhoods without grocery stores." And more is better: each additional store within a kilometer meant a further 11% reduction in the likelihood of being overweight.
Residents of the Exchange District (R:ED) have been vocal in our need for local grocery stores. We are able to walk to work, to theatres and coffee shops, and to restaurants. But the true urban lifestyle eludes us as we have to hop into our cars (or board a bus) to go for groceries.
We are aware of one young entrepreneur's plan to open a small grocery store by summer, and there is no doubt that residents will support it.
It would be great to see a second option, not just for choice, but apparently it would help keep the weight off!
A recent Free Press article quotes from a Colliers International annual global parking survey that Winnipeg parking rates have increased 72% over last year -- one of the highest increases in the survey. The huge increase contrasts with the Canadian average of 9.9% for monthly rates.
The survey reports the median daily rate is now $18 and the monthly median is $190 ($110 last year).
On Saturday April 25th R:ED attended the “Mayor’s Symposium - A Sustainable Winnipeg.” The full day session brought together 200 people representing various groups as well as individual citizens. The morning started with participants speaking about their vision for a sustainable Winnipeg. Yes, that was 200 speeches!
While that sounds like it could have been a disaster, the carefully orchestrated event allowed each person only 30 seconds each to give their vision, which was to be crafted in 90 words or less.
I must say it was quite interesting to hear the wide-ranging views. It was easy to pick emerging patterns -- most people were thinking along the same lines, looking for the same things.
The vision stated for the Residents of the Exchange:
The Downtown BIZ sponsored "Downtown Living" on May 8 and 9. This two day event included exhibitions as well a tours. R:ED hosted an exhibit -- who better to talk to about living downtown than people who live downtown? Other exhibitors include: CentreVenture, Forks/North Portage, 5468796 Architecture, The Bay, Hosteling International, Residences on York, Sky condos, etc. (full list).
Downtown Living coverage in the Winnipeg Sun included a quote from R:ED member Heather Boyd who was at our booth: "I don't find [living downtown] dangerous at all. I'm quite comfortable wandering around the Exchange District and downtown. It's a big misperception that people have about the downtown area." The full article can be found here.
After threats by the City to expropriate, and temporary work last year to prevent the building from falling down, Bedford Investments has announced a deal with the City of Winnipeg and CentreVenture to save the facade of the crumbling building and build a parking structure on the empty lot next door.
The 112-year-old King Building at the corner of King St. and Bannatyne Ave. will be turned into an 186-stall parkade with 8,000 square feet of commercial space on the main floor.
The parking is much needed in the area and will be a boom to residents, local businesses and visitors to the area.
While the press release notes that the facade will be removed then reassembled in exact detail, there is no detail on what the parkade next door will look like. Here's hoping that the new structure will fit well withing the historical nature of the surrounding buildings. (News article)
(Nov 30/08 by Justin Friesen) Exchange Community Church officially purchased 75 Albert St. (at McDermot Ave.) on Oct. 1st 2008. For the past 5 years we have leased a small space at 84 Albert Street, which is now The Haberdashery. We are currently occupying the 2nd floor of the building, while the main floor is leased by commercial tenants and the 3-5th floors are rented by artists for studio work spaces.
Our intent is to transform 75 Albert St. in to a self-sufficient building with community meeting space and affordable residential-zoned studios. With it becoming increasingly apparent that the Exchange District offers few options for affordable rental living and while many buildings are filled with artists' studios, the artists are being forced out by commercial developments. Most spaces inhabited by artists are not zoned as residential and are not necessarily fit for safe living quarters. The Exchange Community Church feels deeply connected to the artistic community and it is our hope that other organizations may follow this model.
The building is currently set up as a not-for-profit and the development of the building will take place over years through the acquisition of funding through various foundations and donations. We have established an on-line forum to acquire feedback from the community as we work towards developing the building (http://www.exchangeonline.ca/forum/index.php).
(Nov 26/08) If you have looked at the ice on the Red River lately, there is a huge buildup of "frazzle ice" (see photo). This will make it impossible to build a skating trail between the Forks and Waterfront Drive or Festival Park.
The Forks has announced it will instead extend the river skating trail further down the Assiniboine River all the way to Assiniboine Park -- a 8.5 km skating rink! This year, with a short walk to the Forks, Exchange residents will be able to skate all the way to the park, have coffee, lunch or a drink and skate back!
(Nov 23/08) Speaking of hats, the Haberdashery, guys and girls opened just two weeks ago at 84 Albert Street. With a great selection of hats for style, fun and warmth, Haberdashery is a welcome addition to the Exchange's expanding selection of clothing stores. Luke Nolan, the owner, has moved his store from Corydon Avenue to take part in the Exchange District's blossoming as Winnipeg's fashion destination.
(Nov 22/08) Our neighbours in South Point Douglas have started the secondary plan process with the City of Winnipeg. This is a process we hope to undertake shortly. They are having an Open House and workshop on Tuesday Dec 2nd at 7 pm at Argyle School. I would hope some of our members attend to learn about our neighbours and to better understand the secondary plan process. Further details: meeting invitation(PDF) secondary plan info