Downtown Winnipeg's Comeback

Once the site of neglected and abandoned buildings, Winnipeg's downtown is now seeing a host of construction and renovation projects, thanks to its redevelopment corporation, new incentives, a mixed use zoning bylaw -- and a change in perceptions.

Winnipeg has joined other North American cities in trying to reverse its suburban expansion by targeting its downtown with new residential and mixed-use developments. With numerous new projects underway -- including a new national museum -- the investments appear to be paying off. Whether Winnipeggers will embrace downtown living in sufficient numbers remains to be seen. According to the Globe and Mail,

"A rush to the suburbs in the 1970s gutted the inner city and crippled downtown retail. Heritage buildings that would be hot commodities elsewhere have sat unoccupied for years, and parking lots seem to occasionally outnumber the cars that use them. Now, the city is desperately trying to realign itself, drawing life back to its centre as a way to sustain its economic core. [Winnipeg's Mayor Sam] Katz hopes to bring about at least 3,000 people [to live in] the downtown core over the next few years. It may not sound like a lot, but it requires a change of mindset as well as changing laws.

[I]t was only in 2004 that [the] new zoning bylaw was introduced, allowing mixed-use development and truly accommodating private-sector investment in downtown living. Programs like the city's arms-length Centre Venture Development Corp. and the Portage Avenue Action Strategy were created to promote a new downtown vibe. The city is also hoping to develop some of the 154 surface parking lots spread across Winnipeg – valuable real estate that sits empty outside of business hours – and has offered a tax credit to homeowners who buy new infill-housing in established residential neighbourhoods."

Full Story: Winnipeg rethinks suburban sprawl with downtown reinvention

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