Filling Winnipeg's 'Dead Zones'

<p>More than 40 years of revitalization efforts have failed to "fix" downtown Winnipeg. Now a host of new developments -- many of them private or the result of downtown campus expansion plans -- may finally create a vibrant core for the city.</p>
October 3, 2007, 9am PDT | Michael Dudley
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"[Winnipeg's] sprawling downtown, which measures roughly three square kilometres, has proved unusually resistant to revitalization efforts over the past 40 years.

There's so much space in the heart of the city, attempts to 'fix' one area -- such as the Manitoba Centennial Centre in the '60s, Portage Place in the '80s or The Forks in the 1990s -- have led to inertia or even decay in other parts of downtown.

No single megaproject can act as a developmental version of a magic bullet. All that ails downtown can not be solved by plugging some of the holes.

But over the next three to five years, many of downtown's dead zones are destined for more than just a cosmetic facelift, thanks to the combined, if not exactly concerted efforts of private investors, public utilities, development agencies and politicians.

There are no less than two dozen projects on the go in downtown Winnipeg. To aid the work of development agencies, city council has created a battery of new incentives for developers to build new apartments and condos or convert empty buildings into mixed-use projects.

The University of Winnipeg is [also] planning to redevelop approximately 120 housing units just west of downtown's official borders as part of the school's $44 million-plus expansion plan.

The good news is, private investment is taking place downtown without government subsidies, partly because of the overall health of the Winnipeg real-estate market -- but also because of the cautious optimism surrounding downtown."

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Published on Sunday, September 30, 2007 in The Winnipeg Free Press
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