Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Parker Avenue Mess Up

Bulk of Parker Avenue Needed for Water and Bus
How did it happen?

Some time ago, I suggested resistance by people along Parker to any change was not likely garner much sympathy. Declarations that the area was a park and then shielding access to the area by blocking roads so that only those living in the area could enjoy the land wasn't in the cards.

The land in question was never designated park land. It has always been zoned industrial and some of the area was used to move high powered hydro lines.

The Fort Rouge Yards/Parker Land Swap was a mess up from start to finish. These over clever moves never properly assessed the value of the lands in question, the future needs of those lands or the environmental concerns. And now we have city officials coming cup in hand with expropriation needs for water retention and bus rapid transit.

What a screw-up.

The bulk of the land around Parker Avenue is now needed for water retention to protect from flooding immediately north in Fort Rouge.  The rest of it is needed for bus rapid transit. If there is any land left for townhouses as was first suggested by the Gem Equities land swap, you've got me. Given the slow or non-development approach of Gem, it is possible we might all be in the old age homes before we ever saw houses in the Parker area.

In any event, the city has to use expropriation for land that just a few short years ago that it could have done this work of water retention and transit for nothing. Is the crazy or what?

Once again Parker Avenue people are not likely to be happy. Many of them will still want nothing to do with the city plans but the bugger my neighbours to the north and their flooding issues is not kosher. Likewise the BRT plans and expropriations everywhere is probably going to make for many sour faces.

A place to hold water
It is difficult to know why we get into these messes. It undermines the faith people have that projects can proceed the make sense logically, are researched, presented for discussion, modified and then carried out. There will always be some resistance but sometimes people buy in afterwards as in the case of Safeway in Osborne Village. There were many that wanted no change in configuration of the store but now there is wide acknowledgement that the vitality of that grocery store has been essential to the success of the residents living in that community.

A ferocious response can be expected when this move hits the council floor this week. I don't blame anyone for throwing their hands up in the air.

For the moment my support lies for those in the Fort Rouge area who may be getting flooded basements over water storage. They have every right as anyone in the city to protection of their properties. To that end, I support water retention if indeed the environmental assessments declare a need.

For the people of Parker Avenue, there is still a possibility of land to enjoy if pathways and the like come as part of the project.

As for the BRT expropriation, I still don't know enough about it to get a handle on it. Every time I think I am close to figuring it out, it seems I know nothing.

Everyone take a deep breath. It is going to be a long week.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Wendy's Coming to 3095 Portage Avenue

Old A&W on Portage, future Wendy's
At one time A&W was headquartered in Winnipeg and its first location was at 3095 Portage Avenue built in 1956 as a drive-thru. For some time that location has been empty as A&W moved elsewhere. The old restaurant was dotted with photographs marking its history.

It appears the last vestiges of the old A&W will disappear as the city has approved demolition of the building and the land will be cleared and prepared for a new Wendy's drive-thru.

Wendy's, the third largest burger chain in Canada after McDonald's and A&W, is no stranger to Portage Avenue. The Hakim Optical shop still bears the colours of the former Wendy's on the south side of the street.

Wendy's ended up closing several locations in Winnipeg but in recent years the company has committed itself to building their brand again as well as their branches. In the last few years they built a new Wendy's opposite St. Vital Shopping Centre.

Few people will remember when burger joints were few and Winnipeg was the first to have this kind of new fangled drive thru. A little bit of history disappears. However, time marches on and it is good to see new use for a site that has been for sale for some time.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Redbox Canada Closing all Locations

Just announced today is Redbox will be shutting down all Canadian locations. Last day for rentals will be February 13 and returns back by March 5.

Like Blockbuster, the American owners saw no future in Canada And so ends any national organization renting DVDs in Canada.

Monday, February 2, 2015

New River Heights Fire Hall Daycare

  
Site of the controversial fire hall and now daycare
The plans for the new daycare
Ask any parent what there is a shortage of and they will say daycare spaces. Any daycare spaces affordable or not.

The disposition of the old fire hall has not been one of the finer moments for the city. It still may be years before we find out what the final tally is for trying to swap land.

There were two bids for the building for daycare spaces. In the end one of the plans appeared better planned out although for a bit less money to buy the building. The Rady Jewish Community Campus will be the new owner and operator of a daycare inside the confines of the old fire hall. The 48 childcare spaces will be available to any child in the area.

The Rady Centre already operates a daycare on the Jewish campus for around 100 kids. They come to the Sir John Franklin site with a reputation already in the field.

The city's main concerns asides from finding a buyer  was to ensure the bus loop remained forever. It will.

The other concern was parking. Two small spots will be where the fire truck main doors were and staff parking is on the side. It isn't a lot of spots. It remains to be seen if traffic becomes an issue.

In the end, this was a good use of a city property. One wonders what a private developer would have come up with. Perhaps it would have been a daycare, maybe a home/light industrial spot.

The new daycare will be a welcome addition to the area and another plus for River Heights families when considering what neigbourhoods are good for families.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Original Pancake House Coming to Kenaston

The first Original Pancake House Pembina
The city has approved for a 5500 square foot Pancake House to be built on the west side parking lot of the Odeon VIP Theatre at Kenaston and McGillivary. Over the years the Original Pancake House has expanded to Polo Park and The Forks.

The Kenaston area has been sadly lacking good breakfast and brunch places for a sit down meal. IKEA and Perkins have been built in the last years but many other places don't really get started till noon hour.


A few years back there was a bit of a commotion when it looked like House of Pancakes was going to move into Seasons of Tuxedo. The company adamantly said there were no plans for that despite a map showing that this was precisely what was proposed. No doubt that Winnipeg's love for pancakes in the Kenaston area spurred Original Pancake House into action.

Pancake House site across from Costco
The proposed site across from Costco on Columbia Road and in the parking lot beside the Odeon VIP Theatre is likely to be successful. St. Gianna's Catholic Church is right across the road as well.

It is a known fact that churchgoers love pancakes.

The big question is how will be people in Whyte Ridge react? When there was a proposal for apartments just a short distance away, they reacted with anger and signed a petition in the thousands.

Several years back the people in Linden Woods were up in arms about a Keg restaurant going up across the street from the housing development. The fear was that the smell of steak would make dogs nuts in Linden Woods.

Could the smell of pancakes waft into Whyte Ridge and turn non churchgoers into churchgoing people? I hope city council remembers to examine this issue closely as they did when they rejected the first plans for The Keg on Waverley.

I say good luck to The Original Pancake House in their quest for their Kenaston location!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

What Uniform Will Chief Clunis Wear?

I'm here for the honours
I once asked but really never found out an answer what the standard is and how decisions are made on what uniforms senior officers of Winnipeg Police service wear and when they wear them. Watching Chief Clunis, I am still curious what uniform comes out and why.

Some uniforms are obviously worn for days when honours are given and not for just showing up for a work day. Expect a high collar and buttons up to the top in a true blue military style shirt with black pants and red stripe down. When Chief Clunis was announced as chief, the high collar came out.

Fancy meal dress
If a fancy meal is order, the tux is under a very dressy blue police jacket with lapels and epaulettes. If the Chief Clunis is to be in attendance at an awards banquet, he pulls the tux out.

Just one of the guys in blue today
Sometimes Chief Clunis wants to just appear as one of the guys in blue. One can never be sure of what day that will be. However, when that happens, it is a dark shirt and black tie.

If the Chief thinks it a day to be a boss, the white shirt and black tie come out.

I'm the boss today
When does the decision come that senior officers like the chief are the boss and when are they just guys in blue? Not quite sure. I assume that they call each other at home and ask: is it blue or white today?

Hey, it's summer...we're not crazy
Sometimes you need to appear as the brass but it's summer. Well, senior officers are not crazy, they have white and blue short sleeves shirts and no ties. But who decides? If it is cool in morning and deputy wears long sleeves and black tie and chief wears short sleeves and no tie, does the deputy get sent home to fix the problem? What if one wears blue and the other white? Oh my.

This is business or religion or one of my guys has done bad
There are times the chief ditches the uniform altogether. This doesn't mean he is not chief anymore.

If Chief Clunis talks to the mayor about budget, it is manno et manno in business suits. If the Chief talks about religion and policing, it is back to suit as well.

And especially if an officer has done bad, expect the police uniform to be hanging in the closet and the suit is on.

How do these decisions get made? Beats me but someone makes them every day. It is been happening for a while if one looks at past pictures of chiefs.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Target Shutting Down All Canadian Stores

Target Canada announced today that their expansion into Canada has been a total failure and they will be shutting down all stores.

The 133 stores and over 17,000 employees will be affected.

In Winnipeg, the Polo Park location just barely opened.

It has been known for some time that Target was struggling in Canada. The losses have mounted to over $2 billion. The liquidation of the stores will cost upwards of $600 million.

The reasons for Target's failure is numerous but high prices, empty shelves, poor locations and comparing poorly to their American cousin are generally accepted as being the top complaints.

Target was initially welcomed in Canada with huge enthusiasm but soon disappointment set in. The company's response was that they were competitive in Canada and it was unfair to compare Canada's Target to America's stores. The problem is that Canadians didn't think they were competitive and it was hard not to believe that they couldn't get what was seen in U.S. stores.

Job growth in Canada in 2014 was very slow. And with oil prices dropping, there is some indication the economy is going to be tough in 2015 for some provinces. The massive failure of Target will be just added salt to an economy still not recovered from one slide after another since 2008.

It is difficult to imagine just what will happen to all the closed stores. It is possible Walmart might pick up some of the best locations. But then again, why would they if there were bad spots to begin with.

Target might not be the only daprtment store to die in  2015. By all accounts, Sears Canada is also circling the drain. The U.S. Sears shuttered a large amount of Kmarts and Sears just in the last days. This is on top of all the other closures.

Another store in Canada announced their liquidation this week as well. Mexx will begin the process of selling off all their stock.

What did it all mean? This is hard to tell. However, any sense of triumph about the Canadian economy going forward is sure to be muted.

Fear is now replacing confidence in many regions and many sectors.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

City TV's Breakfast Television Blown Up

Breakfast TV on City TV Winnipeg was the first to really do local content on early morning TV in Winnipeg. They had the market to themselves. CBC, CTV and Global were all latecomers to the game.

The first version of the show was called The Big Breakfast and started on the old A Channel way back in 1997 and featured Jimmy Mac and Jon Ljungberg. The Craig family-owned stations mimicked Toronto's CityTV program The Big Breakfast started back in 1989.

CityTV used to be a very cutting edge television enterprise and Winnipeg's A-Channel used quite a lot of their programming to fill their Canadian content regulations. However, for their local broadcasts, they had The Big Breakfast which did very well and seemed to not attract any notice from the big players in the market.

For years CKY was content to play Canada AM from Toronto in the Winnipeg market. The ratings were probably sufficient to justify it. CBC also used Newsworld programming in the early hours.

In 2004, the Craig family sold their interests in A-Chanel to CityTV and The Big Breakfast was replaced with Breakfast Television in 2005. Not much really changed as the format was pretty much identical. Aside from hosting changes, BT had the local market to themselves.

However, in 2011 and 2012 CTV and Global Television  entered the local breakfast television market and it appears the first one to blink was CityTV's Breakfast Television.

This week 14 or the 25 staff were given the axe and 11 were assigned to a new radio and TV format hosted by 92 CITI FM star Wheeler and his co-hosts Phil Aubrey and Rena Jae. Two CITYTV hosts Drew Kozub and Jenna Khan have survived the cut and will join the new 6 to 9 program.

It is hard to know how this program will look and feel. It will be shot in the studios of CITYTV at The Forks. The understanding is that when music is played for the radio show, the cut away will be to the CITYTV hosts. If this sounds confusing them you're not alone.

CBC Manitoba will also be doing a radio and TV hybrid where their morning radio hosts will be seen on TV. This is more akin to what we saw with Q, the big CBC radio product formerly hosted by Jian Ghomeshi. The show was routinely broadcast for television as well as radio.

The big difference for CBC's entry into the market is that it really is just a radio show being televised.

It is very difficult to know what this new radio and television concept will look like for CITYTV. However, it is obvious that it has fewer staff, it won't be doing any location work and probably will conduct less community content.

My big question is for 92 CITI is: what do you get out of this? The Wheeler show is one of the top rated radio programs in Winnipeg. Will this help or hinder your status as being on top.

My big question for CITYTV is: Are your costs that much higher that you have to dump so many staff from one of your marquee local programs? Is Rogers looking to get every dollar they can from committing to $5 billion for NHL hockey?

I guess we will also see next week how this plays out.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Old Charleswood Library Closing, New One top Open Soon

Location of new Charleswood Library
Before 2011, Canada Post and Rogers Video here
In 2011 there was some angst in Charleswood about Charleswood Square at Dieppe and Roblin about multiple closings in Charleswood Square. The mini-retail and service area in the middle of the suburb had seen a Canada Post and a Rogers Video close in addition to other retailers. Empty storefronts abounded.

The call for something to be done went out but what can the city do when businesses leave a retail site? Well, the answer apparently is build a new branch library for Charleswood.

Built in the corner of Charleswood Square
The question of what to do with the old Charleswood library was a big one. It was old, small but centrally located. In the case of the old fire hall, the decision was to knock it down and built on the old site. It was probably possible to do that on the old site but only if the old Charleswood Municipal building came down as well. That part of the building houses the Charleswood Historical Society as well as the Charleswood Seniors Centre.

The building of such a complex would have been costly and there is no question that parking was already at a bare minimum what with a bus circle in the lot.

The struggling Charleswood Square immediately next door seemed to be the answer. It had a traffic light at Dieppe for controlled turns onto Roblin Boulevard. It was very close to the bus loop where the old library was not to mention the Charleswood Seniors Centre.

Given the size of the mall, it was decided to triple the space of the library.

The old library is now closed and the transfer of books and staff begins in earnest. The library is expected to open January 9.

The building of the police building on Grant, the fire hall on Roblin and now the library represents the biggest infrastructure commitment from the city since Charleswood became a part of the city in 1972.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Mexx Stores to Close

The Mexx store still had the new store smell in it when it open just prior to Christmas. Now it and the Kenaston location will be closing shortly due to bankruptcy. Earlier in the month of December the Dutch owners filed for financial protection and a decision was made to close all 170 Canadian stores.

The retail market has been a tough one. Just ask Target Canada how they feel about the losses they have mounted since opening stores across the border.

Mexx re-opened in Polo Park very recently to some fanfare but there was evidence elsewhere that the company was struggling with some store closings and a website that had been taken down and then when back up was not well maintained.

There should be no shortage of retailers wanting to jump on Mexx's Winnipeg properties at Polo Park and the one at Kenaston. Still, one wonders what the trend is in bricks and mortar retailing.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

River City Sports Kenaston Closes

It seemed to be a can't lose location but River City Sports off Kenaston in Seasons of Tuxedo has been closed by the landlord. By some media accounts, they were not paying their rent and had been struggling for months.

The Kenaston location had been selected as the flagship location after the original Henderson Highway location was shut down.

River City Sports becomes the first retailer to fail at Seasons. Tucked in between IKEA and Cabela's, it seemed the location should have been perfect. This was not to be.

The additional retailers to be added in 2014 to the site definitely slowed and the focus turned to apartments of the south side of Sterling Lyon Parkway. The long awaited Lowe's is still not built. A continuation of planned retailing seems to have stalled.

So why the failure? In short, there has been a lot of retail built this past year. They 20 plus stores added to Polo Park and other stores built along Kenaston have spread out where new retailers are locating. River City Sports would never see others join it in the area and drive sales.

This could be a lesson for some retailers. The boom we have seen in retailers being added these last years could be mitigated by a saturation of the market and a slowing of the economy.

The focus of a lot of developers now is to ensure that housing goes up near their retail center and to this end, we see a lot of apartments and condos going up around Sterling Lyon.

The collapse of oil prices and the markets could signal a new recession. Is this one of the first signs for Winnipeg?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Old Broadway Campus University of Manitoba

Right, University of Manitoba Broadway Campus 1932
A story in this week's Free Press talks about connecting university campuses to downtown and core areas of the city. Up until 1950, the University of Manitoba had a large campus across from the Manitoba Legislature consisting of science and arts buildings. The site is what we now know as Memorial Park.

Land was set aside in 1899 along Broadway in 1900 and a science building went up for classes. At the time, the Manitoba Legislative Building was not even in the planning stages.

1901 Science Building
The provincial legislators called the Old Parliament Building on Kennedy Street home.

Old Parliament Building on Kennedy Street
There were fewer than half the elected officials of today so for some time smaller quarters for the government assembly were appropriate.

The Old Parliament Building on Kennedy was a handsome building and from the start, trees were planted and grew to make the site prettier.

The Old Parliament Building literally built on bald prairie
In essence, the science building by the University of Manitoba along Broadway was the first move by any institution to push downtown's boundaries westward. There was no Legislative Building and no Hudson Bay building. Those came 20 years and more later.

Starkly bare grounds of new Legislative building
Provincial leaders dreamed of a Legislative campus along Broadway but the truth was that University of Manitoba builders had beaten them there years earlier.

Dream of a Legislative Campus
Instead what happened was that the University of Manitoba continued buildings its downtown campus even as the Legislative buildings and HBC was going up north and south of it years later.

Look at all those cars!
And the building went on and on for 50 years.

Adding to the Science and Arts for U of M
More building

Winnipeg Auditorium newly constructed by U of M

Ready for class downtown
The University starting making use of other buildings downtown including the old courthouse.

part of the old court house used by U of M
Following World War II, enrollment at the University of Manitoba had exploded. The dream of having all colleges and departments together on lands fitting for a university campus proliferated. In truth, many of the buildings on Broadway were nearing the end of their useful lifespan without major work.

There were other factors as well. Wesley College and Manitoba College merged together in 1938 and together became United College (later University of Winnipeg). It was on Portage Avenue where the future lay for a downtown university campus as well as Bannatyne Avenue where the University of Manitoba had the medical school close to what was to become Health Sciences Centre.

Financially insecure colleges really had no choice but join and become part of a larger grouping. It was also too hard to splits arts and sciences students between downtown and Fort Garry.

By 1950, the Broadway campus was abandoned and students moved to the expansive Fort Garry site of the University of Manitoba.

The provincial government occupied the former science and arts buildings until the 1960s when they started moving into other buildings that were being constructed along Broadway. By 1962, the government razed the building and twinned Memorial and built a park that has served for protest and celebration alike over the years.

For many people it is hard to imagine that large university buildings ever existed on Broadway. One wonders what it would have been like to have seen the University of Manitoba stay on Broadway and be the main campus. How fascinating would that have been?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Bermax Caffe + Bistro Opening Soon


In the 1970s there were few restaurants in River Heights at all. You could count them on your fingers really. Even in the 1980s, the restaurants were a bit spotty. There would be a Chinese good place there, a take-out pizza joint there. It was the early 1980s when a few places sprouted up on Grant to great success. Grapes and Pepper's filled a crying need on the border of River Heights and Tuxedo and both places were filled for many years to come.

To be fair River Heights is very residential. There are only a certain few places where any commercial development is even permissible. The spots that are available and often small and only offer street parking. During the 1980s a number of the gas stations that were on Academy Road closed and this set the stage for some more exclusive retailing such as Eyelot Dove, Laughing Giraffe and Paper Gallery. It still took some time before restaurants like Fusion and Saucers found their way in 1996 and beyond.

In short, many restauranteurs might want to ply their trade in River Heights but alas there are few spots to do so.

The closure of the CN Oakbank line has seen commercial development extend on streets like Academy and Grant. It has also seen many new condos go up all along that narrow property as well.

In front of the condos at Corydon Avenue, a commercial development went up. It started up in 2012 and the first tenants was a hair salon but paper is over the windows telling us that Bermax is opening soon.

Under construction in 2012 on Corydon
Bermax Caffee + Bistro has their website up but no menu. The indication though is that it will be kosher and that the coffee will be top notch. Will be looking to see what comes in the days and weeks ahead!

The Ting Tings - That's Not My Name

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Kelvin High School's New Gym

Kelvin High School Seen from Academy Road
Kelvin High School was first built between 1910 and 1912 right along Academy Road. The houses of River Heights came quickly after.

L.B. Foote Picture from roof of Kelvin High
The first Kelvin was named Kelvin Technical High School and was designed by provincial architect J.B. Mitchell. It was constructed for a total of $265,000 and stood four floors. Tyndall stone and Leary red brick was used for the materials. Much of River Heights was empty in 1912 but by 1922 an addition J.N. Semmens needed to be added as the neighboorhood was surging following World War I.

Kelvin had an identical twin school built on Machray Avenue in St. John's Technical High School. The rules on naming back then was alternating between British lords and saints. Hence, Kelvin and St. John's.

The name Kelvin presumably fit a technical school as Lord Kelvin also known as Sir William Thomson was a brilliant mathematician and physicist. Today he is best known for the absolute temperature scale or Kelvin Scale. He never visited his namesake school as he died in 1907 but he did come to Canada a number of times.

The school would stand through two World Wars and lose many students to the conflicts. 55 of 527 died in WWI and 225 died of 2,640 in WWII. They were honoured on a wall within the old school.

By the 1950s, the school began to fall into disrepair. The center town had to be removed because it was unstable in 1957. Eventually the building was literally falling apart in a post-war baby boom.

A huge need for additional classroom space led to an expansion in 1963. By 1964, an entire new building for the whole school was under construction along Kingsway for around $1.4 million. The new school was ready to go in 1965 and the old school was knocked down in 1965 and is the present track and soccer field.

Kelvin officially became know as Kelvin High School in 1965. The school had always been a grade 10 to 12 school but in 1995 the school added grade 9 students. Special education and physical disabilities requirements saw elevators added and in 2002, two art rooms, two classrooms and a computer lab were built out toward Stafford Street.

Kelvin's addition in 2002
The staff parking lot has grown as the faculty has grown and many students drive now so almost every street nearby has cars parked on it with kids running out to change spots as time runs out. Parking patrols make quick work of the heedless.

The new addition in 2002 used traditional red brick and modern dark windows. I have never been a fan of the yellow frames on the rest of the school. They always seemed out of date even in the 1970s.


The latest addition will be a new gym to accommodate the increased number of students.

Kelvin students created a visual of what the new gym will look like.



In 2015, the new Kelvin building will be 50 years old. The new gym addition is probably not the last change we see to the school. Hope they start with taking out the yellow panel windows.