Friday, April 22, 2016

RBC Bank Salutes Prince in Purple

Anyone driving downtown on Thursday would have noticed the RBC bank building and the Convention Centre looked a little different. It took a request from Virgin Radio but the two buildings lit up their exteriors with the purple that is associated with royalty and the artist Prince.

Earlier in the day Queen Elizabeth celebrated her 90th birthday and pop artist Prince died in his home in the Twin Cities.

Last night, the colour purple shone in Winnipeg and many places around the world.

Prince played in Winnipeg many times. The last time he told his audience to call the babysitter because it was going to be a late night. And it always was when he performed because he gave it his all.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Manitoba Election 2016

By any definition the NDP run in Manitoba has been unprecedented. Majority after majority with two different provincial leaders from 1999 on. Think about it. Some kids graduating this year have only known an NDP government in their lives.

The leadership of Gary Doer, a prolonged economic expansion, restored federal transfers and a pragmatic style of government kept unemployment low and deficit-free. It wasn't perfect but there was little for the Progressive Conservative to chip away at.  Long memories of the tough 1990s and the vote rigging scandal and uninspired campaigns chewed through PC leaders.

Gary Doer rode a popular wave with good instincts and a likeability factor that was not and has not been easily replicated. His decision to leave and become Ambassador to the United States was perfectly timed. He left of his own accord which is not the case for a many a politician.

The selection by the NDP of Greg Selinger as leader did achieve another majority for the NDP but at a cost. The promises made of not raising taxes and the adamant dismissal that they would ever do so has affected credibility and popularity.  The shocking rebellion of five senior cabinet ministers and the subsequent leadership race and purging of MLAs and staff afterward can only make an outside observer watch gape mouthed.

The last few years have been tumultuous for the NDP under Greg Selinger. The world-wide economic woes, spring flooding and loose spending habits have pushed surpluses into deficits with no end in sight. As with many governments, the provincial NDP have used spending to keep things moving along. The problem is that they don't seem to be able to stop the flow and continue to blame past governments for their demise. Meanwhile, they have used government ad spending to promote themselves and use slogans that make it difficult to distinguish between government and political party. It is hard not to compare the tactics Greg Selinger with that of Stephen Harper.

The Progressive Conservatives under Brian Pallister have had their share of knocks. In a leader-centric political landscape, the man charged with guiding the party out of the wilderness has been prone to awkward and even confounding statements. Part of this might have be a sense of humour but because many people don't have a sense of the man. As we have learned a little more over the present campaign is that Pallister has been bullied a young man. Tall, bad teeth, living on the edge of his community and too proud to tell even his parents that he didn't always have enough money, he has been and probably always will be a guy that is hard for people to know.

The Tory leader has a provincial as well as federal past that NDP have been gleeful to emphasize in terms negative campaigning. The problem for the NDP is that 17 years is a very long time to blame someone else for the woes your government had to deal with. One major misstep for the NDP was to blame Pallister and others for the death of children back in the 1990s at Children's Hospital. The parents of said children lashed out at using them for them political gain. Moreover, there was no link to the Conservatives for any of what happened at the hospital.

Where Pallister is weak is in disclosure. It is not his wealth that's the problem but that simple questions of where do you live and where were you during a provincial crisis have been met with evasion. In the end though, it is up to the people of Fort Whyte if their candidate lives in River Heights. And likewise, it is up to the overall electorate whether they think their representative should be around in a crisis. The evasion thus far shown has not dented PC support yet but like the former mayor of Winnipeg, it can catch up with you. For the mayor, the evasion in regards to Remembrance Day about where he was really did not play well to the public.

As for the rest of the Costa Rica story and Pallister, there is no evidence of a violation of laws. Still, it will be hard not to be more forthcoming in regards to all politicians in what they do and where they go in the future. The Panama Papers and massive tax fraud already occurring in Canada have made citizens believe there are rules for some and not for others.

This is what politics has become in the last years. It is neverending campaigning and spin, lots of negative advertising, creating a narrative about your opponent, using third party groups to attack and generally being disagreeable. It is cruel and mean spirited. People are lathered up because all they see is that bad and a heavy handed sale job on the rest.

The tit for tat of going over candidates by researching them right down to their birth records is just standard procedure. It is doesn't allow for any evolution though. For example, someone who might have had strong feelings about gay marriage might have a different view now. However, their old statements might be used to hammer them rather considering the journey they took to acceptance. Beware the person who keeps their views close to the vest but secretly seethes with intolerance.

In the months leading to April 19's vote, a lot of people seemed to park their choice with the provincial Liberal party. What seemed favourable conditions has quickly turned bad. Initial soft support due to the situation provincially and some carry over from Trudeau's victory has been offset with rookie leader Rana Bokhari's campaign thus far. Shortly after winning the leadership, the Liberals started fighting as they seem prone to do almost every time. Any hope of putting that behind has been undermined by a spotty campaign since. One can simply not save they don't know if they filed taxes and not have people raise eyebrows.

I continue to be a member of the Liberal party and have donated to both in the past year. Unlike other campaigns, I have not volunteered. This is not from any deep seated ambivalence but the amount of time and energy required to assist. Having said that, I'm not a disinterested party but I have no special insight into how things are organized, what policies were decided or how candidates chosen.

Suffice to say that Justin Trudeau's federal campaign has been textbook of how to do things right, the Rana Bokhari provincial campaign has been the opposite. A few intriguing policy ideas were ruined by some very bad ones. Poll numbers that had been good and now all over the place. A breakthrough might have been three maybe four seats. Now, it will to be retain a presence in the Legislature.

The Green leader has been confident and impressive. James Beddome has consolidated the control over the leadership and the campaign has been a good one. The biggest problem for the party is no organization on the ground to promote candidates, policies and brand. Association with the environment has been good but still leaves people wonder if they are solid in other areas.

All in all it has been an ugly election. There has been very little positive and a whole lot of negative. I voted in the advance poll. My area has been represented by the Progressive Conservative since 1981 and before re-distribution from 1969 and if you go back further, it might be all the way back to the 1950s. In short, it never changes. For the last several elections, the provincial Liberals have been third place behind the NDP who parachute someone in to run most of the time. I've not seen one Liberal sign. I've seen a rare NDP sign and I thought I saw a Green sign but that's it.

I voted Liberal. I don't think of it as wasted. My vote comes from where I stand on the political spectrum. Am I happy? Not really. This election has been painful to follow and disheartening. But I do want to support choice and having just a two party system would leave me not wanting to vote at all.

No one can really be proud about this election. No one.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Canadian Brewhouse Now Open on Kenaston

There have been quite a few restaurants in the Linden Ridge Mall over the year. Wow Hospitality has tried everything from Italian to Mexican over many years but nothing has stuck. Meanwhile Asoyama across the lot from the location seems to have staying power.

Given the growing population of south Winnipeg and the huge boom around IKEA, it seems a natural that a number of restaurants would congregate in the area. The Pancake House has opened in recent months in the parking lot next to the Odeon VIP Theatre. A Montana's opened in the IKEA parking lot.

A number of Winnipeggers though have been asking: Do we get something new that hasn't been here before? The answer is yes.

The Canadian Brewhouse has opened in the old Los Chicos location this past month. The Alberta-based sports bar and restaurant has never had a location in Manitoba before. A combination of burgers, wraps and pizza seems to be the winning formula for this grill.

Despite the fact that no Canadian hockey team is in the play-offs, Canadians still seem to want to go to sports bars and the Canadian Brewhouse is filled with TVs covering the games.

Let's see if this is the restaurant to stick at that location in the Linden Ridge Mall.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Goodlife Fitness Coming to Brandon

Safeway Brandon Shoppers Mall
Safeway closed their store in Brandon Shoppers Mall on 18th Street in 2014 and it has remained empty since then. Well, no more. It has been announced this week that Brandon, Manitoba will get the first Goodlife Fitness in the city. It will be eighth and largest location of the national fitness club in Manitoba.

The closure by Sobey's, Safeway and Target has had many landlords scrambling across western Canada to find new tenants. Not all have found ready parties interested in jumping in right away.

For Brandon people, this will be a good opportunity to be part of a gym with national reach. No more drop in fees while in Winnipeg or elsewhere as it will be an extension of their home location. The national TV ads by Goodlife should already give people in the area brand awareness of the gym, if not is amenities.

As for Goodlife, Brandon will be an excellent location in that the city a growing community, the second largest city in the province and a regional hub. Brandon Shoppers Mall is akin to Polo Park in terms of importance in the city. The new Goodlife will employ around 40 people and open in 2017.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Grant Park Mall Update

Cambrian Credit Union beside Petro-Canada
The big news first is that the Grant Park Mall will see Canadian Tire open on July 1st. It will take over a good large chunk of the former Target, former Zellers, former Walmart, former Woolco. With any luck, this will be the last anchor store that spot has for many years to come. The store will be 86,000 square feet leaving 34,000 square feet left to occupy.

There is still a vacancy on the east side of the Canadian Tire and I was to hazard a guess, it would be ideal for a dollar store.

Inside the mall, Menchie's has opened up across from Autumbee's Pizza. That entire end of the mall should benefit when the Canadian Tire entrance once again opens in summer. At the Co-Op Grocery store/Liquor Mart end, there are a few vacancies as well. Expect to hear more over the next weeks.

There is construction in the marking lot next to the Petro-Canada where a 5,800 square foot Cambrian Credit Union is being built. The location replaces the building at 735 Pembina Highway near the turn off for Stafford. There are presently 11 locations in Winnipeg and Selkirk. The CIBC inside the mall has been located there for 45 years.

Grant Park has always been a little bit more than some other malls. The movie theatre, McNally Robinson and a large liquor store bring in a consistent crowd. A few more key pieces and the years of work put into the mall should pay off.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Hilton Hotel Coming to Seasons of Tuxedo

Earlier this month Hilton Hotels put their plans before city council for a Hilton Hotel on the site of Seasons of Tuxedo adjacent to the Outlet Collection of Winnipeg mall presently under construction. The hotel will be visible alongside the Kenaston underpass and next to the Porsche and Audi dealerships also under construction.

This will be the only hotel south of the Assiniboine from Pembina Highway to the Perimeter. Quite simply for the business or leisure traveller, there has been nothing in southwest Winnipeg close to Kenaston's retail and business parks.

Hilton's plans are for a 6 storey, 127 room hotel occupying a 24,850 square footprint and total floor space of 86,565 square feet. The design appears to be Tyndal Stone, brick with a mix of colours. The best news for thirsty people in the area is that a beer vendor will also be built. The size will be 3,432 square feet.

This is not likely the last hotel we will see built near the IKEA. The area has been barren for the longest time confounding those people who would like to be near where they have business meetings or where they shop.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

H&M, Marshalls and HomeSense Coming to Kildonan Place

Tweeted by Jeff Browaty, City Councilor
The last empty Target space in Winnipeg is now spoken for. Kildonan Place presented plans to a community committee for a H&M, Marshalls and HomeSense yesterday to replace the space that has been empty since April of last year.

The closures of Target across Canada left landlords with a lot of empty space coast to coast. In the city of Winnipeg many of those spaces were picked up post haste. Grant Park Target is soon to be a Canadian Tire. Southdale Target has been converted to a Walmart. Polo Park Target is now owned by Polo Park but we have not seen what their plans for it are. And now last, Kildonan Place will be see three new stores.

H&M has taken off in Canada and done very well in their Polo Park location. It is easy to see why they thought a new location would be in order. Marshalls has expanded rapidly in Winnipeg but have been looking for a location in the east of the city for some time. And HomeSense as well has been ripe for another store.

The economy may still be doing stuttersteps to recovery but at least in the city of Winnipeg the empty spaces left by massive Target won't be left unfilled for much longer.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Thom Bargen Downtown Opens

It looks like after months of renovations that Thom Bargen Downtown has opened at 250 Kennedy Street. Two years after successfully opening on Sherbrook and being part of a rejuvenated Wolsley, the popular coffee house has taken over an optical store kitty corner to Starbucks . This is not a bad thing for either quite honestly. People attract other people and this growth seems organic as a few places have opened and there appears to be a desire to connect. Perhaps in a wired world, the street has a new appeal.

Community restoration goes building by building, street by street. Sometimes there are a few stumbles but it would seem that there is some steady progress in a few key areas of the downtown that are undeniable.

Thom Bargen is likely to a very welcome addition to the downtown area.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Danier Leather Closing

People from Winnipeg of a certain age remember fur stores all over the city. A lady at the symphony would have the latest fur and at the end of the season, it would be stored often at the same story it was bought from. By the late 1970s though the innovations in type of material used in winter coats and attitudes towards furs erased a part of that Winnipeg history.

And so it seems with leather in terms of outer wear. Puffy coats like Canada Goose or of the snowmobile variety or team sport variety have crushed leather sales. Weather played a factor too. Colder winters meant the company a few years ago did not have warm enough clothing. Appeals to younger shoppers failed and alienated older shoppers. What could go wrong did go wrong.

Danier Leather went insolvent and with it go over 1000 retail jobs in Canada and 84 stores. For Winnipeg it means the loss of four stores in high traffic areas such as Polo Park and St. Vital. Deep discounts to clear the stock have already begun and will continue until they are selling shelving and fixtures.

The retail landscape is littered with companies that have faltered and not kept up with consumer demand. In this case, leather itself appears to be the problem.

The choice locations of Danier in Winnipeg will likely be picked up in short order but there are still spaces even now that landlords have not filled.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Polo Park Number 16 Mall in Canada

In 2014, Polo Park ranked at number 14 in Canada for sales in Canada. major upgrades at several malls across Canada have pushed the mall back two places for 2015.

There is little doubt that Sears is hurting Polo Park's standings although sales did increase in the year overall in the mall. If Sears does decide to quit Polo Park, it is expected sales will leap in Winnipeg's biggest shopping area.

List for 2015

1. Yorkdale Shopping Centre, Toronto, ON: $1,610
2. CF Pacific Centre, Vancouver, BC: $1599
3. Oakridge Centre, Vancouver, BC: $1,537
4. CF Toronto Eaton Centre, Toronto, ON: $1,509
5. Southgate Centre, Edmonton, AB: $1,215
6. CF Chinook Centre, Calgary, AB: $1,119
7. Royal Bank Plaza, Toronto, ON: $1,096
8. CF Rideau Centre, Ottawa, ON: $1,018
9. Metropolis at Metrotown, Burnaby, BC: $1,008
10. Square One Shopping Centre, Mississauga ON: $994
11. CF Sherway Gardens, Toronto, ON: $965
12: CF Market Mall, Calgary, AB: $961   
13: CF Richmond Centre, Richmond, BC: $928
14: CF Fairview Mall, Toronto, ON: $913
15: CF Carrefour Laval, Laval QC: $888
16: CF Polo Park, Winnipeg, MB: $886
17: CF Masonville Place, London, ON: $855
18: Holt Renfrew Centre, Toronto, ON: $828
19: Mapleview Centre, Burlington ON: $823
20: Toronto Dominion Centre, Toronto, ON: $816
21: Peter Pond Mall, Ft. McMurray, AB: $804
22: Complex Les Ailes, Montreal QC: $790
23: Scarborough Town Centre, Toronto, ON: $790
24: Conestoga Mall, Waterloo, ON: $786
25: Halifax Shopping Centre, Halifax, NS: $783

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Lucky Supermarket Coming to Maples

Former IGA across from Maples Collegiate
One of the causalities of the Safeway and Sobey's merge was the IGA on Jefferson Avenue across from Maples Collegiate. It was closed in 2014 and has remained shut since then. It will be now the location of the second Lucky Supermarket, an Asian food store.

Lucky Supermarket first opened a 32,000 square foot store in Winnipeg in 2010 and has done well in the market.

The closing of several stores by the big players in mergers has left the market open to others who might have a different approach. There were some justifiable fears that some the sore closures might leave retail holes not just for years but for several years. In locations outside of Winnipeg that might very well still be the case. However, inside the city, new players like Save-On Foods and Co-Op stores have grabbed old grocery locations and are running with them.

The 26,000 square foot Jefferson location of Lucky is in the middle of a residential neighbourhood with a good portion of Asian heritage residents living nearby. A typical store sells around 40% of what you would find in any grocery store in Canada. The rest is a combination of Chinese, Philippines, Vietnamese and other fare from the Pacific.

The new store will employ around 100 people which is welcome in this rather tumultuous time in the Canadian economy.

Monday, February 22, 2016

TV Changes in Manitoba...What does "skinny" mean?

The CRTC has set a deadline of March 1st, 2016 for changes to cable.

The regulatory body for Canada has mandated a new "skinny package" of basic cable for $25. It would include the local stations, provincial education stations and national stations. In short, that is the CBC, CTV, Global. City, access TV, weather and most likely APTN, YTV, a news service and some American channels.

So far only Shaw has released their skinny package despite warnings from the the government that telecoms must promote the service.

Shaw will have a mix of 44 channels, some HD and some standard definition.

There is a catch. If you want to watch any high definition, you need to rent a box at $5 a month of $138 outright. Want to record anything, it doubles to $10 and more to buy the box outright.

Skinny includes NO sports channels.

Their packages start at $6 a month. If you select two of them, it is already at the price of Shaw's Personal TV package which offers a greater selection at pretty much the same price.

Will their be customers of the skinny package? Most likely. If you have no interest in high definition, not recording stuff, don't like sports and watch TV on an older TV with a picture tube, this package is for you.

Will a $25 service attract the people who cut the cord to television? Probably not. Those people will watch, if they watch, downloads both legal and illegal and mostly subscribe to Netflix (and U.S. Netflix at that). The only reason some of these people have cable is to watch live sports which may be harder to get via other means or is of poorer quality.

Zero dollars is better than any dollars for those who want their content free. It is hard to convince people that it is wrong or comparable to going into a grocery store and walking out with whatever you want and not paying.

So far MTS has not revealed their skinny package.

These changes won't save the telecoms, local TV or borderline channels. A revolution is taking place and Canada and the rest of the world are likely to see wholesale collapse of parts of the industry in due course. It remains to be seem how content will be produced and be profitable under any plan thus revealed.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Charleswood Seniors Multi-Unit Housing Denied

Once again the plans for a seniors residence on church owned land has been shot down. This time it is by the city planning department whose rejection only seems to inspire confusion.

Not every development project has to be approved. However, every development needs a clear consistent policy set out by the city. In some cases some vocal proponents and opponents will make it very difficult to come to a decision that doesn't make someone want to duck and cover.

I originally looked at the project when it was proposed and thought it satisfied a need in the community and wasn't overly burdensome to the homes and streets surrounding.  The zoning meeting proved that there was a lot of controversy. Some of it came from those that didn't want to change the character of Charleswood.

It is a rather nebulous argument sometimes because it feels like someone closing the door after they themselves are inside.

The future needs of Charleswood are hard to deny. Many senior residents will find it hard to buy or even rent a place in the area if they sell their homes. It is true that that there are some personal care home homes, rental apartments and condos in the community but many are situated many blocks from where residents live now. Often, there are no places that are between house and personal care home.

The land behind the Charleswood United Church seems appropriate for seniors housing. It hardly looks like a location for massive amounts of traffic. At the moment, it seems that the winning idea for that land is do nothing.

In River Heights there was a fight over the railway land running north and south called Oakbank Line. The neighbourhood since the 1980s fought every single use of the land including the innocuous bike path. Today it is condos stretched all the way down the line. Residents must wonder now if the bike path was such a bad idea afterall.

At some point there will be something done with the land in Charlewood. Perhaps later on people will think a seniors residence on the site was a lost opportunity.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Andrenaline Unlimited Takes Over River City Sports Location

The retrenching of River City Sports to its original location and liquidation of stock from other stores is a reminder how fickle retail can be. The expansion to the IKEA site on Sterling Lyon last only 18 months.  The Seasons Of Tuxedo retail development slowed on the north side once the Cabela's was up. Last year the Seasons rental apartments as well as Montana's restaurant opened. However, the promise of a Lowe's never came and further expansion of other stores stalled.

River City Sports was a bit early into the development as not enough traffic was coming to the retail beside IKEA. Hard to know what the future is for a once dominant sports store but we can happily report a different sports store has taken up the challenge and opened just before Christmas in the old location.

The new store is another Winnipeg sporting good group with locations in Edmonton and Saskatoon as well as in St. Vital Mall under the FXR Riders. The specialty retailer sells snowmobile clothing and helmets as well as other items in what is described as power sport. The new location at Seasons of Tuxedo called Adrenaline Unlimited will feature FXR brand as well as KTM which is a supplier of for offroad bikes.

It seems likely that Adrenaline Unlimited has a specialty in sport that is not as easily duplicated by other big sports stores. In other words, it is likely to be a destination store in the way IKEA and Cabela's are in their fields.

The Outlets of Seasons continues construction across the street and new condos and apartments in the area ensure that there will be a larger population in the area to sustain additional businesses in proximity. The entire Sterling Lyon and Kenaston area is very close to the synergy that shopping districts like Polo Park and St. Vital have.

It is possible that Adrenaline Unlimited is just the right specialty retailer to make that location work.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Filipino Store Seafood City Coming to Winnipeg

Seafood City, a San Diego-based Filipino food store has announced they will be opening in Mississauga this year. It will be their first location in Canada. The 1989 established company has 23 locations presently with 20 in California thus far and feature seafood, meat and specialty goods aimed at the Filipino market. The locations often have travel and immigration services inside as well.

Winnipeg ranks as the third largest Filipino community in Canada and analysts indicated that Seafood City is very likely to announce expansion in the west soon. Vancouver and Winnipeg were top of the lists.

In many Seafood City are Jollibee restaurants. Jollibee has already indicated a desire to come to Winnipeg but have had difficulty finding ideal locations. It is very likely in the food store comes, the restaurant chain comes as well. Jollibee is more popular than McDonald's back in Asia. There is also a possibility that Seafood City will feature red Ribbon bakery and Maxim's, a breakfast place.

Stay tuned for more of this.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Lowe's to Buy Rona in Friendly Deal

The Kenaston Lowe's Cancelled?
There was an announcement today that the number 2 home improvement company in the U.S. Lowe's is making a friendly purchase of Rona in Canada for $3.2 billion. This is a familiar story as this courtship has been attempted before sometimes with the government of Quebec stepping in and saying no.

Rona is different than Lowe's in that it has large corporate stores as well as very small dealer stores. It would appear that an offer was made that has satisfied both the corporation and government of Quebec. The cash offer is double the company and it appears that the Rona brand or style will be disappearing in the immediate future.

 Last year Lowe's announced they were building a store at Linden Ridge Shopping Centre. It is difficult to say how far along that process construction has began or whether that job will now be cancelled.

Manitoba, unlike every province in the west, has no Lowe's yet. It would seem odd if the one store planned might be built just down the street from their latest acquisition. Lowe's has 42 stores in Canada and it is certain that there will be more but details of how the combined Quebec-based corporation operates remains uncertain. It could be that Manitoba may not see for the Lowe's format for some time to come.

The low Canadian dollar makes it possible for other U.S. retailers to expand into Canada and build their networks. However, it always makes it difficult for them sent profits back. Still, if the goal is to be around for the long haul, the investment can pay off very nicely with an operation that produces returns for decades to come. Rona looks to be that type of investment for Lowe's.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Sobey's Extra to Open January 29

It took an incredibly long time to replace the Safeway that closed in 2014 in Fort Richmond Plaza. Speculation was rampant and people looked on despair as the ramshackle and outdated shopping center rotted with no plans being put forward.

This comes to an end January 29 when Sobey's Extra opens up. At 58,000 square feet, it will be bigger than a lot of grocery stores out there. It will be much more than what was available previously on the site. That is to be expected with not only Fort Garry but St. Norbert and nearby Bridgwater seeing more people move in.

The Extra in the Sobey's is more staff dedicated to customer service such as in-store chef. There are also specialists called ambassadors who will on hand in various food sections. Cooking classes, sushi bar and noodle bar will mark the location as different from other stores.

The store opens 9 AM Friday and offers $10 gift cards to the first 500 people in the door. There will be also a selection of exotic foods to taste.

The store will employ 100 people which in today's market is welcome news. The refreshing of this particular shopping enclave is likely to attract other merchants after being empty or under-utilized so long. 2016 will be a fairly good year for new grocery stores to open after a number of years of closures.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Walmart Supercenter Southdale Opens January 28

The year 2015 delivered a crushing blow to Target which came to Canada, spent billions and utterly failed. Some of those details of computer problems, logistics, empty shelves and overpaying for property are only coming to light now.

Winnipeg has fared better than some cities who had their Targets closed in that two out of the four properties will re-open with strong retailers. The Grant Park store will become a Canadian Tire in several months. The Southdale store has already been converted over to a Walmart Supercenter which will open next week January 28.

It is obvious that Walmart believes that the southeast quadrant of the city is undeserved and that their nearby location at St. Vital Centre will hold its own just fine. The takeover also blocks competitors save as Save On Foods or Real Canadian Superstore from getting a foothold in the area.

On Thursday, Walmart opened a supercenter in Winkler as part of their plan to move to 400 stores across Canada.

The Polo Park location of Target, bought by Polo Park, remains without a new tenant. Kildonan Place is also awaiting a new tenant.

The opening of a new Walmart is sure to keep up some competition in the area of Southdale especially in food.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Bay Downtown Winnipeg Closes 4th Floor

Hudson Bay Company has announced that the 4th floor of the downtown Winnipeg location will close very soon as the department store retrench to the first two floors. It is interesting to note that there aren't any men's washrooms on the first floors so they have to keep that 4th floor open just for that purpose.

For many years now. the fate of the The Bay has been talked about and hopes were that the University of Winnipeg would ride to the rescue as it seems to have in other times. This remains a possibility but the sheer size of a building that has much space as the Richardson Building is daunting.

The closure of Zellers also meant the closing of the grocery store in the basement. By and large, aside from two floors, the Bay is empty. A lucrative parkade attached to the building is not owned by HBC which might have made development and a way to fund it possible. The lot has always been more practical than lovable in look but at 650 spaces, it is very lucrative.

Often it seems everyone wants to own parking lots rather than buildings as they generate consistent money with little effort.

The Hudson Bay Company has been on a bit of a roll lately even in tough times. It has bought several other department stores including Sak's from the United States and made a profit doing so. However, tough times might be ahead if the economy is any indication. Sak's outlet division has already announced they will be in the Seasons of Tuxedo development rather than in the downtown. Still, there may be an opportunity for Canadian retailers with a prolonged fall in the Canadian dollar.

Any redevelopment into retail, offices, classrooms or the like in the downtown space will be more expensive than other construction. There is also the fact that said development can't happen in a vacuum. There is no unicorn out there that is going to say they want the entire space and have all the capital that they need to get the job done.

HBC sits a fairly choice spot though. Across the street is the headquarters of Investor's Group, Liquor and Lotteries headquarters will soon be in the Medical Arts Building. Manitoba Hydro headquarters is just down the street. The Winnipeg Art Gallery, RBC Winnipeg Convention Centre, MTS Centre, hotels and the University of Winnipeg are all nearby.  In short, there are a lot of attractions not to mention growing residential components coming.

Everyone talks about doing something about the HBC but there is no evidence that a working group is actually discussing the issue. Obviously, The Bay owners need to be asked what they would like for the building and determining what is possible.

Here are 25 things that could go into the The Bay downtown (not ranked in particular order):

1. A HBC data center. The St. Louis IT offices of HBC took up 80.000 square feet. They have a data center in Toronto as well. Why not in a building they own in a central time zone?

2. A grocery store. The basement could still be perfect for this.

3. Home Outfitters. This is a HBC owned division that could be in the building.

4. Saks Fifth Avenue. It is a HBC owned division.

5. Off 5th. HBC owned discount store of Saks.

6. Lord and Taylor. HBC owned department store.

7. The Room. Luxury section of HBC in Toronto and Vancouver could have a version in Winnipeg.

8. Back office functions of HBC and other divisions of the company. Winnipeg once was the head office, why not back office functions in accounting, etc?

9. A fitness center. Despite the Y being nearby, fitness centers can occupy generally 25,000 square feet and attract a good amount of people. Eaton Center has two inside.

10. A health food store. Going to have a fitness center, why not a store right across from it?

11. Tim Horton's. Why not? Shouldn't there be one on every corner? Yes, I know there is one just outside.

12. A Pharmacy. Doesn't compete with other HBC lines. Could be in basement with a grocery.

13. A bank or credit union offices.

14. University of Winnipeg class or offices. Yes, it has been talked about before. Could still be a good idea.

15. A CBC Broadcast Center. The old CBC offices could be sold to the University of Winnipeg and a full floor or so HBC could be the radio. TV, broadcast center. Enough parking for all employees. Only question is shipping doors for large broadcast vehicles. Could tap into infrastructure money.

16. Provincial offices. Truth be told is that the province leases space all time.

17. City offices: A more difficult idea if city campus plan is still in effect. But they did move police to south Portage.

18. A regional health authority. Seems like they build new buildings every year.

19. A medical or dental clinic. Could be a downtown quick service clinic or walk-in clinic.

20. A Chinese food buffet. I've joked about this in the past but why not?

21. A restaurant and grill sport bar. The Jets and moose are just around the corner. Should be a no brainer.

22. A daycare. How many head offices, government offices and residents nearby? large daycare would be filled immediately.

23. Escape rooms. They are all over town. Why not part of a floor dedicated to entertainment?

24. A cabaret. Music, dancing, night club.

25. Water park. Always like to throw this one in there.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

New Leaf Airlines Announces Discount Flights

New Leaf Airlines has announced their new flight schedules and prices starting on February 12. Winnipeg is the headquarters and main hub for the airlines and travel will be between seven cities. For Winnipeggers the travel will be between Abbotsford, Kelowna and Hamilton. Introductory rates are as low as $99 for Winnipeggers with all fees and taxes included.

The website says: “Your fare gets you the two essentials: a seat and a seatbelt. The rest is up to you.”

Ultra low cost means you pay extra for printing a boarding pass, carry-on luggage or drinks.

The company will fly two 156 seat Boeing 737-400 aircrafy leased from Kelowna's Flair Airlines. As more employees and destinations to places in Canada, United States, Mexico and the Carribbean increase, the goal is to expand to 15 aircraft.

The burst of excitement after the announcement caused the system to crash but it back up and running.

WestJet which started in 1996 with three aircraft and low rates says they will vigourously defend their market.

The market is tough for Canadian airline start-ups.  CanJet failed last year in Halifax. Jetsgo stopped right in the middle of March break stranding passengers in 2005. Canada 3000 failed after September 11 in 2001.

Greyhound Airlines was the last discount passenger start-up in Winnipeg in 1996 but failed a year later in 1997.

New Leaf airlines looks to be located on property at the Richardson International Airport.  They appear to have a plan and they are sticking to it. They also appear to have the people to really make a go of it.

Canada's problems with air travel is that the country has a lot of east-west geography which means higher costs to run the aircraft. It will be a real test to build traffic between some cities. However, if the idea of ultra low cost takes off, the airline could be well positioned for this niche in the market.

It is hard not to peg ultimate success for this airline not for flights within Canada but to holiday destinations such as Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix, Los Angeles and Mexico, Cuba.