Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tourism in Winnipeg

Tourism is always hit and miss in this province. Travel Manitoba came up with a little buzzworthy four TV ads that emphasized the three things they thought were important. Those things were: Churchill, northern tours, fishing (especially with use of a guide) and Winnipeg.

These ads were set up to present Manitoba to others but they were also shown on TV within the province to present the province to itself. In other words, the biggest tourists are people in the province visiting one another. Show someone in Winnipeg what Churchill is like and they will be the number 1 source of tourists generally.

There is a limited budget each year and past efforts have been mediocre. The government realizes the importance and sets out to support key industries such as fly-in fishing and tours of Churchill. Winnipeg has always been more difficult to capture because cultural images show a world mosaic. It is hard to show the Winnipeg ID, the character of the city, who we are. The television ad shows dragon boat racing on the Red River. Don't know how that says: Winnipeg.

Tourism Winnipeg is obviously focused more on Winnipeg which you'd expect. The City  of Winnipeg tour book is as good as it gets. Top notch all the way. The request page though needed a correction. It said "chok full" rather than "chock full" and I hope it is corrected soon.

There is no doubt the city is trying to position itself a lot better with limited resources. Quite a bit of research is being done. And yet the city has suffered tourism-wise because in the grand scheme of things there has to be compelling attractions for people to want to visit the city.

The Canadian Tourism Commission turned its eyes to Manitoba and brought a hundred plus travel writers to the province for about $300,000. The first articles from that visit are starting to appear in newspapers like the Toronto Star.

Some journalists think travel writing is fluffy or dishonest. Perhaps that's because payment is often involved from the party being reviewed.

Given the cuts to newspaper and magazine budgets, few seem willing to send their reporters off each week to far flung destinations. Yet every major metropolitan newspaper has a travel section. Very willing to accept travel ads, not willing to assign hard news reporters?

I guess the same could be said of home and auto sections of the newspapers. Lots of ads but is there any hard news reporting in there? Is all we see softball in terms of reporting?

That is a debate for another time. Let's just say for now that travel writing is popular and if we can believe the tourism departments, it works.

In the aftermath of the tour of travel writers, we will have see if the articles that result from it see an uptick in the number of visitors.

The Journey Churchill at Winnipeg Zoo, the Human Rights Museum and swimming with belugas in Churchill are new to the province. Manitobans will visit them first in big numbers but their long term future depends on visitors from all over to survive.

Most of Winnipeg's greatest tourism attractions are cultural. The mountains and the ocean don't exist in a river valley. While the natural attraction Winnipeg does have can be emphasized, they don't hold a candle to the city's people and culture. That is hard to capture in pictures compared to Vancouver by the mountains and sea or Toronto by the lake.

Ultimately what becomes a national and international tourist attractions in Winnipeg are things the people in the city have done for themselves. The examples abound from Folklorama, the Folk Festival, Rainbow Stage and The Forks. As good as those are, it is hard to capture iconic pictures of it to sell the masses beyond Manitoba's borders.

The travel writers who recently visited our city now have the iconic pictures of people inside a tube watching polar bears above them. They have the distinctive Human Rights Museum that looks different from most buildings on the planet and further afield, they have pictures of people swimming with belugas.

They say a picture says a thousand words...those pictures from this past trip of travel writers are probably worth at least $300,000.

Let's see if those pictures result in millions more being in Winnipeg and beyond.

Monday, August 18, 2014

TSN3 Equals Free Winnipeg Jets

If you already have TSN on your cable channel, get ready for good  news...TSN Jets is going to be free on a new TSN3 station. No more 10 bucks a month...free.

This year's coverage will for 65 games including some exhibition ones. The rest of the season will be seen on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, Rogers Sportsnet and City TV.

Expect viewership to spike this year. Not every family was willing to pay the extra but were indeed Jets fans. They were just fans with a budget.

TSN3 equals free will continue to have Dennis Beyak on play-by-play and colour will be handled by Shane Hnidy and Brian Engblom. The rest of the team fills in with Sara Orlesky and guesting from Gary Lawless.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Lindor Reynolds and the Free Press

Lindor Reynolds has produced what is likely her last column from the Free Press as she spends her last days at Riverview Health Centre in palliative care. This year my family made a contribution to the Riverview Health Centre Foundation for the care they have provided for us over the years.

The last column is terribly sad for her family, friends and readers.

I'll be the first to say that I read certain writers not because I love them but because they can be cathartic in the other emotions they can illicit. They can also make me look at other points of view that shed insight on things.

What I do love is newspapers. I generally read four different one on a weekend. Try my best to turn every page, scout online for other stuff local and farther afield and just expand my mind. No, I don't read every comic anymore. And no I don't read every story or column in every section. Try as I might, I just don't read humour columns no matter how gut bustingly funny people tell me they are. I like funny things but in life I don't really watch sit-coms or go to too many funny movies either. Why? I guess as we get more time pressed, it is harder to commit to a column, a show or a movie. You make choices.

I still don't really know how the newspaper industry works. I don't don't how the Free Press works in particular. I don't know who gets chosen to write a general interest column, what editorial direction or oversight is involved, how they measure success or failure or anything really. I often wish there were regular columns on papermaking. And by that I mean, how things get done and why.

Lindor Reynolds was a content producer for the paper. In addition to the general interest column, she wrote travel stories. It was always from a personal level and often her family was part of the story. In many cases, based on years of her stories, you knew when she was going to be on her high horse, when she was going to be starstruck and what type of column was about to appear.

There were some excellent columns, a lot of clunkers, journeymen work and plenty to annoy me. Yes, I said annoyed. Plenty of times I would read and say to myself: here we go again. That's fine. Some issues deserve repeating. I read the late Tom Oleson not because I agreed with him. He was a curmudgeon, held opinions that were wrongheaded and liked to poke the bear.  I read Fred Cleverly and Frances Russell because they would fight the good fight every week.

It is okay to be disagreeable. Don't need dittoheads everywhere you go.

If hundreds of people say they don't like you, it probably means they read you. You need thick skin to write. Not everyone will like you but it doesn't matter if it sells newspapers.

I often want newspapers to better. I do get annoyed at some for having some for having a wide canvas to paint on but only choosing one small corner of it or using only a select amount of colours. I have been told by some inside the field that it might be a strategy of that writer or a chosen editorial direction for that type of writing.

It is hard not to think that some writers in the Sun are also actors. My inference here is that they chose a role to play and then strike up the band. I don't think too many people would disagree that it can be theatre.

Lindor Reynolds will be dearly missed by many of her readers. It is a giant beast that needs to be fed this thing called newspapers. Her last column reminded that there are people who put these stories out. True to her style, she delivered a personal note of where any of us can be when we least expect it.

They say newspapers are going out of style. I certainly hope that isn't true. I am not as journalist but I always hope we have a world full of them even when they say things we disagree with or are annoyed by, especially so.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Paul Edmonds New Voice of Jets

Some months ago, I mentioned how good it was of TSN 1290 in Winnipeg to hold on to Paul Edmonds after the Goldeyes radio broadcasts moved to a different radio station.

Paul Edmonds will become the new play by play guy for TSN Jets broadcasts. The long time voice of play by play hockey Brian Munz is changing to colour analyst and reporter for the Jets radio broadcast.

For the last while, Edmonds has helped anchor the The Big Show morning program with Troy Westwood and Matt Leibl on TSN 1290. Edmonds will be leaving that show at the end of August. No word yet on who will fill the morning spot that Edmonds was still very new to after replacing Jay Richardson who left the show.

This past year, Edmonds had a chance to fill in at play by play for hockey for the Jets and this obviously made program directors see him in a different light from his baseball broadcasts.

So what does this all mean? Well, according to the station TSN is expanding their Jets broadcasting to year round.  Dennis Beyak and Brian Munz were sharing radio broadcasts. It appears Beyak will only do TV now. Shane Hnidy will still cross between radio and TV broadcasts.

I liked Brian Munz's work as play by play guy. He was really good. I am not sure what led to the decision to make him colour guy and reporter.

A good pairing is worth its weight in gold. The old Jets were overseen by Curt Kielback and Ken Nicholson. From 1979 to 1982, Nicholson was play by play and Kielback was colour but then they switched in part due to Nicholson's health related to diabetes.

Could the pairing of Edmonds and Munz be the next legendary twosome of Jets radio? I'd like to think so.

The increase in Jets coverage year round for TSN is a good move. It is a way for the network to ensure the best people cover hockey and if there ever is a chance again at national broadcast of NHL hockey for TSN, it will because they have done the hard work at the local level.

It will be a real dogfight for radio ratings this fall.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg Moving to Kenaston

Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg, formerly Lone Star
The only Mercedes-Benz dealer in Winnipeg moved from Regent Avenue to Portage Avenue in 2000. Formerly known as Lone Star, it has been an independent in the luxury market with a fine product in their Mercedes car. They also do well with their Smart cars and a line of courier vans.

Their location on South Portage beside the Charleswood Bridge is quite packed with inventory. In 2000, dealerships along busy roads was the way to go. The big move to dealership parks was still somewhat of an exception.

In recent years, we have seen more and more car dealerships move to large car parks. We have also seen a lot of dealerships become part of massive multi -brand ownership groups. Just recently Landau Ford has been bought by one such group.

Some of the abandoned dealerships along main business streets have been taken over by independents with varying degrees of success and failure. Woodhaven Toyota was taken over by independent Winnipeg Hyundai. The old Birchwood GM dealership near the Charleswood bridge was taken over by Mercedes-Benz.

Given the marquee nature of the Mercedes brand, their dealership could be anywhere in the city and still attract Manitobans. However, the after sales service has become so important to any car dealer. Service and parts departments keep sales going and busy dealerships are profitable ones. It isn't always new and used car sales.

With this in mind, Mercedes-Benz Winnipeg is moving to Kenaston for a site that is larger, meets more of the demands of today's dealership and is closer to the people who often buy their cars.

Kitty corner-ish to the Goodlife Fitness on Kenaston
Construction is already taking place on the corner opposite Goodlife Fitness on Kenaston. An office building is likely to share the corner with Mercedes in the near future.

Empty now but soon an office and dealership
The building along Kenaston is just another example of how the street is becoming one of the biggest commercial roads in the city. Unlike Portage Avenue though, it has no was of accommodating ever increasing traffic.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

American Association All-Star Game

The skills competition was last night and tonight is the game.

The media came out and had fun showing off their skill or lack of it. The weather was perfect, Shaw park looked gorgeous, everyone had smiles on their faces. Perfect night for baseball and another sign that Winnipeg does these things up right.

The players themselves looked at the thousands of people who came as the enthusiasm was infectious.

The American Association All-Star Game is a success even before the game begins and the weather continues on amazing.

Good for the Goldeyes organization and team. Good for Winnipeg.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Swiss Chalet/Harvey's Open on Corydon

Open and ready to serve Swiss Chalet on Corydon
When Swiss Chalet opened on Kenaston, it caused a sensation for those who mourned their many years away from the city.

The old Chicken Delight drive thru has now been converted over to a Swiss Chalet/Harvey's opened last week and it has been a bit nuts there ever since.

An attempt to drop the drive-thru grandfathered status backfired and now it is back and still serving chicken. Swiss Chalet should do well in this location. It remains to be seen how Harvey's works and they do have faltered in Winnipeg in the past.

Foodies with sophisticated tastes will always frown upon the unwashed masses going to chain restaurants. Luckily, for those who love local culinary fare, Corydon has plenty.

For those who want to pick up, delivery or drive thru for their food, Swiss Chalet will be spot on.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Boozy Top 10 Events in Manitoba

There are some events that have a reputation that precedes them. For the sake of distinguishing them in this province, let's call them the Boozy Top 10. These are the events surrounding festivals, sporting events, concerts and the like.

In no particular order.

1. Superspike: It has been thirteen years of volleyball, naughty named teams, shirtless men and barely there ladies in a hedonistic but good old fashioned competition of sport. While the younger set are there in droves, it is attracting larger participation every July. The planners tell people to send out one last tweet when sports wind down and drink flow. The reason: You won't remember the rest of the night.

Countryfest in Dauphin

2. Dauphin Countryfest: The sell out happens almost the moment the tickets are made available. For a short time, the grounds around Dauphin's country music stage resemble the biggest recreation vehicle parking lot in the west. The rains which happen very June since 1990 are no obstacle for the young fans. Nor is the pilgrimage down the various highways to get there. Jean shorts and cowboy hats and a crowd ready to dance. After comes a huge return on aluminum cans of beer empties.

Commercial Social...Business students unwind
 3. Commerce Social: The Asper School of Business Commerce students hold a variety of socials in a year. None holds a candle to their Christmas social in December. Other faculties for Nursing, Arts, Engineering will scramble for the eventual sell out even to mark the end of semester and holidays coming for Christmas. The boozy student event is a reminder that all work and no play makes for a very dull university campus.

4. Winnipeg Folk Festival: This July festival is whatever people make of it. The family enjoys but it has a boozy aspect the runs late into the night with drumming, music and fellowship. More laid back that some of their more raucous music cousins and sometimes less booze than a smokey evening but it makes one of North America's biggest events.

5. Folklorama: Canada's contribution to world peace. Cultural festival with dancing, singing, food and booze of the world. An event that draws many citizens of the province and beyond. It probably gave Epcot at Disney the idea that booze and culture is good. August always goes well with a yummy and entertaining Folklorama.

6. The Ball: The longest running pansexual fetish event possibly in North America. Held every few months in the Osborne Village Inn, it may be the only boozy event that boasts a dungeon. The Halloween social they host could be the event of the season for those who have the right costume and the right attitude.

7. Pride Winnipeg: A mix of events for family, friends and supporters. It also a beer tent and a dance party. They even had queer beer. Boozy, celebratory and growing each year. Another of the big June events.

8. Festival du Voyageur: It is February. Time to get the maple syrup and booze out and celebrate Manitoba's French culture and history. Lots of family things but a big social event dinner, lots of food and lots of booze. Perfect for a cold winter in Manitoba and great to visit St. Boniface.

9. Islendingadagurinn Festival: The alternative folk music fest happens during the Icelandic festival and so much more. It is the longest running event on lake Winnipeg and a food and boozy event much loved by the citizenry. You may even see Vikings!

10. Canada Day Osborne Village Street Festival: Canada's favourite neighbourhood closes the entire street on June 30, July 1 for Canada Day. Lots of family events but lots of restaurants and a few bars for the event to be one of the boozy top 10 for Winnipeg. Music, people watching, sun and food. A great street party.

Monday, July 21, 2014

How Safe is the National Microbiology Laboratory?

Canada's Microbiology Lab
In recent weeks the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta has come under criticism for unsafe practices that resulted in possibly exposing people to rare and deadly pathogens. Lax security, inventory methods and complacency have been cited as some of the main reasons. Whatever the cause, the result was that small pox, anthrax and other infectious agents were not handled properly.

There are only a handful of facilities in the world at Level 4 containment for world's deadliest pathogens. The CDC lab in Atlanta is one, the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg is another.

The combined facility in Winnipeg is called the Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health. It is the first facility of its kind to combine two laboratories for human and animals. The National Microbiology is run by the Public Health Agency of Canada. The National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease is run for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Ground was broken on the lab near the Health Sciences Centre on Arlington Street in 1992 and work was completed in 1997. Public consultations were held to address fears about a national lab so close to homes in the city. The site had previously held a city works yard dedicated to road construction materials. There have been subsequent additions but the facility now houses 500 federal employees.

The fears people had were talked about at great length and emphasis was placed on how safe and secure the buildings were.

Shortly after the official opening in 1999, the building had a leak where waste water made its way into the city system.  This was something that was not supposed to happen but did again in 2000. More serious was a collision that took place in 2005 with a Fed Ex vehicle. It was learned that the courier was transporting deadly pathogens  including flu, tuberculosis and anthrax. Streets were closed all over as the intact cases from the collision were gathered. In 2008, around 30 lab staff had to be given antibiotics after being exposed to anthrax.

A liaison office at the virology lab is supposed to issue a report once a year but that ended in 2005.

The story at the Centers for Disease Control demonstrates that safety and security have to be regularly reviewed. There are deadly pathogens each year that race around the globe. Research after 9/11 is happening more and more. Often work is being done through a multitude of labs and handlers.

Winnipeg should not blandly look at the virology lab and think it is exempt from scrutiny. Thousands of people die each year in Canada and the U.S. of infectious agents.

It is time to revisit the safety of Canada's level 4 virology lab.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The End of the Charleswood Department Store

The obituary on July 5 was probably a good sign that the Charleswood Department store was not long for this world either. On Canada Day, Ike Kraut passed away. The Polish immigrant arrived in Canada just before World War II in 1939 and for nearly 60 years ran the Charleswood Department Store near the west entrance of Assiniboine Park. Leaving behind a wife and four children, it appears that the family is preparing to say goodbye not just to their father but to the store itself.

In the windows are signs that say "store closing" and "50% off". It is the end of an era for one the longest serving businesses in the Charleswood area.

It has probably been a lot tougher in recent years to run the store. There is less foot traffic and the parking was more difficult in part due to the closure of the Charleswood Hotel next door which is now a giant Co-Op Gas retailer.

I wrote how old Charleswood was the downtown of the greater neighbourhood. Losing the Charleswood Department Store is a reminder of a gentler, more local way of doing business.

It remains to be seen what will go in the store now. One can hope it will be a business as iconic and long lived as the Charleswood Department Store.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Polo Park's New Stores

Disney store returns to Winnipeg
The media reports this morning confirm some of the stores already mentioned here as coming to Polo Park.

The closure of Zellers and the desire of H&M to occupy a large section of the main floor triggered $49 million of upgrades. Some shops have been moved around while dozens of new shops have been banging at the door to get in. The 114,000 renovation is a massive investment. Polo Park owners wisely decided to re-create the old corridor to the outside exit and sub-divide the space into 22 stores. This represents the most stores added since the second floor was added in 1986.

As mentioned here, Fossil and Anthropologie are some of the new tenants. Zumiez has been mentioned as well.

For the sake of those who may not know some of the retailers, the name of the store and what it sells will be listed below.

Anthropologie: A women's apparel retailer ownded by Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters: A retailer of Bohemian and hipster clothing, footware and housewares for men and women. Often gets into controversy for their t-shirts.

Fossil: A retailer of clothing and accessories for men and women.

Nine West: A footwear and and accessories retailer.

Journeys: A retailer of clothing and footwear.

Thomas Sabo: A jeweler.

Pandora: A jeweler.

Disney: Everything Disney

This marks the return of Disney store to Winnipeg after five years. Previously, they were in St. Vital Mall. A stumble by the store five years ago saw the company closes many of their stores. They seem to back on track now.

Stay tuned for more news from Polo Park.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Death of Much Music

They say Much Music was cutting edge. But today it is struggling and fired almost all their staff and whine that they need to be free of music videos so they can do more MTV programming.

MTV was introduced to the U.S. in 1981. Within a year there was nary a bar in Canada than didn't have the astronaut bouncing around and showing music videos. The term VJ and the name Martha Quinn were known across the country.

The demand in Canada for MTV grew and the Canadian government took notice. The CRTC licenced Much Music in 1984. It was an expensive channel to add to your dial and many families didn't. From 1984 to 1989, it was not on basic cable. How big a move was it to place it on basic service? Well, it suddenly reached 5 million homes.

In short, Much missed a great deal of the 1980s audience because it was seen in fewer homes. Other networks like NBC and CBC with huge audiences reached far more young people in that decade than Much Music. Friday Night Videos on NBC ran from 1983 to 2002 and offered the best of the week in music videos. Video Hits on CBC started in 1984 and was a monster hit right out of the gate with its after school timeslot.

In 1984, MTV turned away from album oriented recording in favour top 40. It was the heyday of music video programming.

It would be unfair to say Much didn't have success at this time. It did. Some of their programming made it to affiliated networks. Kids in the 1980s were quite familiar with Electric Circus and other programs produced by CHUM and Much. However, that popularity was limited by not being on basic service.

For myself, music videos were something you saw on CBC daily and NBC weekly. Bars never stopped showing MTV throughout the 1980s because it was free on satellite.

The move to basic cable in 1989 turned Much into what it has always hoped to be in the 1980s. The 1990s Much Music was an industry that produced offshoots everywhere on TV, record album series and awards shows. It became part of the main discussion of Canadian music and can be said to have helped produce some of the superstars we know now. The Canadian content guidelines and assistance of artists in producing videos was a powerhouse of Canada all the time. It even spawned MuchUSA.

The 2000s were not as kind. In 2000, most Canadians still had dial up service at home for Internet. By 2004, the number of high speed Internet uses was equal. By 2010, the vast majority of Canadians had high speed.

In 2004 Canada was a leading country in downloading content. In 2014, Canada continues to download everything...often illegally.

MTV had more flexibility to adjust to programming demands. They started producing fewer music videos and more reality programming. High speed Internet saw increasing amounts of people seeking that content on Youtube which started in 2005.

In 2006, Much was purchased by Bell Globemedia. Eventually Bell assumed full control in 2013. The company has pushed for years to get out of producing music videos and has increased comedy and reality programming from MTV in the U.S. In this last week, they took a shot across the bow of the CRTC and pretty much fired everyone except a skeleton crew to keep the lights on and produce the minimum content required under Canadian law.

Did it have to be this way? No. High Definition TV has boomed since 2010. Much itself started broadcasts in 2011 in high definition. Can this high definition be found in Manitoba? No. MTS and Shaw cable don't have it. Think any kid wants to watch a broadcast in standard definition? There are large parts of the country that don't get Much in HD.

Bell would like to make money in broadcasting but they don't push for the best content or the medium to broadcast it in. Their sports network TSN was outbid for hockey for the next several years by Rogers. Can the lay-offs and whining be coming soon in regards to producing live sports events in favour of Rocky movies?

It is possible to run a network on basic cable and make money and not simply be an affiliate of a U.S. network. Yes. It requires originality and daring which is in short supply at Much right now. They might blame the CRTC but Bell seems poor at producing content.

One has to ask: why have Much when we can get U.S. MTV probably in HD? Ditto one might say on ESPN.

Music videos might be less appealing now than they once were. However, broadcasting them in standard definition earns you no friends or viewers.

Live broadcasting beats PVR, HD beats standard definition, original beats repeats. Do we have to draw a picture for Bell Media? It isn't that you need to beg to be released from your duties as a Canadian broadcaster. You can't say let us drop videos and just say we'll do affiliate work.

For too long companies like Bell have made lots of money on phone, cells, Internet and broadcasting and Canadians pay more for poorer service. Is Bell worthy of being a broadcaster in this country anymore. Tell us Bell... why should you still have a license for Much Music?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Lucerne Milk Winnipeg Sold

The Lucerne cheese plant gets shut down August 29 throwing 50 workers off the job. Now Sobey's is selling Lucerne's western milk division including the Winnipeg plant.

Lucerne has been announcing job cuts all spring so it is very likely that they were preparing it for sale.

The new owners of the milk division of Safeway are Agropur Cooperative of Quebec. The deal was for $356 million and involves long term supply agreements with Safeway and Sobey's in the west. It should be noted that Lucerne milk is generally what Starbucks uses as well.

It always struck me strange that the Competition Bureau did not force Sobey's to sell off more of the distribution and manufacturing arms of Safeway. We have seen closures of some Safeways rather than seem them sold to others such as Save On Foods or Co-Op.

It appears no jobs from the milk sale will be lost. The dirty work was done before the division changed hands.

Expect to see more fall out from the sale of Safeway to Sobey's in the day ahead.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Parcel Four and The Forks

Parcel Four and Rail Side Are Now Parking Lots

There was raw anger when a motel and water park concept was trotted out onto council floor and everyone was told there was no time to look at the proposal. It was vote on it or lose it.

While some have been craving a waterpark for years and have no use for a museum, the whole process stank and basic questions of how this decision came to be could not be answered. Moreover, it was really uncertain what sort of value the city would get for their money not to mention the land.

Other developers were livid as they'd been told that the land was unavailable for some time and therefore could not put any proposal forward.

It is hard to say if this was a tipping point for Sam Katz or not. For a long time, the Goldeyes used Parcel Four for parking and Katz sat as head of the company that administered the land. There was question of how much the land was really worth. From Katz's perspective, it was not worth much and subsequently, he got money back from the city in property tax re-reimbursement. We now know from the audit that the value of the land was a whole lot more than many in council were told.

After the controversy, The Forks Corporation purchased the land for $6 million and began a process of public consultations.

Everyone had an opinion from putting a forest on the spot to high density housing.

A vision of a public place
The conclusion of public consultation could have been extremely controversial but to the shock of many, it wasn't.

Ever since the 1980s there has been recognition by people in Winnipeg that The Forks is different and that it belongs to everyone. Consultations have been the hallmark of the project since the beginning.  There have been some stumbles to be sure but overall slowly and surely The Forks has turned into something that Winnipeggers are proud of and a place where they bring their families and out of town guests to.

Two sites across from Human Rights Museum
So what did public consultation on The Forks come up with for the two sites at their disposal?

What they came up with is a $200 million economic plan that will make a lot of people happy.

First, let's deal with some of The Forks naysayers. Many say The Forks is a chronic money loser. This is true. The complicated North Portage and The Forks operations fall well short of break even.

The Forks probably could have made huge profits if they had opened up the site once it had become popular. Condo developer have always salivated over a chance to locate in the area. That alone would have filled the site and put them in the black.

The problem has been that Winnipeggers have been strongly against just going this route on housing. There seems to be an instinctive knowledge that if so much housing went up a strong proponent of Not In My Backyard would emerge thereafter.

For example, lots of condos and many residents might come to resent fireworks even though fireworks were there first. Perhaps other things would crop up to the point that area residents would want to gate their community from the rest of the city.

Can limited housing co-exist with The Forks?
This is not an idle worry. Toronto's Habourfront is an example. Many of the residents in the area complain about traffic related to people visiting Toronto Island. Moreover, many wish to close the airport on the island even though it was there first.

It is a balancing issue when thinking about The Forks. It is possible to put it into the black financially but the cost may be losing it as a central gathering space.

The Parcel Four and Rail Side plan might address some of this balancing of needs. The two sites, like Shaw Park where the Goldeyes play, are not exactly part of The Forks. Still, the visceral reaction to putting up a motel in a rush made political leaders realize that public involvement was necessary lest they be skinned alive. In other words, no willy nilly plans thought up in the middle of the night.

With this in mind and confronting the demands to stop losing money, The Forks had navigate difficult waters.

So what were the concerns that people raised and some of the things they desired on Parcel Four and Rail Side, as the other side of the road is called?

In no particular order they were parks, parking, public space, shops, housing.

Parks, parking, public space, housing and shops
Those present at the meeting where the plan of action was presented had only positive things to say. In fact, many were extremely enthusiastic. As mentioned, the overall plan includes $200 million of private money.

The present site is now used by around 700 cars for parking. The re-developed site would have two parkades for a total of 700 public parking spaces. There would also be 500 parking spaces for condos on site. There is recognition that this may not serve for oversize vehicles and tour buses. If the Human Rights Museum is a tourist attraction, there has to be the expectation that school buses, tour buses and recreation vehicles will need a place to park and fairly close by. It remains to be seen how this will be addressed.

Lest anyone think Parcel Four is all parkades, the issue of parks, public space and public art are all addressed. Parking is hidden away and public spaces abound. Moreover, the design of everything is set for environmental and energy efficiencies.

Transit not forgotten
For people to discard their cars when coming, Winnipeg Transit has many stops on site. Pedestrian traffic will have more access points to and from the site and beyond. It is uncertain how more bikes will be accommodated as they are sure to increase not decrease over the years.

Greenery and public art will make Parcel Four and Rail Side attractive. The sight lines looking into and away from The Forks will be preserved. The Human Rights Museum should be seen and not completely blocked and with in mind, any taller buildings will be slender.

Finally, condos will be going up and occupy these slender buildings on both sites. Grounds floors will give way to shops and restaurants.

All in all, the tens of millions spent will add a 24 hour component of people living in The Forks area. Not enough housing is going up to despoil the public nature of the park. However, enough is going up to possibly trigger some additional housing beside Union Station and Earl's since Mahatma Gandhi Way is likely to see a heck of a lot more foot traffic.

The Future of Parcel 4
The Forks is this generation's greatest achievement and this is the final piece. The lasting legacy should be that the success spills onto Main Street and Portage and Main. There are parking lots present throughout that area that could be put to use if this happens.

We have been proud of The Forks for good cause. And the reason is that every step of the way, we have had our say.