Category Archives: Winnipeg: Growth and development

Pity the city planners: They have to invent rationalisations for bad decisions

TransconaW2012

The big green area in the Google map above tells a story. It marks an undeveloped area between the east Winnipeg neighbourhoods of Elmwood and Transcona, an area that remains undeveloped because the city obligingly extends roads, underground pipes and the full range of its services past it, at taxpayer expense, without requiring its development. My latest article shows how Winnipeg, like many other North American cities, pays a heavy price for its failure to ensure that its infrastructure and services be developed and used in an efficient manner.

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Why we love cities, even while we tell ourselves we hate them

Last year I blogged about rural fundamentalism, a visceral dislike of cities that has deeply shaped the world we live in. Rural fundamentalism, however, is only half the story of our ambivalent relationship with cities, because, even though our choices of places to live is driven primarily by a desire to flee the city, the way we conduct our lives ties us to cities, both personally and materially.

Our ambivalence leads us into bad policy choices, and there’s no reason why it should. I’ll come back to that, but first let’s look at why cities are so important to us.  Continue reading

Winnipeg’s most pressing land use issue

For decades I’ve been a reader of a unique American publication called the Planning Commissioners’ Journal, a voice of sanity on city planning issues. The editor of PCJ, regrettably, is working on the magazine’s final issue, and asked readers to send comments about their community, and the land use challenges it faces.

Here’s what I had to say about Winnipeg: Continue reading

Shoppers Drug Mart in Osborne Village: Be careful what you wish for

Shoppers Drug Mart in Osborne Village is expanding, crowding out its neighbours, a Vietnamese restaurant and a popular video rental store. The expansion will turn the entire ground floor of the new building into a pharmacy. Some cosmetic touches planned for the front of the building will fail to conceal the fact that three separate businesses at street level will be replaced by one.

In other words, diversity at street level will be replaced by uniformity. That’s what Jane Jacobs – a Torontonian who set the world of city planning on its ear – would be saying if she were still with us. In her classic Death and Life of Great American Cities, she argued…

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Wal-Mart: Feeding off sprawl and giving it a push

An article in a developers’ house organ, Urban Land, brightly relates stories of empty retail spaces being filled by such innovative uses as medical clinics and libraries. The article says the empty spaces are a result of “recession and prolonged economic stagnation”.

That’s not the whole story… Continue reading

The price Winnipeg pays for subsidizing new roads

It’s not news to residents of central Winnipeg that our streets are in terrible shape, but it would be interesting to know just how bad the situation is overall. The Winnipeg Sun answered that question recently. The paper reported that, by the city’s own reckoning, more than 20 per cent of our streets are rated in poor condition, the lowest rating, meaning that the street must be completely rebuilt, or at least undergo major rehabilitation.

Wayne Glowacki, Winnipeg Free Press

A few days later, the Winnipeg Free Press picked up the story and added some figures to show that the roads are continually getting worse and that the city isn’t anywhere near having the resources it needs to repair the streets quickly enough to keep pace with their deterioration.

Instead, the city has, in effect, given up on attempts to solve the problem. A public works official admitted to the Sun that the city’s priorities are shifting away from streets in poor condition to those that have not yet reached that state, on the premise that it is better to maintain what is viable than to salvage what is not. Since the streets in worst condition tend to be those in the poorest neighbourhoods, the neglect of downtown streets is tantamount to the ghettoization and decay so distressingly familiar in American cities. Continue reading

Walmart supercentre: Are we asking the right questions?

Walmart wants to turn its big-box store on Winnipeg’s Regent Avenue into a supercentre. Councillor Russ Wyatt says the city should require improved access for motor vehicles and bicycles, as well as trees to soften a bleak parking lot vista. The city’s chief administrative officer, Phil Sheegl, says he’s concerned about the developmental fallout from a negative decision.

In the city’s interest, Mr. Sheegl should perhaps be more concerned about the fallout from a positive decision. A series of studies covering Walmart and similar big box developments, summarized here, suggest that neither Mr. Wyatt nor Mr. Sheegl are taking a sufficiently critical look at this development proposal.

According to these studies, big box stores: Continue reading

The bait and switch: Whose fault is it?

In a previous post, about the bait-and-switch, I quoted a specialist in the economics of sport as saying that it has become standard practice in bidding for the Olympics to start by low-balling the cost, and then, once the city is hooked on the idea of being an Olympic host, to add new features that balloon the cost. Dennis Lewycky commented on the post with two questions:

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DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO BUILD A HIGHWAY THROUGH RIVER HEIGHTS?

The City of Winnipeg has set out on a plan to build a highway through River Heights and Waverley West, ultimately connecting Ness Avenue with the south perimeter highway. Three reasons are given for this, one of which makes a more modest version of the proposal defensible. A second one is indefensible, and the third is a really bad idea.

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RAPID TRANSIT: COST OR OPPORTUNITY? IT’S UP TO US

With Jonah Levine
It’s taken Winnipeg a generation to get around to building the first leg of a rapid transit system. You might think that settles the matter, and that now we are down to inconsequential details. On closer examination, however, it becomes clear that many important decisions remain, decisions that could make the difference between a successful rapid transit system and a white elephant.

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