Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Winnipeg Urban Renewal Mega-projects: The MTS Centre Arena

Winnipeg has had a number of mega-project redevelopment ideas that started with lofty goals and many tens of millions of dollars later the results are mixed. Note that these are not pokes at the buildings and institutions themselves but just a look-see at what has happened in the past.

Winnipeg Urban Renewal Mega-projects No. 4: The MTS Centre
(2001 - 2004)

History: Winnipeg's ca. 1950s arena needed replacing. Assorted proposals were floated and, in the end, settled on the site of the newly vacated Eaton's department store on Portage Avenue. The project was a partnership of the three levels of government and private developers.

MTS Centre
Renewal Goals: There was a direct goal of doing something with the now empty, massive Eaton's building. A fear of it sitting empty for decades led to the goal of filling in the space with something new.

The arena would also be a catalyst for the area as stated in the original press release: "In cities all over North America the trend is toward building Sport and Entertainment facilities in the downtown central business districts as predictable engines to help spur downtown revival".

Area torn down: One square block, the footprint of the old Eaton's building and south portion of Eaton Place shopping centre. The project included another half block in which the power house for the building and parkade structure was rehabbed to serve the arena.

Influence as an urban renewal tool to the surrounding area: Mixed. The venue itself has been a success and well received. The impact outside the centre has been minimal. The buildings in the shadow of the centre remain empty. In fact, the first sizable investment attributed to the arena came in 2008 with a group renovating the old Salisbury House space for a restaurant / bar.

The lack of immediate spin-offs had to do with what was built withing the walls of the arena. Three restaurant bars (counting the Powerhouse), a small food court, and a retail store on Portage Avenue. It pretty much contained all the services needed by arena patrons for the crowds that the Manitoba Moose hockey team and concert-goers would need.

Price tag: $133.5m (private $93 million, public $40.5).

Part 1: Civic Centre
Part 2: Manitoba Centennial Centre
Part 3: Portage Place
Part 4: The MTS Centre
Part 5: Conclusion

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