The Former Christian Press building at 159 Henderson is now home to Sam's Place - a used bookstore / café and art venue run by the Mennonite Central Committee (for The Lance Story, Sun story)
That's another unused space that's been rescued by an arts venue / café or similar. In recent years the Ellice Café and Theatre, The Dusty Cover Used Bookstore on Sargent, The Park Theatre on Osborne, The Edge Artist's Village on Main - to name just a few - have all had major impacts on the neighbourhoods around them.
With the city going through the motions of bending over backward to kick-start additional development downtown, here's an idea: make it easier for café's, galleries, used bookstores etc. to open. They wouldn't need the huge financial assistance that, oh, say a parkade would ...
... a few thousand dollars in relief and a little less red tape would go a long way.
I ranted about this when the city moved onto Main Street to 'improve' upon the artsy district that was forming north of City Hall by tearing down a couple of theatres and installing the above-pictured parkade and a 9 to 5 WRHA office building. I did the same when the city thought that a mega-stadium was the answer to South Point Douglas' woes.
I usually go back to the example of what I saw in Austin, Texas, where the famed live music district resembled our Selkirk Avenue more than it did The Exchange District. It was artsy, funky, gritty in places but it's what helped put Austin on the map.
These small venues do as much, if not more, to put eyes on the streets, build community, create jobs and fill spaces that a large developer wouldn't touch.