Monday, 28 March 2011

Transformations: Main Street

It's been quite the few years for Main Street.

United Way Headquarters
A couple of sizable buildings opened on land that sat vacant for many decades, namely the WRHA bunker and United Way HQ.

New joints like The Tallest Poppy, The Edge artist's village and Main Meats took over existing spaces. Even the McLaren got in the act with a sushi bar.

A couple of new projects are well on their way to completion.

Youth For Christ CentreYouth For Christ Centre
Youth for Christ's Center for Youth Excellence at Higgins and Main is coming along and filling up a huge gap in the street scape.

Bell Hotel
The Bell Hotel doesn't look different from the front but from the back work is ongoing. The latest thing are new windows all around.

On the other side of the subway at Euclid, the former California Fruit Market is being transformed into the new, larger home of Neechi Foods. (Imagine if all the brick buildings along that strip lost their awful paint jobs !)

While I haven't been a fan of every project, as a grouping it's certainly the most development seen on Main Street in a few decades. Importantly, they are bringing more services and retail opportunities to a long neglected area.


R.G. said...

Yes, there has been quite a physical transformation on Main Street. If anyone has read my blog, they will know that I maintain all of this development is wrong-headed.

A couple of things:
- The small developments (Tallest Poppy, BIOS and Bridgman architecture firms, The Edge, and Yuki Sushi) all occurred BEFORE Centre Venture lured the WRHA, United Way and Youth For Christ to build on Main. How many small developments have occurred AFTER these major projects? Aren't they supposed to be a "catalyst" for private investment? Why aren't we seeing any now, yet we did before?

- Neechi Foods is looking great. Not just completely renovating the existing CA. Fruit building(s), they are building an addition on the Euclid Avenue parking lot. This, plus two other Bridgman Architecture projects, MB Indigenous Cultural Education Centre (Sutherland Mission) and the Barber House restoration, are going a long way in making North Point Douglas an attractive neighborhood again.

R.G. said...

P.S. I meant that the big Centre Venture-handled projects (WRHA, YFC, United Way, Bell Hotel and Sun Wah parking lot thingee) are wrong-headed. Not necessarily bad in and of themselves, but not effective in "revitalizing" an area.

mrchristian said...

True, Rob about the bigger projects.

Especially true of the WRHA building. There was something organic springing up on that part of Main Street by itself and plopping in a suburban office building to the mix stomped on it.

United Way and Y4C I am not as ornery about as that was vacant land that probably would have sat vacant for a long time coming. One thing to find someone willing to reno an old building for a new store , office, gallery. Another to find someone wanting to build a standalone building on something the size of the Higgins and Main site.

Private investors / money hasn't stepped up to the plate in downtown generally and that is too bad. I think, too, that the public (those who DO want an interesting downtown / core) need to do a better job frequenting these areas and businesses.

raespace said...

Funny you should mention the changes happening on Main Street. I was just driving down Main today. Sitting on the sidewalk in front of the WRHA were three individuals sniffing chemicals. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

John Dobbin said...

Good post.

I think it is important to remember that things don't take place in a vacuum. For every wrongheaded decision there has been a few that made sense and will help the area.

Neechi Foods received provincial and federal money to expand. The attractiveness of moving was no doubt enhanced by the fact that the city built Waterfront Drive and millions were being spent on new housing or on restored housing in the greater area. Certainly this housing attracted Entegra Credit Union. At the time of funding, Neechi said their customer base on Dufferin was too sporadic and welfare check based. The change in location will help expand clientele while still maintaining its aboriginal roots.

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's building does indeed seem a missed opportunity. However, it does seem some of the projects handled elsewhere have indeed borne fruit.

One Man Committee said...

To add to John's comments, the best that can be said for some of the less appealing projects is that they have the potential to add up to more than the sum of their parts.

However, I would argue that we haven't seen that happen yet. The built form of structures like the WRHA and (admittedly older) Neeginan is going to inhibit that sort of momentum - they swallow up vast amounts of streetfront for low-intensity uses.