Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The "Axworthy Effect" on Portage Avenue

Yes, I mean the Axworthy Effect, not the AXE Effect, as in the adolescent male body spray !

Churchill Manitoba

I've had a couple of opportunities to walk through the U of W 'district' with all of the buildings fully open and students in place. It has certainly created a very different feel to Portage Avenue west of Memorial. Aside from the drastic change in the physical appearance of the spaces,
(see below for a list of them), it's great to be caught up in a gaggle of students heading from one part of the campus to the other !

There are also some private developments taking root in the area.

Abandoned McDonald's
Former McDonalds

First is that Langside McDonald's that sat empty for a decade or so. National hamburger chain Harvey's has taken it over.

Former Cue Club
Former Cue Club

The next block up is the former Cue Club which has been a wall of empty storefronts for probably as long as the McDix has been gone. It is set to reopen next week as Pop Soda's Coffeehouse Gallery.

In the 'proposed' category, the owners of the National Typewriter Building want to demolish in favour of a nine storey mixed-use, residential building. Sal Infantino of X-Cues on Sargent is looking at converting some of the properties he owns in the area into student housing.

The university will obviously benefit from these developments. They regain a residence, something they haven't had since the late 1980s or so. An expanded Continuing Education and daycare help attract more of the non-traditional students that the U of W puts a lot of stock in. The science program leaves its 1960s surroundings behind for something state of the art.

Yes, they've been expensive but the University has been able to pull in over $60m in their capital campaign drive since it began in 2007. A series of escalating "biggest donations ever" helped out in the early stages, (
Douglas Leatherdale ($500k for $2m in total), CanWest ($2m), McFeetors ($1.67), Richardsons ($3.5m), Buhlers ($4m)).

Portage Avenue has certainly benefited. Many of these spaces were derelict buildings or grossly underused spaces that likely would have remained that way for many years to come. Filling them with students is a perfect fit for a downtown area which, as a whole, still struggles to get beyond a "9 to 5" vibe.

Now, signs that private, spin-off developments are entering the picture, just adds to the punch that the U of W under Lloyd Axworthy has brought to the area.

Here's a look back at some of the U of W's new (post 2007) spaces:

(*Exterior work began prior to Axworthy's arrival)
University of Winnipeg
University of Winnipeg
Convocation Hall
Convocation Hall

Spence Street / U of W Commons
University of Winnipeg, Grounds
University of Winnipeg, Grounds
University of Winnipeg

CanWest Centre for Theatre and Film
Former Salvation Army Citadel)
University of Winnipeg
U of W Manitoba Theatre Dep't Entrance

University of Winnipeg AnX
(former Bus Depot / Rice Building)
Still in progress
University of Winnipeg
University of Winnipeg

University of Winnipeg Buhler Centre
(Former United Army Surplus Site)

U of W Buhler Centre

McFeetors Hall
(U of W Residence)

UWSA Daycare and McFeetors Hall
University of Winnipeg

Richardson College
for the Environment and Science
Galaxy Skateland

U of W Portage and Langside
U of W Science Centre
University of Winnipeg
U of W Science Complex


Winnipeg Girl said...

Just read in the FreeP today that the National Typewriter building plan is a no-go.

Christian Cassidy said...

Thanks for that. I'm not too surprised he withdrew, for a building that size and scale there are a lot of more suitable spaces in the area (ie not in the middle of a block) that don't have heritage buildings on them. My suspicion, and I have nothing to back this up, is that it would have spent a lot of time as a surface parking area for students.