Saturday, 31 December 2011

Year End Clearance: Disappointment of the year

One of the most disappointing stories of 2011 for me was the January demolition of 925 Logan Avenue at Arlington, (the Ontario Wind Engine and Pump / Regal Furniture building), by owner Minhas Creek. It wasn't even the demolition itself, but the collection of information gaps and bad practices that it brought together.

Winnipeg CIty Hall
First off, I'd like to tell you more information about the application but can't because it's nowhere to be found on the City Clerk's Decision Making Information System. That's the site that is supposed to be a repository of the city's council committee meeting agendas and minutes.

I'm fairly certain that went before committee meeting(s) because I saw a snippet in the newspaper after the fact. Missing information is a huge weakness of the 'System' that I run into time and time again. I certainly wouldn't do any important decision making based on the DMIS and hope that behind the scenes the city itself relies on a better medium for its information.

Anecdotal story: I once called a committee clerk to ask about a meeting that I attended a couple of weeks earlier about why I couldn't find the outcomes on the DMIS. I was told 'oops', they forgot to put it up and to check back the next day and it would be up.

925 Logan and Arlington
The second aspect of the story that I found maddening was the lack of knowledge or interest about the building by those who are supposed to advocate (or choose not to advocate) for its architectural or historic merit.

According to Free Press coverage neither the city nor Heritage Winnipeg knew anything about the building.
"Nobody even knows the date it was built," Heritage Winnipeg's E.D. told the paper.

How can a recommendation be made about a building if that's the extent of the information available ? In a fairly short time I was able to compile a fairly extensive history of the building (including the year it was built) from the comfort of my dining room table using only on-line sources.

For decades Winnipeg heritage advocates and the city have concentrated on a very small geographic area. That's been a good thing. If not, the Exchange District would surely look like the blocks on the other side of Portage Avenue, a sea of desolate surface parking lots. A fraction of that interest, though, needs to extend to other areas and eras of buildings.

As the old airport terminal 'debate' showed, interest that should have been expressed years ago ended up being a last minute 'desperation' campaign launched well after the building was originally scheduled to be vacated.

925 Logan Avenue, Winnipeg
An often-used tactic to ensure the acceptance of your demolition permit is to float a vague idea or artist's drawing of future development. In this case, Manjit Minhas spun the idea of a new brewery and 100 jobs which the Free Press pumped in their story Brewery may rise after run-down landmark falls:

Manjit Minhas said the company hopes to build a brewery at the Winnipeg site within two years, and would employ around 100 people at the facility. The Wisconsin brewery is at capacity and sales are growing, she said.

Well, that simply wasn't the case. Five weeks before the Free Press story the company issued a news release saying that they had completed a feasibility study for building a brewery "from scratch" in Ontario (after being shut out of buying the Labatt brewery in Hamilton) but found it to be too expensive a proposition.

Soon after the demolition the
DTZ Barnicke for sale sign went back up on the property and their on-line listing changed from that of a four storey building to an empty lot. I wonder how many of the inner city's surface parking lots began this way ? (For another 2011 example see OMC's "...bait and switch on Portage".)

925 Logan Avenue, Winnipeg Arlington at Logan
Finally, what an eyesore that has been left since its January 2011 demolition.

Yes, we're only talking about the inner city so what's left on display after a demo is of little significance to most. Still, it is a prominent corner and the ugly side of the Minhas Creek warehouse that's been left for the past 12 months will surely be there for the
years / decades to come until a new building ends up on the site.

The last gasp for a dying corner ? One Man Committee
Arlington Street bridge Closed for Weekend Winnipeg Free Press

More Year End Clearance !
- Top stories of 2011
- Top blog posts of 2011
- Most disappointing story of 2011
- Completed developments

Friday, 30 December 2011

Year End Clearance: top posts of 2011

Now back to regularly scheduled programming.....

Here is my annual look back at my most popular posts according to Google Analytics. So much of my content is history-based, I find that many posts from previous years continue to hover near the top and that is the case again with this year !

1. Kenneth Leishman - the Flying Bandit
By a 2:1 margin this is my most popular post of 2011. It's from 2008 (before West End Dumplings was created) and still gets numerous daily hits. You can see from the comments section that there are many friends and family out there who still remember and love the man. Why a movie hasn't been made about him, I have no clue.

2. Safeway in Winnipeg - Sweeping Styles (1950s - 70s)
This is part 4 of a 2010 series looking at the great architecture of Safeway's past. Part 2 also made the top 10 but I am including only one post per series.

Winnipeg Stadium
3. Great Winnipeg Stadium Moments - Construction (1958)
This was the first post of a series that looked back at the old Winnipeg / CanadInns Stadium.

Starland Theatre Demolition
4. Winnipeg Building Demolition Derby
This featured a handful of buildings that came down in a short span earlier this year with little fanfare or interest.
The post got a lot of attention, though, including in the Free Press and on CBC news.

Airport Interior
5. A look back at Winnipeg's airports (Part 2)
A feature on the recently closed terminal. Part 3 of the series, looking at the groovy public art, was also in the top 10.

6. Former Brandon Asylum site
Another golden oldie, this time back to 2009. One of the most beautiful built sites in Manitoba, it is being converted into the Assiniboine Community College campus. Definitely a must-see site for Manitoba travelers.

7. The King's Winnipeg Speech
Looking at (and listening to) the last big address that the King made prior to the one featured in the movie. It was made in 1939 from Manitoba's Government House.

8. A look back at the Paddlewheel Restaurant
There are few Winnipeggers who don't have fond memories of this place. Whether it be tossing coins into the water or Breakfast with Santa.

9. Remembering the Wolseley Elm
If it hadn't been blown up by vandals the Elm would have been 150 years old in 2011. A look back at the battle to save it.

10. Winnipeg's Sweetheart Deanna Durbin
This series just went up earlier this month to celebrate her 90th birthday but already made the top ten thanks to her legions of international fans.

West Broadway
10. (tie) Urban Myth Busted: West Broadway as Murders Half Acre
It was a neat sounding headline in the Winnipeg Free Press but it was an error. The number of murders for an entire police district were attributed to the West Broadway neighbourhood. It was repeated over and over again in their coverage until the name stuck and the neighbourhood gained a reputation that took years to live down.

More Year End Clearance !
- Top stories of 2011
- Top blog posts of 2011
- Most disappointing story of 2011
- Completed developments

Thursday, 29 December 2011

West End Fire on St. Paul Avenue UPDATED x 8

Fire at 817 St. Paul Avenue, Winnipeg

Here's something you don't want to see - a fire right next door at 4 am.

Last night, one of the century old triplet of blocks on St. Paul Avenue had a major fire. Thankfully, everyone made it out alive. The neighbouring block was also evacuated as a precaution.

My thoughts go out to my neighbours who will have some difficult times in the weeks ahead.

Fire at 817 St. Paul Avenue, Winnipeg
Fire at 817 St. Paul Avenue, Winnipeg


St. Paul St. Paul

Here's a post I did back in 2008 showing some of the building renos. The three had all been abandoned for over a year before being gutted and turned into condos. In the two buildings to the east the suites run the entire length of the building so there are only 8 units in each. To get an idea of the inside, here are interior shots of one of the condos in the now-burned 817 St. Paul.

Fire on St. Paul Avenue, Winnipeg
Fire on St. Paul Avenue, Winnipeg

Sadly, 817 St. Paul Avenue has to be torn down. The roof collapsed earlier this morning and the walls have been weakened by the heat.

It's amazing how quickly things change. Last night at 4 am a small basement fire that was thought to be extinguished manged to get behind the wall, travel up the back staircase and into the attic. (My account, that's nothing official from the fire commish's office.)

My building is still evacuated and has had smoke and water damage but considering what happened to 817, there's nothing to complain about.

Thankfully, all got out safely.

Residents Escape Condo Complex Fire Winnipeg Free Press


The building is now gone. Torn down through the night and into this morning. It's very sad.


One slight bit of good news: cats ! One cat (Wyatt) belonging to a couple that were away on vacation has been found alive ! I bumped into friends of theirs at the fire scene last evening and they told me the sad story about the two cats likely perishing and the owners being away. The second one survived but scooted off. Hopefully it will be found. That would make a nice reunion.

The condo building to the west is back in as of Thursday afternoon, except for the two basement suites that have water damage. The daycare to the east still looks closed and worse for wear. It was hit with a lot of water.

Thankfully, no debris came through my windows, which was my biggest fear. The basement neighbours, though, have some nasty water damage. There's a curtain of grungy ice frozen over my windows which is fine. I really don't want to be looking out over the removal of the rubble for the next couple of days.

Fire on St. Paul Avenue, Winnipeg

Kudos to the city for waiving daytime parking restrictions for residents of the neighboring buildings and for Shoppers Drug Mart at Portage and Burnell for offering up their parking lot for overnight parking as the east half of our parking lot is, well, as shown above.

I am interested to hear the fire commissioner's findings. Despite the comments section speculation these weren't dumpy welfare buildings, nobody was smoking no homeless people living in the basement (and I haven't read the Sun's comment section but I assume they blame Aboriginals somehow.)

What a way to end off a year.


Removal work has ceased for now. A fire investigation expert is being flown in and wants to be here for the rest of the task.

St. Paul Avenue fire
St. Paul Avenue fire
St. Paul Avenue fire


817 St. Paul fire aftermath
St. Paul Avenue fire
Demolition and removal are back underway. The daycare centre is also open again, which I'm sure is a relief to area parents.

817 St. Paul Avenue fire

Unfortunately, no sign of Friadie-Cat. it was hoped that if she were still alive the noise of the demo would send her out from her underground lair. Presumed dead.

Jan 3 - 10
St. Paul Avenue cleanup
St. Paul Avenue cleanup
St. Paul Avenue cleanup
St. Paul Avenue cleanup
Still now word on fire but physical investigation is done as the last of the rubble has been cleaned away. They're just starting on the breaking up of the foundation at Jan 10. Should all be gone by Friday.

January 21, 2012

St. Paul Avenue Cleanup
St. Paul Avenue Cleanup
St. Paul Avenue Cleanup

Well, the final phase of construction is pretty much complete. The hole that was once 817 St.Paul Avenue is now filled in and the heavy machinery gone. It's like it was never there.

Oh, the cause of the fire was indeterminable. There was just too much damage to the basement corner that it started in to investigate properly.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Year End Clearance: Completed Developments

Here are some smaller developments that I have been photographing over the year that can now be put in the 'done' column:

363 Broadway 363 Broadway
The $4m retrofit of 363 Broadway appears to be wrapping up. The 80,000 square feet of bronzed glass has been replaced by something a bit more colourful.

Selkirk Avenue, Winnipeg
Former Oretzky's / Red Apple
Former Red Apple / Oretzky's
Makoosag Intergenetrational Children's Centre, a 52 space daycare, is now open on Selkirk Avenue in the old Oretzky's / Red Apple store.

667 Ellice Avenue
667 Ellice
In late summer Kihiw Iskewock (Eagle Women's) Lodge opened at 667 Ellice Avenue. (For a history of the building.)

Former Scott Block
The old Scott Block on Main Street (also known as the IKON building) was de-fuglified when the 1960s era metal grating was removed to expose this beautiful facade - who knew ! (Photos of the uncovering are here.) It began leasing in the summer and is marketed as 272 Main. (I have a building history to come !)

Abandoned House House on Dorothy Street
Here's a little house on Dorothy Street that I used to pass by every couple of weeks. Each time I expected to see an empty lot in its place. Instead, it got a basic reno and people are living in it again !

Burrows Avenue hydro station Burrows Avenue hydro station
Once upon a time, I believe, this lot at Burrows and Aikins was a fire hall with a small hydro substation behind it. Early last year Hydro began work on a new station and built this this facade around it. It looks like a new elementary school ! The station itself doesn't go online until 2013 and will replace two smaller, 75 year old ones on Charles Avenue and on Alfred Street.

Former Safeway
Former Marina Style Safeway
The final traces of the circa 1964 Marina-style Safeway at Ellice and Wall are now gone. For a history of the building and photos throughout its transformation see this old post. This leaves just one relatively untouched Marina-style store on North Main:

Old-School Marina Style Safeway