Thursday, 2 August 2012

Will CP rail yards exercise trump Selkirk Avenue?

Sunset from the Rebchuk

I was unable to attend the design summit about the CP yards area held at the at the Free Press Cafe. It appears that there was a great turnout, an overflow crowd of 150 or so, which is great for any community revitalization discussion. As I read some of the tweets and other coverage of the session, though, I think about an issue that I've posted about on previous occasions: the state of Selkirk Avenue which lies just one block away.

Selkirk Avenue, WinnipegSelkirk Avenue, Winnipeg
Selkirk Avenue, Winnipeg

Once Winnipeg's other Portage Avenue, it bustled with discount department stores, food shops, theatres, dance halls, restaurants, apartment blocks and banks. If you lived in the North End you could find everything you needed right there.

Aside from a rejuvenation of its public spaces under the Core Area Initiative in the 1980s, a few stalwart businesses that have stuck around and the social service agency industry, few have tried to stem Selkirk Avenue's downward spiral. Political leaders and private capital have long turned their back on the street. You won't find a CentreVenture or Waterfront Drive-like subsidies here.

Selkirk Avenue, WinnipegSelkirk Avenue, Winnipeg
Selkirk AvenueSelkirk Avenue, Winnipeg

If the North End is in need of a 'village area' with spaces for ethnic markets, community theatres, aboriginal business incubators, housing units, arts centres, community gardens and other public spaces, these opportunities all exist on Selkirk Avenue. There's also, sadly, an increasing inventory of empty lots ready for redevelopment.

This transformation could be done for a fraction of the time and cost of what it would take to redevelop the CP yards, which aren't even for sale. Sadly, there's also a fraction of the interest in doing something about it.

CN East Yards / Forks ca 1928

The reality is that if CP decided today that it wanted to relocate it would take a couple of decades for significant redevelopment to take shape.

CN, for instance, announced in 1975 that it wanted to move from its East Yards, what we now call The Forks. At the time the feds already had a national cost-sharing program in place for such projects, the railway already had another yards in Transcona ready for them, and they left behind a significant number of buildings ready for conversion to new uses. Even then the project's first major development, the Forks Market, did not open until 1989.

I don't want to diminish the efforts of those wanting to imagine what a redeveloped CP yards area could mean for the North End and the city as a whole. I just find it unfortunate that while the topic is attracting much political, media and citizen attention, Selkirk Avenue once again must wait its turn for someone to take notice of it.

Related Posts:
My Selkirk Avenue photo gallery
Moving the CP yards - the early years West End Dumplings
Selkirk Avenue's bell tower West End Dumplings
Selkirk Avenue loses another tooth West End Dumplings
On Selkirk Avenue West End Dumplings

Other Sources:
Moving the CP Rail Yards Anyone Want a Peanut
Off the Rails (series on CP rail yards) Winnipeg Free Press
Merchants Hotel set for redevelopment plan CBC
The Age of Poverty on Selkirk Ave The Uniter
Selkirk Ave struggling to rebound CJOB
BIZ wants to stop business exodus The Times

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