Three years ago today it was announced that the empty Bell Hotel on Main Street would undergo a $6m renovation.
Built in 1906, it was spared during a purge of many Main Street's single-room occupancy (SRO) hotels in the late 1990s which saw places like the Leland, Brunswick,and Savoy closed and torn down. The belief was that if you simply removed the number of bars and undesirable residents then the area would rejuvenate. That, of course, did not happen.
Cities like New York, L.A. and Vancouver have been taking different routes in dealing with SROs. Realizing that they were an important part of the housing market, they worked with non-profit organizations to renovate them into assisted housing and in place of the hotel bar offer social or community services. (For more on this read my 2008 post The Winnipeg SRO Hotel.)
Despite the fact that in 2005 there were about 1,000 people living in Winnipeg SROs, many of them by choice, we've been late to catch on to this ... until the Bell.
Maybe we're catching on that there's a better way of dealing with our SROs.
A history of the Bell Hotel Winnipeg Downtown Places
The Winnipeg SRO Hotel West End Dumplings