Tuesday, 23 April 2013

A new approach to Winnipeg's SROs ?

Bell Hotel1b043

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.

The hotel reopened in April 2011 as 42 residential units for people at high-risk of becoming homeless with social service offices on the main floor. Since that time, the Merchants Hotel was closed and is expected to return as a mixed-use development. Also, the St. Regis was taken over and continues to operate without a liquor license.

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


cbc.ca/hyperlocal said...

Hi West End Dumplings!

Hyperlocal is looking for your stories, photos, audio or video. Go to cbc.ca/hyperlocal to submit and you could win a laptop computer and an interactive adaptation of your story by the NFB.

See http://hyperlocal.cbc.ca/upload for details.

Anonymous said...

I really had to look around to figure out what SRO means!

Xtoval said...

One of the worst things Winnipeg has done was destroy Main Street. A place where people lived and had fun. Lots of problems of poverty and addiction, to be sure, but the solution was not tearing down the buildings! Skid rows, or whatever you want to call them, play an important role in every major city. Like Portage Place in the 1980s, a sad example of narrow suburban thinking invading the city. Good work as ever Chris!

mrchristian said...

Sorry, anon, I thought I had written it out before using the initials.

Thanks Xtoval. I agree that "skid rows" tell as much about a city, and have as much right to exist, as a Corydon Avenue. Recently the infamous Bowery in NYC became a national historic site ! http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/18/nyregion/on-the-bowery-vestiges-of-a-seedy-past-seep-through.html?_r=2&