Thursday, 26 December 2013

List time ! My top local news stories of 2013

'Tis the season for year-end lists, so I am going to kick off mine with what I consider to be the top five local stories of 2013, in no particular order.

Later in the week, I will feature my most-read blog posts of 2013 !


No, NOT the delay, not the overspending but the opening. 

It's not every year that a $200m building opens in a city this size. Along with its arena, a Canadian city's stadium is a major centre of its social fabric. The concerts, sporting events, rallies etc. that will take place there over the next few decades will be more memorable than the short-term controversy of it opening late and not having all of the costs factored in.


Winnipeg, like every other city, has its old boys club and many things get done behind the scenes, be it in private clubs or on the golf course. Katsheedico put the O.B.C. out in the open and started wheeling dealing for all to see. Some of the results were controversial: parkade sales, fire hall land swaps, the new PSB etc. 

Questions about improper conduct, real or perceived, were greeted with a shrug of the shoulders. (Which appears to be part of an increasing trend in Canadian politics - you can tie in the Rob Ford stuff and Tory / Duffy issue here: do whatever you want openly, even if it doesn't pass the smell test. No explanations, no "real" apologies.)

It will be interesting to see if voters will be motivated enough to go to the polls in the 2014 civic election or, more likely, will they stay at home and let the incumbent win so that the cycle of four more years of complaining can begin.


It was the best of times and worst of times for North End retail.

Back in January C. Kelekis, an 83 year-old institution, closed and with it, another of the few remaining chapters on the "old North End". Sadly, an indie restaurant in the North End is a bad business proposition and nobody was willing to take it on so the location remains vacant while the lineup at Olive Garden gets longer.

On the good news front, Pollock's Hardware, the city's oldest hardware store, is doing well as a customer co-op. They have opened a big contractors' outlet further south on Main Street and just last month a NEW retail location on Osborne Street.

On the grocery front, Extra Foods closed and the neighbouring Main Street Safeway is on the chopping block. A bright spot is that Neechi Commons finally opened. It will not fill the void of the two grocery giants, but it is going back to what once was the norm: North Enders feeding North Enders.


A new, affordable housing block, Peace Tower Housing, opened in Chinatown. It's the first new residential development there in decades. Will there be more to come ? It would be nice to think that some of the success of the neighbouring Exchange District would spill over and fill more vacant lots in long-beleaguered Chinatown.


It's a national historic site, and symbolically one of the most important buildings in Winnipeg but the Union Bank Tower sat empty for nearly two decades. After a longer than expected renovation, it is now Red River College's Paterson Global Foods Institute with Jane's Restaurant on the main floor and student housing above.

Aside from just the rehab of an important historic building, it also signified a different type of housing for the downtown: student residences. This in a year where higher-end condos continued to flood the market, so much so that the city had to offer purchase incentives. It's nice to see the mix.

For good measure here are a couple of best-ofs:

My image of the year

I had to choose one image to sum up much of the year's news, it would be this screencap I took from a CBC reportage showing a disbelieving Bartley Kives taking in a Katz presser.

Best New Blog

For the past year Winnipeg photographer David Lipnowski's sought out a subject for A Portrait a Day. He created a wonderful montage of (mostly) everyday Winnipeggers. It's sad to think that the project might now be over.

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