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Sunday 3 March 2024

Opening Soon: Portage and Main

Portage and Main, 1979, by Hugh Allan (City of Winnipeg Archives)

It looks as if Portage and Main will reopen after all.

I've done several skywalk tours of Winnipeg that end at Portage and Main with a discussion about its history and future. Whenever I am asked about it still being closed to pedestrians, I always say that when the cost to repair the concourse becomes known, it will reopen.

The issue of the pending redevelopment came up several times during the plebiscite debate but it got so emotional and divisive that it was largely ignored in favour of what's going to happen right now.

I haven't read the details of what the $73 million estimate entails but it seems much of it has to do with the cost of tearing up the road to replace the membrane above the concourse. Then there will be the often out-of-service escalators and wheelchair elevators that will need to be replaced. The lighting, electrical and tiles are also more than 40 years old.

Above ground are the street access points, most of which are crumbling and none of which are wheelchair accessible. (The city got around this by issuing the building permits for the concourse months before introducing sweeping accessibility regulations for new buildings.)

Deciding against replacing the membrane will mean abandoning(?) or filling in(?) the concourse which is a surprise. Even the most ardent supporters of opening the intersection, I think, assumed that above and below grade would both be options.

As for me, I support opening the intersection to pedestrian traffic. Like it or not, the downtown is transforming into a much more residential neighbourhood with thousands of new units being added over the past couple of decades.

One-time office buildings like the Avenue, Lindsay, Somerset, Dreman, Medical Arts, are now all residential. Many of the warehouses in the Exchange have at least some residential component to them. The recently-opened tallest building in the city is mostly residential as is one of the True North towers. A new residential development at the Forks slated for later this decade will continue on the work already done on Waterfront Drive and if/when Portage Place gets redeveloped, a residential tower will likely be part of it.

The future of downtown, and not just Winnipeg's, is not in new retail or office space, it is residential. As this becomes a bigger part of the picture, the city has to think about things like walkability, trees, parks, etc. and not just how to get traffic to and from the suburbs as quickly as possible.

Here's a look at vehicles and people sharing the intersection from back in 1958!
Seven stories about Portage and Main West End Dumplings


Anonymous said...

I feel that opening the intersection is righting a wrong, at last!

Anonymous said...

Its a problem that some major north south routes (Osborne and Main) go right through residential, eating, and shopping areas creating this conflict.

Anonymous said...

As Wyatt said the report/study was penned by a city planner, not an engineer.
Wild estimates and timelines and the cost to close it all down and fill in the gap and pedestrianize above ground will cost $50 -$70 M.
Gillingham is being very disingenuous saying the city can't afford the repairs.
A true clown show down at 510 Main Street.

One Man Committee said...

Opening the intersection would be great and is something that's long overdue. But getting rid of the concourse is unfortunate, that will be the loss of a major amenity for the downtown community. Interrupting the continuity of the downtown walkway will probably also result in the emptying out of the parts of the underground sections that will remain.

I think that more consideration needs to be given to finding a way to extend the life of the Portage and Main concourse, and ideally, to freshen it up as well.