This will save the downtown, this will keep people downtown, this will solve the problem.
It’s the same story we’ve heard before. From the construction of the Underground Concourse at Portage and Main in 1979, to when Portage Place mall opened in 1987 and the MTS Centre in 2004 – Winnipeg’s downtown revitalization all depended on these large-scale projects.
We’re seeing it again in the development of True North Square. The city and province will be spending $17.6 million on the project, with the hope that it will “help bring more people downtown and continues to build a downtown Winnipeg we can all be proud of,” according to Mayor Brian Bowman.
Let’s hope that history won’t repeat itself and the downtown “renaissance” that former Premier Greg Selinger spoke of might be the real thing.
But I have little faith in that system of revitalization.
The Downtown Business Improvement Zone (Downtown BIZ) has also tried its hand in downtown revitalization through its “Urban Wallpaper Project,” and Indigenous Artwalk.
I’ve chalked it up to being more of a beautifier than a revitalization. Although I do commend the Downtown BIZ for trying.
The good news is someone from the province is getting it. The province is providing funding for two grant pro- grams that help small local businesses and entrepreneurs open up shop in downtown’s vacant spaces.
Face Forward and the PUSH Program (Pop Up Shop Hop) were launched by CentreVenture Development Corporation, an establishment that focuses on developing and implementing down- town projects.
These programs have subsidized costs for businesses such as Lennard Taylor, From Here and Away, Verde Plant Design, and Thom Bargen.
And soon, 389 Broadway will be home to another local shop before the holiday season.
Face Forward provides new and exist- ing retailers and property owners grants for renovations and store improvements. These grants range from $2,500 to $15,000 depending on the full cost of the upgrade.
The PUSH Program subsidizes the cost of ground level rentals and provides short-term rentals for local retailers interested in broadening their business. Retailers pay a $500 to $750 monthly bill, plus insurance, security and their own set up costs, which can be half or one-third of the cost it usually takes to set up shop downtown.
I can only hope to see a clothing store, a craft or commercial studio, or a pop-up restaurant in 389 Broadway space – but it’s unfortunately not up to me.
This is one of the ways I see our city improving.
Joy Balmana is a Public Relations major in Creative Communications.
Her free time is spent wandering around Winnipeg’s downtown galleries, other cites across the world, or
her kitchen figuring out what to cook next.
See the world her way on Instagram at @byoj or
hear what all that muttering is on Twitter @_byoj.