Winnipeg City Council might be on the verge of condemning a vast area of central Winnipeg to being a concrete wasteland for decades to come.
The area in question is the former site of the Winnipeg Stadium adjacent to the Polo Park mall. Two development companies have proposed an elaborate project, integrated with the Polo Park mall next door, that includes residential towers on the vacant lot where I once saw Rod Hill make 5 interceptions in one game.
The concern is that 24 hour operation of the airport might be in jeopardy because of noise complaints from residents of the new apartment towers. Indeed that’s why the Airport Vicinity Protection Area limits new housing around the airport.
But is this a reasonable concern? It wouldn’t be the first time that residents of a new development have tried to cause an existing one to change because of noise complaints. But there are a few points to be made here that many people have made previously but don’t seem to be registering:
- residents will be moving in to these new apartments with full knowledge that they are in a potential airport flight path.
- there are existing residential developments in the area, including apartment towers.
- airplanes are quieter than they used to be.
- buildings can be constructed to minimize outside noise intrusion, much like the hotels AT THE ACTUAL AIRPORT.
Lastly, if people complain, you don’t have to listen to them.
PEOPLE: Here is a petition with 50 signatures from our apartment demanding that the airport stop operating at night.
ME AS MAYOR: *carefully folds the petition into a perfectly symmetrical paper airplane. Lights it on fire. Glides it off of the Esplanade Riel into the night and watches as it drifts towards the water, the flickering of the flame getting smaller and smaller until it flicks out with a tiny puff of steam as it hits the water.*
Why do I care? Because if this project does not happen, I’m afraid that nothing will.
What’s going to go here? Retail? What retail? When the Kenaston big box stores opened, big box stores like Canadian Tire on Pembina Highway closed. When Seasons of Tuxedo opened, the outlet stores at Kenaston Common started to close. We’re playing retail wack-a-mole and not winning anything besides vacant storefronts.
The announcement of Seasons of Tuxedo may have also contributed to the death of a proposed “Retail Mecca” on the very same Polo Park land we’re talking about now, pitched by former media mogul David Asper when the old stadium was coming down.
I don’t think I need to tell you that bricks-and-mortar retails is not thriving in general. Moreover, when the “new normal” arrives post-pandemic it’s even less likely to bounce back.
What about offices? There is still more office space yet to come downtown, and for business that don’t want to locate downtown, the Tuxedo Office Park continues to explode. Besides all of this, there is yet another development with office and commercial space being developed just north of Waverley West. I’m polishing my crystal ball as hard as I can and I just don’t see retail and office space springing up on this concrete seagull playground. Maybe a couple of giant warehouses or something but that is hardly a great use of prime real estate with bus access to everywhere.
One thing we do need and will always need, however, is housing. This could be a vibrant mixed use area generating property tax income and breathing life into a stale area. Maybe even one day supported by a rapid transit connection to downtown or the airport???
Unfortunately, if council follows the lead of the executive policy committee and votes against amending the secondary plan for the area to allow the development, another record will be set where Rod Hill once played: the former stadium site is likely to eclipse Kapyong Barracks as the longest and most colossal waste of valuable property in Winnipeg.