Wednesday, December 03, 2008

An exercise in redundancy

Yesterday evening I went to Argyle School to observe the south Point Douglas secondary plan consultation forum. It seems hopeful, but unfortunately the real plan for south Point Douglas has already been in the works for some time. It is called a four-lane Louise Bridge.

By replacing the Louise with a four-lane bridge, and possibly easing its connection to Nairn Avenue, traffic traveling through south Point Douglas Higgins Avenue will increase exponentially. It is a little hard to plan a "unique urban neighborhood" with a "village feel" when there is an at-grade freeway racing by. Hoping that "cars won't be here in ten years" (one suggestion from the crowd), or that "more people use the active transportation corridor" (suggested from the floor) is not a solution and will do nothing to change the fact that south Point Douglas will increasingly become an obnoxious automobile slum.

The imaginative wishing of an assortment of artists, graying planning professors and their students, planners, activists, union bosses (yes, CUPE Local 500 reps were there), and self-denying hipster gentrifiers, will not be enough to outweigh the need to get Transconians to and from Monster Truck Madness at the MTS Centre as quickly as possible.

Sadly, the participants put more effort into practical matters, such as finding ways to remove the Canadian Pacific mainline and restricting condo development, than on finding ways to calm traffic and mitigate the disastrous effects that traffic engineers have wrought upon the neighborhood.

Other goodies:
-Setting the clock back a couple hundred years, planners called for one square foot of greenspace for every square foot of building space. Does that include existing buildings, or multi-storied buildings? Either way, if I wanted to live in a neighborhood that had this kind of built/open ratio, I would have moved to the R.M. of Macdonald or East St. Paul
-Following the one-for-one idea, one suggestion was to have a subsidized residential unit for every "market" residential unit
-Much attention/public funding to go to artists, who appear to be the only white people who will allowed to reside in this utopia
-Mechanisms put in place so that taxes do not go up for "low income" residents
-Barely a mention on design standards from anyone

The Lord Selkirk Park developments offers plenty of affordable housing and a good percentage of green space

Of course, in spite of wanting a half-green space, half-low income ghetto with no increases in property tax values (sounds like south Point Douglas of the last 30 years), everyone seemed to want more services like grocery stores and cafes.

Preferably stores and cafes that sell (or better yet, give out) cakes that can be eaten and kept.

20 Comments:

Anonymous nick said...

Shitty.

There's a reason why I probably won't be returning to Winnipeg anytime soon, instead living very modestly in urban downtown Toronto, and this is symptomatic of that reason.

1:07 PM  
Blogger Matt Gemmel said...

I appreciate your comments on last night's meeting at Argyle School. There were many ideas that are perhaps contradictory: more greenspace/ higher density, high end waterfront condos/ low income housing, improved access/ preservation of existing street pattern, to name a few. And I think your right to point out that a secondary planning process that emphasizes walkability and New Urbanist design principles is doomed to fail if simultaneous plans to expand the Disraili and the Lousise Bridges are not taken into consideration.

My main concern with development plans for South Point Doulgas is that they will not likely consider the needs or desires of the largest population currently using the area -- the hundreds of tenants of the hotels, rooming houses and shelters on and around Main Street.

The emphasis that I heard placed on the need for low-income, non-market or social housing at the meeting last night, was voiced out of a very reasonable concern that if the City, land owners and developers have their way, hundreds who now call South Point Douglas home will be made to feel unwelcome, will be further criminalized by the inevitable presence of BIZ patrols and more aggressive policing, and will be displaced to other neighbourhoods as hotels get turned into condos and gentrification runs it's course.

Given your dual perspective as a Point Doulgas resident and a Main Street Project employee, I wonder what your thoughts are on these concerns. From reading some of your other posts on this blog I get the sense that you are suspicious, if not completely opposed, to government involvement in housing. I suppose I can understand this if your suspicion is of state dependency, or of the state acting as a slum-lord, though personally I see a vital role for the state to play here, and I am embarrassed by the complete lack of a comprehensive housing policy at the municipal, provincial or federal levels.

Regardless, I am curious to know how you think the development of South Point Douglas (or North Point Douglas for that matter) will avoid a transition that will see these neighbourhoods taken over by white upper-middle-class folks, hipster or otherwise, forcing incumbent residents to leave the area, WITHOUT the provision, likely through a legally binding process such as the Secondary Plan, of a minimum number of units for lower income, or no income, people.

2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suggest you get some of out of towners to plan this area. Obviously the made at home group has no clue what to do.

The area should be pedestrian. At some point in time a stand must be taken.

But you know what, we in Winnipeg have a long history of planning properly. I'm sure you'll make an absolute mess of it.

3:42 PM  
Anonymous unclebob said...

Most knowledgable consultants and facilitators could foresee such an outcome - which means to me it was intended

8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why don't you draw up your own plans, and present them to the community. If the community likes them maybe the city will adopt same?

Providing affordable housing has been delivered by community not for profits for about 10 years now.

I do wish MHA would divest thier social housing stock to not for profits, good one's, as they tend to do a better job than government.

9:07 PM  
Anonymous cd said...

Hey "Nick" are you the same guy that wavered & flip-flopped on his support for the Winnipeg subway plan, designed by the same guy that brought you the TTC subway? If so—fuck you, you two-faced, wishy-washy turd! Don't think I'm hiding behind a keyboard—if I catch you on the street I promise you'll hear me say this in your face.

Hey Rob—you frustrated enough yet? Trying to work with everyday bumpkins who couldn't understand an urban neighborhood even if you held their hands and explained it in a slow monotone? Can't blame you. Just keep in mind who your allies are. I'll see you in a couple weeks.

As for me, 24-hour streetcar service, a subway station steps away, and plenty of local services are keeping me satisfied—and my European sports coupe parked. Wow to think that when I drive 160 km/h on the 401 I'm not really going anywhere, just letting off some stress and enjoying tanks of gas at 1999 prices.

Winnipeg will never get anywhere until its citizens "in the know" grow some balls and take action to demand what's required with a voice so thunderous as to be heard above the uninformed murmurs of the majority.

1:24 AM  
Blogger nick said...

Oh Dallas Hansen... resorting once again to name-calling on the internet. Not sure why a random guy from a message board with no influence on anything in Winnipeg has an opinion that is worth calling out years later... but, do whatever you need to do.

3:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As is this blog's wont, I think the negative effects of an expanded Louise Bridge are being dramatically overstated.

One could just as easily conclude that a major route will bring traffic and make real estate along the strip more desirable, as well as improving transit connections through the neighbourhood.

8:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Winnipeg will never get anywhere until its citizens "in the know"
\

That may be the problem. They don't know anything and may not have the prerequisite balls to do anything.

8:50 AM  
Blogger relic said...

you should try to apply for a grant to hire consultants capable of turning vague ideas of residents into a cohesive plan/vision.

9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I fail to see how expanding the Louise Bridge to four lanes would be detrimental to Point Douglas. It's not like there is a simultaneous proposal to widen Higgins Ave. to eight lanes and increase the speed limit to 80 km/h. Should we narrow the Osborne Bridge to two lanes to enhance the walking experience in the Village? If the argument is that the money would be better spent on rail based rapid transit then make that argument but do not make erroneous suggestions. Furthermore if the traffic flow is diverted to remove heavy traffic from Nairn west of Watt Street this would exponentially raise the quality of life and perhaps property values in that part of Elmwood which has many historic homes and buildings including the La Salle Hotel. It should always be considered that the health of any city's downtown area is based greatly on the health of the surrounding areas. One of the major reasons Winnipeg's downtown is not thriving is because it is surrounded on three sides by the North End, West End, Elmwood and St. Boniface, all areas with substantial poverty and very little disposable income.

1:43 PM  
Blogger The Rise and Sprawl said...

Thanks for your comments, Matt.

In spite of changes in recent years, at the current pace of urban renewal in SPD, it would be more than a century before the actual displacement of the neighborhood's transient classes by gentrification. There has been much displacing of people in South Point Douglas in recent years, and a net loss in affordable housing units, but this comes not from gentrification, but from decline and a wholly sanctioned renewal project--Neeginan.

I believe that improvements to the area will allow for more affordable housing, since more existing units will not be lost to decline (ie, the house on Maple St. I watched burn to the ground a few years ago), and private-market developers can get a return on investments in building affordable units (the reason every condo in the Exchange costs so much is because even that neighborhood is still so much of a financial risk).

I am skeptical of public housing because in spite of sometimes noble intentions, the results have been disastrous. The MHA, and even some non-profits, have proven to be the worst landlords in my neigborhood. Yet unlike the private market slumlord, they can escape public accountability by saying "I'm doing this for the public interest," and "if I'm negligent, it's only because I need more money from Ottawa." Still, there is a need for government-subsidized housing (and of course, emergency shelters), I'm just sure what the best way to go about this is. Vouchers on rent might have better results.

Lance Freeman, a planning prof at Columbia University has also studied and written extensively on gentrification. His argument is that increased property values/improvements in poor neighborhoods actually increases stability among the poor inhabitants, because there is an actual reason to stay (safer streets, more shops and services to walk to, etc.)

Harassing BIZ patrols and a poor WPS/public relationship is not a necessary outcome of further improvements. For downtown Winnipeg to be successful, the white and middle class must be able to live in closer proximity to the poor. The poor (and their advocates) must also accept that some wealthy people are going to live there, too. South Point Douglas is a big place, and, I believe, has room for a lot more of every one. Restricting development to combat a non-existent problem doesn't seem to serve anyone's interests.

3:57 PM  
Blogger The Rise and Sprawl said...

Matt--

-I meant to say "I'm just NOT sure what the best way to go about this is. Vouchers on rent might have better results."

-By Neeginan, I meant the construction of the Circle of Life Thunderbird House, which meant the eviction of the residents of the Patricia Hotel. A fledgling Siloam Mission and a couple of businesses were also sent packing.

4:03 PM  
Blogger The Rise and Sprawl said...

Anon #3 said: "One could just as easily conclude that a major route will bring traffic and make real estate along the strip more desirable, as well as improving transit connections through the neighbourhood."

That was the hope for Point Douglas at the time of the Disraeli Freeway construction. Overall, do you think that Point Douglas improved since 1959?

6:20 PM  
Anonymous unclebob said...

Rob
You have probably considered some of the flaws in the planning process.

I wonder if a bit more attention to the process as opposed to the never ending demand to be vigilant in terms of the outcome might be productive?

With today's understanding of group dynamics and today's tools a more collaborative approach should easily be possible.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got it. We need a mountain. Our very own Mount Royal ( or Mont Real )

Come to think of it, there are some interesting neighborhoods over there, maybe we should just "COPY " one.

Just a thought.

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to the 6:20 post, I would say that there is a world of difference between an elevated expressway with no buildings that line it, and a regular arterial street like Osborne, Nairn or Provencher.

Obviously another Disraeli would be disastrous for PD, but what are the odds of that happening? It is more than likely that any reconfigured Higgins Avenue would be a four-lane with speed limit of 50 km/h like all other downtown streets. At most it might have six lanes (with two of those providing parking except during rush hour).

If planned properly, this street could easily build on the strength of the improvements surrounding it in the Exchange District, North Main and Point Douglas. There needs to be a concerted effort to make that happen, though, and to not take the lazy way of providing a bunch of dead zones (so-called "green space", parking lots and underutilized low-density buildings) that only thwarts efforts to establish a functioning community.

9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dallas - how is that black hole you have been banished too.

You Fucking looser

10:18 PM  
Anonymous MR_Point said...

damit!

anyhow may i bring to the front the fact that narin and talbot are all suffering a decline these days...

8:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Point, let me just say, no one cares about Nairn and Talbot,

This City has a huge issue with the 225 plus acre division right in the middle of it. Talk about planning are "pointless" if you don't even come close to addressing a long term 50/100 year , "where do we want to be " discussion,

Since there is no discussion, I reiterate, locals have no clue what to do . You need outside eyes to point and say, hey, thats ridiculous

5:37 PM  

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