Tuesday, November 03, 2009

For what it's worth

"Few set up shop in mixed-use buildings" proclaims yesterday's Free Press Business headline, noting the continued presence of "for lease" in the commercial spaces on the ground floor of condominium developments along Waterfront Drive, as well as in Osborne Village and in the "French Quarter."

In spite of these slow starts, commercial space on the ground floor of new developments should continue to be de rigueur, certainly in any commercial district, or one that strives to be.

A better (and much more novel) idea is to not tear down old mixed-use buildings where retail space tends to be cheaper. This article makes it sounds like storefront retail was seen as something valuable and sought after, yet almost every significant off-Waterfront project in the Exchange District and north of it to Higgins Avenue--actual or conceptual--has involved tearing down old commercial buildings that would have been had a better chance of attracting retail tenants than the new, expensive shopfronts that affix parking garages. United Way headquarters and WRHA on Main, Sport Manitoba on Pacific, Grain Exchange Building on Lombard, St. Charles Hotel on Albert, and Ryan Block on King... How is it that so little can be built or redeveloped without small commercial buildings first being destroyed?

A walk down Albert Street shows that population density does not necessarily precede some kind of commercial developments. In spite of its success, the Exchange District is still a fledgling, risky commercial market, and so retailers are going to carefully search for spaces based on price and location. Theoretically, however, enough of these independent enterprises operating in cheap old spaces will add to the desirability of the immediate area, and make higher rents in new buildings an easier sell (or lease, to be less metaphorical).

Perhaps a re-read of Chapter 10 of The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs is in order. And I mean really read the chapter. This whole old building-hugging that has been a dominant theme of this blog ad nauseum, is not just for aesthetic reasons--because some building is a good example of late Romanesque Revival; or for historical sentimentality--because some moustachioed gent built a dry goods empire there back in 1911; these buildings are an economic necessity if downtown districts of "grocery stores, bakeries or coffee shops and restaurants" are truly hoped for. (However, if an unlivable, unattractive, disconnected and sprawling collections of lone non-profit heritage buildings surrounded by parking lots and "for lease" signs is what you want, Winnipeg, keep going: you're half-way there.)

9 Comments:

Blogger MacD said...

Will the Exchange ever resemble something in one of the larger (warmer) cities? I think Winnipeg folk prefer to shop in a mall when it's -40F.

7:53 PM  
Blogger urbandude said...

Winnipeg folk eat what you serve them. They are not that worldly. But they will hang out if the Exchange was like Corydon. Lots of storefronts, shops and restaurants.

As I said before this version of CV is useless. Nor the Board nor City Hall is smart enough to know that all this BS development is actually setting back the downtown.

WRHA and the United Way does nothing for the area. They are in the middle of nowhere. Same with Sport Mb. building.

Yup, better then empty buildings, but what a WASTE of resources, planning and capital. It adds up to NADA.

Even all 3 of them combined if they were closer together, could not support a small coffee shop.

Now put those projects on Portage, the same block, and all of the sudden the 2 - 3 shops around it survive and proper.

Put those projects into a TOD development on Main Street, mixed with housing and all of the sudden your talking a new ball game for the downtown.

Wasted opportunties.

9:19 PM  
Blogger urbandude said...

Winnipeg folk eat what you serve them. They are not that worldly. But they will hang out if the Exchange was like Corydon. Lots of storefronts, shops and restaurants.

As I said before this version of CV is useless. Nor the Board nor City Hall is smart enough to know that all this BS development is actually setting back the downtown.

WRHA and the United Way does nothing for the area. They are in the middle of nowhere. Same with Sport Mb. building.

Yup, better then empty buildings, but what a WASTE of resources, planning and capital. It adds up to NADA.

Even all 3 of them combined if they were closer together, could not support a small coffee shop.

Now put those projects on Portage, the same block, and all of the sudden the 2 - 3 shops around it survive and proper.

Put those projects into a TOD development on Main Street, mixed with housing and all of the sudden your talking a new ball game for the downtown.

Wasted opportunties.

9:19 PM  
Blogger Mr. Nobody said...

because some moustachioed gent built a dry goods empire there back in 1911;



Time to grow a moustache RG. There may be a very good reason entrepreneurs won't take a risk.

Whats needed are greenhorns who'll take a shellacking.

10:25 PM  
Blogger MacD said...

Even Corydon is highly over-rated. There are very few shops. It'
s not like you'd have much of a reason to stroll around on a Saturday afternoon. It's a bunch of restaurants for the most part, but better than nothing I suppose.

7:48 PM  
Blogger Dallas said...

Corydon is overrated. The storefront continuity is disrupted in many places: the MTS building at Daly, the Shell station, the 7-Eleven, etc. But at least it is surrounded by medium density residential streets—the Exchange District has no population base.

The problem isn't that mixed-use isn't working, but that the mixed use buildings aren't being placed within the context of a cohesive and preëxisting urban storefront district. Get rid of the parking lot at Corydon and Arbuthnot and put in its place a five-storey apartment-condo building with 7-Eleven and two other storefronts at sidewalk level—then you'll see results.

2:44 AM  
Blogger Mr. Nobody said...

Get rid of the parking lot at Corydon and Arbuthnot and put in its place a five-storey apartment-condo building


great idea. When will you be getting your permit and breaking ground ?

8:35 AM  
Blogger Dallas said...

Soon as your mom pays me for last night.

1:51 PM  
Blogger Mr. Nobody said...

be a long wait, she's dead, I hope you filled the grave back up and cleaned up.

8:54 PM  

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