DOWNTOWN MOVES FORWARD:
DOWNTOWN BIZ TOUR AND DIALOGUE WITH PROVINCIAL MLAs CREATES DOWNTOWN ACTION ITEMS
Downtown Winnipeg — An interactive and participatory tour and dialogue of our downtown on June 18, 2012 gave provincial MLAs a reenergized view of the inner workings of the city centre and the Downtown BIZ. During this tour, the BIZ had an opportunity to engage and get input from MLAs and Ministers about their vision for our downtown, in relation to the needs of their neighbourhood stakeholders of whom they represent.
“Non-downtown MLAs and Ministers have a significant stake in our downtown. Their constituents come downtown to work, to play, to be entertained, to shop – their opinion matters,” said Stefano Grande, Executive Director of the Downtown BIZ. “The socioeconomic and sustainable health of our entire city is judged by the physical appearance of our downtown and the social dynamics of its people. Understanding the needs of our downtown community and implementing valuable services and initiatives is more critical today than ever before.”
As seen in cities across the world, a healthy, vibrant and growing downtown is important to a prosperous and exciting city. The efforts of both the public and private sector over the last decade have been significant and continued progress from both a social and physical development perspective is fundamental to maintaining the positive momentum created.
The following ideas and issues were communicated and some discussed at lengths:
•Increase our partnership with the province’s Urban Green Team.
•Ensure provincial properties are the cleanest buildings and maintained to the highest standards.
Safety and Social Issues:
•Social challenges in our community can only be addressed when our community works together. The BIZ plays a role in raising awareness through its Change for the Better CEO Sleepout.
•Work with the city and province to effectively transfer the work of our Outreach program to the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS), by increasing the number of cadets in our downtown region to 10, while still ensuring the same measurables are met.
•Continue building supportive housing as a means of ending homelessness.
•Employment of our homeless community, through programs like Change for the Better and Siloam Mission’s Mission: Off the Streets Team (MOST).
•The BIZ is in the process of creating a new program that will focus on 4-6 Outreach workers providing case-management support on the front lines of our downtown, helping our city’s most vulnerable citizens.
Planning and Advocacy:
•A strategic downtown housing plan is critical in ensuring community development efforts are successful and in ensuring a stronger market for continued housing independent of government assistance.
•Encourage the development of more than one mixed-use district at a time, using our new downtown TIF and planning approach, and establish a clear vision for each downtown district.
•Encourage the city to focus on more infill and redirect the real estate market inward.
•A denser downtown and inner city for people of all incomes leads to greater vibrancy, greater sustainability, and a stronger real estate market and a fiscally strong and responsible city.
•Rapid re-development of surface parking lots can only be achieved by private/public partnerships and through the application of innovative programs like TIF.
•When provincial dollars are involved in redevelopment efforts, demand mixed-use developments
Transit and Transportation:
•Engage in discussion with downtown organizations, city, and provincial politicians about the feasibility of a free downtown street car in Winnipeg.
•A downtown trolley connecting to the city’s rapid transit system is the next evolution of the Downtown Spirit in keeping with a progressive and sustainable downtown, with a focus on creating more dense development around the downtown transit terminals.
•Promote Rapid Transit and alternative forms of active transportation. Encourage sustainable transportation challenges like walking to work, biking to work, and bus-transit initiatives within the businesses we represent.
•LRT or BRT: In 20 years? Winnipeg should have both forms of rapid transit, just like every other city that has an integrated transit system. Let’s keep going!
•Encourage the province to lead and certify its downtown parking lots.
•Downtown will require aggressive design guidelines for surface parking lots, in order to enhance the image of our downtown.
Other dialogue involved: promotion of aboriginal business development in the area of art, marketing and promotion our downtown to the development and investment community and ensuring our hospitality workforce is fully trained and ready to capitalize on business development opportunities.
“Our downtown is the only neighbourhood in the city that belongs to all Winnipeg citizens, all year round,” said Grande. “And our downtown distinguishes Winnipeg from every other city in the world. Let’s keep our downtown on the map!”
For more information on the Downtown BIZ, please visit www.downtownwinnipegbiz.com.