Watch CBC News Manitoba on July 31st at 5:00 pm to hear the perspective of other Residents of the Exchange.
The Exchange District has found its way into the ‘News’ lately and it seems what they have wanted to talk about is some issues related to promoting living in the exchange. An example being a $10 000 dollar incentive to entice people to make the Exchange District their home. As with most ‘News’ snipits these days, they seem to present an oversimplified version of what is happening in the ‘Exchange District’ as to reconcile a perceived notion there is a diminished sale of Condos in the area. The new Condos built on James Street by Streetside Development Corporation were built without a parking stall. For Winnipegers given our current mindset; parking is an important aspect when making our decision to buy a Condo. Now to be fair to Streetside, when they were building these Condos the City or Parking Authority would offer Residential Parking Passes to allow individuals access to street parking. Purchasing this with proof of residency the Winnipeg Parking Authority provided a pass that allowed Residents (with some stipulations) access to street parking for twenty-five dollars a year. This program is being disbanded as of the end of August this year. In its place the Winnipeg Parking Authority offered Residents a possible solution that would now cost one hundred dollars a month, allow the Resident to park on a few side streets in the area but no guarantee there would be a spot available for them. This additional 1200 dollars a year is in addition to paying your taxes, condo fees and for most people the mortgage. Let’s not forget that not that long ago these mostly vacant land spaces generated very little revenue for the City of Winnipeg, businesses in the area or Winnipeg School Division.
The second committment residents had been the building of a Parkade on James Street. Yesterday, the Winnipeg Free Press reported the City of Winnipeg was no longer looking to build that promised James Street Parkade. The other difficulty is that the City of Winnipeg does not require developers to provide parking for the Condos they build. Condos that have parking are more expensive to build. Let it be said that the Condos in the Exchange that do have parking as part of the purchase are still selling. The second phase of Sky Waterfront is an example of that. With construction not yet complete only four Condos remain.
Centre Venture’s proposal to the City of Winnipeg had numerous other proposals put forth to Council that look at long-term solutions and provide the opportunity to enhance the community. However, the news has not concentrated on those initiatives. There is no doubt, that long-term Winnipegers will need to look at becoming a little greener and rely less heavily on cars. It is true, in many cities, citizens who live downtown may not have vehicles but their infrastrucutre is different. often with many more transportation solutions. From the perspective of a Resident of the area looking at the 10 000 dollar incentive it seems to be a way to assist Streetside sell Condos not because the Exchange is not a great place and desirable place to live but because the city made a few changes to what was offered and to be offered to Residents and prospective Residents in the area therefore making ‘Condos without parking’ even less desirable to future downtown dwellers.
The exchange is a vibrant and exciting community to live in. The residents play a valuable role in supporting the development and businesses in the area. Just this week there was the excitement of the Fringe Festival, Les Miserable and of course the Goldeyes are in town. This does not include the numerous patios and restaurants in the area that make downtown living vibrant and exciting. Most evenings and weekends I park my car and walk everywhere taking advantage of all the richness of my neighbourhood. There is a ‘Residents of the Exchange’ group that works hard at building community for Residents through almost monthly activities as well as organizing a yearly clean-up of the area. The Exchange District is no doubt a Cultural Hub for the City of Winnipeg with a home to numerous galleries, theatres and venues to enjoy music and diverse foods. Top it off by being walking distance to ‘The Forks’ and all that it offers, it is hard to imagine someone being bored living downtown. People cycle, walk and jog in the area taking in the richness of the architecture in the area.
So is the 10 000 dollar incentive required to entice people to live in this dynamic and evolving community, well not in most circumstances. If the City was serious about continuing to have the Exchange District grow, they will look seriously at an Urban Development plan that includes parking and transportation issues as well as the provision of an affordable grocery store in the area. Sometimes as a leader in any level of government it is difficult to do the right thing. Afterall at times the right thing for the long-term growth of our country, province or city is not going to make people happy. Hopefully when we look at continued Urban Development we can take the politics out of it and concentrate on doing what is right.