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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

ROAD SHOW: Hay Hay Winnipeg!

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To coincide with the launch of Spacing’s first national issue, the magazine presents the Spacing Road Show, a tour of 10 Canadian cities this summer. In each city Spacing will host an event with a panel discussion and party. The western swing of the Road Show takes place between June 16-to July 5. The eastern Canada jaunt runs from July 19-25. The Spacing Road Show is sponsored by BMO SmartSteps for Homeowners and supported by Autoshare and the Canada Council for the Arts.

WINNIPEG —The first event of any tour — whether it’s a rock show or a magazine launch — can be a little nerve wracking. Especially when it’s in a city where no one has ever really heard of you and you’re relying on social media, word of mouth, and a little media whoring to get asses in the seats (I got myself and the Road Show promo’d on Breakfast Television, CBC Radio, and the local Metro paper).

I was eating dinner at the Winnipeg Free Press news cafe (I love the idea of a newspaper having a ground level cafe!) about 30 minutes before the doors were supposed to open at the gallery when I received a call that people were already arriving. This was a good sign and my nervousness was easily replaced by excitement.

The three panelists that took part in the panel — Richard Milgrom (University of Manitoba, Planning), Christopher Leo (University of Winnipeg, Political Science), Robert Galston (local blogger of Rise and Sprawl) —were wonderful speakers and provided local insight into where urbanism is headed in Winnipeg.

Probably the most amusing part of the night was the seating. If you look closely at the photo above the people sitting along the back wall were actually on top of bundles of hay. The hay is for an upcoming exhibit in the gallery, but the gallery’s curator Joe Kalturnyk and myself set up the bushels as makeshift bleachers. There is nothing more urban than hay, right?

One of the more interesting elements to emerge from the discussion was that, in the opinion of the panel, Winnipeg doesn’t really experience gentrification in the same way as large cities like Toronto and Vancouver. Because Winnipeg is a slow-growth city, the change-over in local neighbourhoods is gradual and doesn’t shock a neighbourhood (unlike Toronto’s Queen West Triangle or Ossington strip).Yes, young people are buying houses for $10,000 in Point Douglas and fixing them up, but that hasn’t translated into a rash of Starbucks and Whole Foods outlets.

Another point of pride for Winnipegers was the recent advancement in bike infrastructure. A few years ago, a Critical Mass ride turned ugly when the police confronted cyclists; soon images of the conflict — among them young people getting kicked by the police — inspired a much larger crowd of local residents to come out for the following Critical Mass ride. Since that incident, the City has been working hard to blend better bike infrastructure into the road system. All over the Exchange District — the top public space for Winnipeg in our national issue — cyclists can find former car parking spots that have been converted into bike parking (shown below).

By the end of the show, about 100 people had passed through the gallery space and all three boxes of the magazine allocated for Winnipeg had been sold.

During the two days that preceded the show I got to take my bike around the city. I stopped in at the Graffiti Gallery where a workshop for young mothers and their kids was in high gear (no, there were no toddlers wandering around with spray cans — it was a program aimed at providing free art lessons to local residents who normally do not have access to this kind of activity).

The other place I spent a fair bit of time at was The Forks, which is fast becoming the premier gathering space for Winnipgers, including skaters and trick bikers. The skate park — only 75 metres from the future home of the Human Rights Museum that is under construction — is probably the best skate park I’ve seen in Canada and it was packed with high school kids trying their newest moves.

The river trail system — another public space highlighted in our issue — was sadly under water when I arrived. The rivers were nearly eight feet higher than normal and the walking paths were nowhere to be seen.

After three days of exploring the city, I left Winnipeg for our next show in Saskatoon.

NEXT UP: I’ve got a crush on you, Saskatoon


One comment

  1. “Osborne Village” is a gentrified neighborhood in Winnipeg, although the process has been ongoing for decades. Back in the 1990s the Osborne Village Safeway supermarket was consistently voted the best or second best place to meet singles.