A great downtown BIZ’s goal

Stefano Grande Downtown
Stefano Grande

Following a three-month public engagement and consultation process with 2,000 people who live, work and play in downtown Winnipeg, the Downtown Winnipeg Biz knows exactly what it has to do to take the downtown from good to great. That to-do list includes increasing night life while improving safety, adapting sidewalks and streets to better accommodate pedestrian and cycling traffic, promoting inclusiveness and embracing Indigenous culture, developing diverse housing options and new parking strategies, connecting distinct districts, beautifying public places, and supporting harm reduction initiatives.

downtown-ca“The Downtown Winnipeg BIZ’s vision for the next three years is to get our downtown to go from good to great, and the Downtown BIZ has an important role to play, from our programs to our research and advocacy efforts,” says Stefano Grande, CEO of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ. “We will now take these priority areas and have them inform our departments, as we prepare for the development now of our 2017-2019 Strategic Plan.”

Established in 1989 by the City of Winnipeg, the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ is the oldest of Winnipeg’s 16 business improvement zones and represents more than 1,300 businesses. With over 16,446 people living downtown, 69,000 office workers coming downtown each weekday, and more than 24,000 students learning at 22 downtown universities and technical schools, the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ has a unique perspective and a vested interest in the well-being of our community.

The Downtown Biz’s public consultation process took place from June to September 2016 via surveys, meetings and engagement sessions, and resulted in a lively and honest analysis of what the area offers, what it needs, what it does well and how it can improve.

Overall, there was wide consensus that because the Downtown Biz has been such a stalwart champion of the area, the downtown has become a destination neighbourhood characterized by optimism, innovation and excitement.

Downtowners generally feel safe. They love the area’s sense of community, festivals, food trucks, farmer’s market, movie nights, walking tours and pop up restaurants and shops. They appreciate the ongoing placemaking activities, the greening of the area’s public places and the efforts that have been made to preserve the neighbourhood’s heritage and character.

But they also see room for improvement and new opportunities.

Downtowners would like to see more restaurants, bars and night life, but they also would like an assurance that they will continue to feel safe coming and going from that nightlife. Because they increasingly like to walk and cycle to their destinations, downtowners would appreciate better night time lighting, more bike paths and bike racks, and an overall more integrated transportation system.

They would like a more defined, more user-friendly parking strategy for when cars are inevitable, and they would like opportunities to learn about Indigenous culture and history. They would like to see the neighbourhood become more inclusive and equitable, and would gladly support more initiatives like CHAT, the Continuous Homeless Assistance Team.

The Downtown Biz was thrilled that so many people felt invested in the community and were eager to have their voices heard in the public consultation process. Now it is eagerly responding.

“The Downtown Winnipeg BIZ is committed to explore, evolve, and change to address the top priorities established by our community,” says Debbie O Bray, chair of the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ.

Stefano Grande is executive director of Downtown Winnipeg BIZ.

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