Tag Archives: downtown winnipeg biz

Downtown belongs to the people

In our Winnipeg, it has always been a central and inclusive meeting place – where people have gathered, raised their voices, been heard and respected and kept safe.

Stefano Grande

Last month, hundreds of thousands of women and their supporters took to the streets in Washington, D.C. and in cities across the United States and Canada and around the world in anti-Trump marches. These marches – powerful, historic and inclusive – took place in the downtown neighbourhoods of their respective cities. Continue reading Downtown belongs to the people

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. Continue reading A great downtown BIZ’s goal

Reconciliation in our downtown core

Stefano Grande Downtown
Stefano Grande

In this Year of Reconciliation, the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ and its 1,300 members have approved a work plan that will build upon a culture that is welcoming, inclusive and based on mutual understanding and respect.

Downtown is the face of our entire city. The diversity of people, ethnicity and culture there is as rich as any in the world. Downtown is a place where our indigenous community’s culture, music, art and history strengths reside and are proudly displayed. Continue reading Reconciliation in our downtown core

Province must keep dialogue going on city’s future

Winnipeg and its downtown have come alive, but key social, economic and environmental tasks must yet be tackled to create the dynamic core that typifies – and animates – a prosperous city.

By Stefano Grande and Jason Syvixay

According to Statistics Canada, the population of Manitoba’s capital region will increase to 1.6 million, from 1.2 million, by 2036. The trends are clear – more people are moving to urban centres. With rising costs to infrastructure, health care, jobs and transportation networks, managing this population growth should be a central concern during the provincial election.

True global cities are competitive when their knowledge, capital and people are concentrated. With this in mind, social, economic and environmental concerns that pose a barrier to a sustainable province may be reconciled with greater investments in downtowns.

Research tells us downtowns can comprise less than one per cent of a city’s total land area but generate up to 25 per cent of a city’s tax base. Downtowns and vibrant business districts across the province are important economic and social drivers. From Selkirk to Brandon and Thompson to Steinbach, they contribute to community well-being, and their boundaries define the diverse values, aspirations and hopes of our citizens.

As our leaders begin to focus on policies and platforms during the provincial election, we encourage them to mobilize greater participation from the public. Community discussion shapes successful and resilient strategies. As leaders begin to value the virtues of a prosperous city, meaningful job opportunities for business and innovation will begin to flourish throughout the province.

Hosted by the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ and its stakeholders, a forum in late March held at the Winnipeg Art Gallery spurred discussion with party leaders on the value of downtown Winnipeg. The need for heritage preservation, robust transportation investments to support all modes of travel, ending homelessness and sustaining the use of tax increment financing (TIFs) for residential and downtown district development, were some of the broad conclusions formed. To read their responses to the forum’s questions, visit www.downtownwinnipegbiz.com.

The last decade has seen tremendous growth and change. One of the BIZ’s major priorities has been to keep downtown front and centre in the hearts and minds of the government and Manitobans. The media have played and continue to play a role in shaping the fabric of our city and the thoughts of its people.

Together we have elevated conversations about safety, homelessness, impacts of sprawl on the downtown and inner city and incentives to housing development. Celebrating the arrival of new developments, foot patrols, police cadets, housing for the homeless and new businesses has given our community much-needed confidence to begin believing in the downtown again. With more than $2 billion in private- and public-sector investment over the last decade, our downtown is on the cusp of rebirth.

So what does future momentum and success look like? Where should we be headed in the next 10 years?

The vision for our downtown looks like this: it will be a series of dense, pedestrian-friendly, interconnected neighbourhoods where people of all ages and incomes can live, work and shop. The Exchange District, Waterfront Drive, Chinatown, the sports, hospitality and entertainment district (SHED), the University of Winnipeg campus, Broadway, Graham Mall, The Forks and Main Street will become vibrant every day of the week.

To get there, we will have clear, long-term redevelopment plans that attract investment for both new and refurbished older buildings. And between these neighbourhoods, where today we find parking lots or eight-lane highways, tomorrow there will be well-designed storefronts and public spaces.

Private and public financing tools such as TIFs are readily available to stimulate this development, in particular to create affordable housing and new commercial spaces, which will support young people who want to invest, live and/or work downtown.

The substance abuse and homelessness we see today and the harms it creates for people will be better managed. The 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness will be fully supported and funded by government and the private sector, and hundreds of homes will be built. Social workers from agencies on the front lines are working together to rapidly house and surround people in need with supports. Downtown will be safer and more tolerant.

Downtown is a place where the culture, music, art and history of our indigenous community resides and is proudly displayed alongside that of our immigrants.

This is an awakening period for the city of Winnipeg, a time when the heart of our city has become fully alive. While the 1980s and nineties showed signs of resuscitation, the failure of deep-rooted policy and the lack of focus to stimulate sustained private-sector development and business growth have already been documented.

The job of ensuring the current momentum continues will now fall upon our next elected government.

Stefano Grande is executive director of the Downtown BIZ. Jason Syvixay is the BIZ manager.

Hope for the homeless: Former Siloam client helped by CEO Sleepout job (Story from Winnipeg Sun)

Mike HaskinsMike Haskins is seen in Winnipeg, Man. Monday Sept. 21, 2015. Haskins got a job with Downtown Winnipeg BIZ as a result of the CEO sleepout.

Mike Haskins is a living example of hope for Winnipeg’s homeless.

Two years ago, Haskins found himself living on the streets at 51 years old.

“Back then I had a small addiction to drugs,” Haskins, who was homeless for six months, said on Friday.

“I never thought I was going to become homeless, so I would spend my money carelessly and forget about bills and rent.

“Eventually it caught up to me and I became homeless. I was happy the Siloam Mission was there for me.”

Siloam Mission did more than provide shelter and food for Haskins, who received part-time employment through a program at the humanitarian organization on Princess Street. Thanks to funds raised in the annual CEO Sleepout, Haskins turned that opportunity into full-time employment with Downtown Winnipeg BIZ’s Metro Enviro-Team.

“I’ve gone from being homeless to being employed for just over a year with the BIZ,” Haskins said. “I’ve now got my own residence and I recently got married.”

That’s a far cry from where Haskins imagined he would be today without getting help.

“I think I would have still been on the streets, probably more addicted to drugs and wouldn’t have been working for the BIZ,” he said. “And I probably would have gotten into a life of crime.”

More than 100 leaders will participate in the fifth annual CEO Sleepout, which begins Thursday (8 p.m.) at 201 Portage Ave., and ends Friday (7 a.m.). The event aims to raise $200,000 to create employment opportunities for the homeless, while igniting dialogue among the CEOs about their role in addressing homelessness.

Since its inception in 2011, the CEO Sleepout has raised more than $500,000 to employ 137 people. Haskins is among those who’ve found full-time employment, while others have gone back to school.
Winnipeg Sun publisher Daria Zmiyiwsky is one of the CEOs taking part.

“When you see them hungry and going through garbage bins, it’s a tragedy,” said Zmiyiwsky, who lives downtown.

“We need to encourage Winnipeggers to go downtown and enjoy the beauty of it. We’ve got so much going on with the MTS Centre, we’ve got the new Merchant Kitchen, but I think some people are afraid of going downtown because of the homeless … but visibly there’s not enough people walking those same areas downtown.”

Many people have a misconception that homeless people are all lazy drug addicts, who don’t want to work toward a better life, Haskins said.

“They look at them like they are garbage on the street,” he said. “Everybody is there for a reason — some by their own choice and some have just fallen on hard times.

“I can remember when people used to look at me that way and it’s not fair.”

Haskins, while making his rounds at work with Downtown BIZ, far too often comes across people sleeping in bus shelters or asking for change.

“It almost brings a tear to my eyes, because this is where I was and I wish I could do more for them,” he said.

Zmiyiwsky believes the sleepout experience will only make her want to become more of an advocate for the homeless. She will also be setting up a clothes line to accept donations of women’s clothing, which will be used to help women get back into the workforce.

To learn more about the program or donate on Zmiyiwsky’s behalf, go to: http://www.theceosleepout.ca/ceo-sleepout/profile,ceo/207/daria-zmiyiwsky.

Story from the Winnipeg Sun