Wednesday 2 July 2008

Beyond Asperdome: Thinking Big

My first thought after seeing the conceptual drawings of Asper's vision last Saturday was: "well, you can't accuse him of not thinking big." (My second thought was "I wonder if there are more jobs for conceptual artists in Winnipeg than Architects"). Turns out he's not just building a stadium: he's building a stadium, moving roads, building bridges and underpasses, destroying buildings, renovating buildings, building a "Disney-esque" waterpark, building a hotel, building an underground lair (oops, I think I was supposed to keep that one to myself).

If you don't like the plan, don't blame Asper. You can't fault him for this. In fact, I could argue that Winnipeg needs more visionaries and big thinkers with big ideas. We live in a province that loves the status quo, and in a city who's idea of development is building neighbourhoods of stucco houses adjacent to big box stores, connected by traffic lights. Not a lot of big thinking going on there.

I think Asper should be commended for putting forth this plan. At the very least, it got us thinking and talking about a neighbourhood that is largely underdeveloped and under-utilized.

That doesn't mean that we have to accept his vision of course. I still have serious concerns about it, and I am not sure it is necessarily the best way to develop Point Douglas. I have concerns about the cost. He is ostensibly asking for less money, but after you expropriate the land and do the environmental impact studies and riverbank stabilization and decontamination, and infrastructure changes and archiving of the artifacts that are dug up, etc etc. it is going to cost a big bundle of money. I also am suspicious of the so-called "fair market value" that Asper will pay for the existing stadium site. How do you know if it's fair market value if you don't put the land on the market? That's something to keep a close eye on.

As for what's best for Point Douglas, the opinion of the residents is much more important than my own. But if the objective is to create a friendly or vibrant neighbourhood, then acres of parking lots and a seldom-used sports facility is not the solution. I don't care how many well-dressed white people they put in the conceptual drawings. Maybe there are other visionaries out there with better ideas. Or maybe it's just a matter of rezoning some lots, cleaning up the derelict properties and encouraging small-scale development with TIFs and tax breaks. TIFs could be used for more than just stadiums, you know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Winnipeg doesn't need anything "visionary". It needs to fix what it has first.

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