Thursday 23 June 2011

Corydon-Osborne open house

"If it's broken, fix it, but don't change it."

That was a quote from a kid, like 14 years old or something, on CTV news last night. Smart kid. Winnipeg's Property Planning and Development department should listen to him.

PPD held an open house for their plan to tamper with the success of the Corydon/Osborne area. Er, I mean, "enable a 20 year vision". Needing a coffee after work, I decided to drop by because I've been to these open houses before and I know they have coffee. In fact, not only did they
have coffee, but juice boxes, fruit bars, and cookies!
I am no longer a resident of this hip urban area. I am now a back-yard hamburger-flipping suburb dweller. I am still a frequent visitor to my old hood, however, and thus am somewhat concerned about what well-intentioned bureaucrats might do to it.

In case you missed the open house, which is likely given that it was not well advertised in advance and poorly attended, I shall give you a quick run-down.

Part of it focused on development around the new rapid transit hub. You know -- the one that runs from downtown all the way to one-third of the way to somewhere that people might want to go. I personally have a hard time seeing a vibrant mixed use area evolving around the transit
station, with it being framed by major thoroughfares and railway tracks and all, but best of luck
to them. I get the impression from talking to the PPD guys that some of the land owners, like the Masonic Temple, are waiting for the opportunity to make some big coin selling their land.

Corydon, however, seems to be the major focus. There was a lot of discussion about Corydon. In the initial design workshop, the small group of Chosen Ones were given worksheets on which to doodle their impressions of the current state of the Corydon strip, like this:

or like this, my favourite:
Chicken Delight looks so happy to have made the list of important features! It makes me smile. :-)

The panel also commented on various options for the area. The stars, I suppose, indicate the most favorable options:

My general impression, not just from the charts but moreso from listening to the PPD reps, was that there is a great desire to increase open space -- green space, plazas or piazzas, "pocket parks" and so on. They REALLY want to do something here, whether it be force business owners to build open space adjacent to the sidewalk, or to construct little patio areas at intersections or whatever.

Cross-referencing that with The View from Seven's "how not to kill Corydon" checklist:

No formal open space: “There are no parks, plazas, or other places of repose in the [entertainment zone]. Other than parking lots, the only outdoor open space is private and is associated with bars…”

I think they may be on the wrong track here.

One interesting idea that came out in conversation with the reps was to close off street parking on one side of Corydon so that the whole lane could be turned into a big patio. Interesting as in "isn't it interesting that businesses are losing customers because there is no where to park" or "isn't it interesting that residential streets 5 blocks over are packed with cars now?" or "isn't it interesting how there are so many skateboarders here now".

The one rep kept saying that they are still in the very early stages of the plan. Marty Gold, who was hanging out at open house, seems to disagree with that but I'll let him tell you more about it. (Call me crazy, but I think I noticed a wee little bit of electricity in the air when Jenny Gerbasi walked by Marty.) They do seemed to have learned something from the not-so-great active transportation project last year. Last year, they basically presented completed plans and said: "Here you go. This is what we are doing, and now we are pretending to consult with you. See our plan. Admire our plan. Now go away. Oh, but don't forget to sign the sheet!". This time, the information was all pretty vague. It's like a game where you have to guess what they have up their sleeve. Perhaps they really do want your input, but they're not going to get much of it based on the attendance last night. Perhaps that's the idea: have a poorly attended open house just so that they can say they tried to consult with the community.

If you have something to say about the plans, contact Valdene Buckley and let her know what you think.

My advice to the planners: have clear building guidelines to address major concerns like parking in front instead of behind, and encourage organic growth, but be very careful about screwing up something that already works quite well. Kinda like the kid said.


The Great Canadian Talk Show said...

Surely you jest. We were most cordial with each other.

cherenkov said...

I do jest ... although .. I don't know .. there might have been a bit of a spark there. :-)

Anonymous said...

The sexual chemistry between the two of them is electric.

Like Sam and Diane in Season One of Cheers.

The View from Seven said...

I wasn't there, unfortunately, so thanks for the post on the event!

cherenkov said...

@anon: See? SEE? It wasn't just me...

@7: No problem. If you want to see the draft design process document & worksheets that I snuck out of there, I could get it to you.

The View from Seven said...

Sure, send me an e-mail. mcdougak at

Shaun M Wheeler said...

Isn't that Chicken Delight now closed? ;)

cherenkov said...

Hmm. It might be, but it's still listed on their web site:

It wouldn't surprise me to see it turn into a sushi joint.

bwalzer said...

"If it's broken, fix it, but don't change it."

Uh, that is impossible ... not that people in Winnipeg are afraid to dream the impossible of course...

cherenkov said...

I stand corrected. That Chicken Delight is very much closed down. Has been for quite a while, by the look of it.

@bwalzer: fix it, as in clarity of the building codes (no front parking, etc), but don't change it, ie. don't wreck the character and continuity by trying to over-engineer the neighbourhood.

One Man Committee said...

I side 100% with The View. "Green space" is a sacred incantation that gets invoked everytime people are asked what we need more of. In theory, green space is awesome. Kids can play on it and we can all have fun on the grass.

The reality is that green space generally sits empty most of the time (particularly in the winter), killing off any kind of critical mass in the surrounding area. The reason Corydon works is precisely because there are buildings and people.

If you want proof, go check out the little piazza near Colosseo on a warm summer day. While the piazza is usually empty (or close to it), the patios nearby are usually bustling. There you go.

cherenkov said...

I think the planners have some romantic vision of Florence in the summer dancing in their heads.

The Great Canadian Talk Show said...

Corydon-Osborne Open House showed "public consultation" still failing

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