For reasons that I'll leave unexplained, I ended up in Regina last weekend. Saturday, what was to be the Day of Reckoning, was an overcast drizzly sort of day. I found myself downtown taking a short walk in the early evening.
As I walked past city hall and approached the drab-looking public library on 12th Ave, a gust of cool wind hit me. I looked at my watch: 6:00 pm. Isn't that the time that the Rapture was supposed to happen? The was no earthquake. No fireballs raining down from the heavens. Ha! I knew this end of days stuff was all nonsense.
I continued on my journey for a few steps before freezing in my tracks...
Wait a minute -- I looked up Smith Street, I looked back down 12th, I looked up towards Victoria Park -- everybody was gone! My GOD. It DID happen! I was expecting more drama, but the rapture took everybody and left only ME! Oh wait .. I'm in downtown Regina. Heh. Nevermind. Unless ... unless this is just the beginning of my 5-month period of horrible torment!
It was an uneventful walk .. there were few people milling about. I ran across only one homeless dude, who, maybe not politely, but meekly asked if I had any change, and I likewise ran across relatively few clean-cut people. As I often do when I'm in the downtowns of other cities, I draw comparisons to Winnipeg. Regina has a block of Scarth St. closed to traffic -- something that we've talked about doing in Winnipeg (perhaps Albert St.) although Scarth St. tends to be mostly vacant of people whenever I go there. Perhaps after Regina finishes renovating Victoria Park into some hybrid of Winnipeg's Central Park and Old market Square, there will be a larger mass of people attracted to the area ... though I doubt it. In terms of liveliness, Winnipeg definitely has the edge, except on nights when the Riders play. Winnipeg also has more shops, restaurants, and more and nicer heritage buildings.
It's not everyday that a Winnipegger can feel smug in the core of another city ... and then I came across a construction crane. There was a sign with a diagram of what is to be a third Hill Centre office tower, adjacent to the two trademark towers that are highlighted in Regina's logo, with the Mosiac head office as the lead tenant. I guess Regina will have to redesign their logo now. A quick look on the Skyscraper Page shows two additional proposed buildings which would be the two tallest structures in the city, and another 16 story office building, all of which appear to be driven by private investment.
Geeze .. when was the last time Winnipeg had construction like this from private investment? A few years back, a company called Crystal Developers was prepared to build a 15 story apartment building downtown, but current and former politicians and other miscellaneous elites made damn sure that wouldn't happen through a media-driven campaign of public deception and private arm-twisting. As a result, our skyline has remained untarnished by private development for many years now.
Feeling glum, I picked up a copy of Regina's local freebee paper and headed back to the hotel. Maybe this hillbilly publication will cheer me up with stories about the quaint little accomplishments of simple Regina folk. Back in the room, I brew a coffee, sit down, turn the page and read: "Winnipeg’s screw ups are a free lesson for Regina". Gaaaa! Even the Prairie Dog is beating us down.
The editorial, which reads like a blog post, riffs off of the Globe and Mail story about Winnipeg's downtown revitalization. It is written by the editor of the Prairie Dog who grew up in Winnipeg and "spent the first half of his life going bananas watching Winnipeg wreck itself"; and it contains a couple zingers, like:
When I think about the place I think of how Regina’s future could go horribly, horribly wrong. And I don’t just mean we could have a football team as bad as the Bombers.Ouch.
He ends up concluding the same thing that the G&M piece does: that Winnipeg is heading in the right direction. "Even the dorkiest politicians are starting to get it." (He is referring to Sam Katz, in case you're wondering). Like Winnipeg, Regina is developing a comprehensive community plan. Unlike Winnipeg, they may actually follow it. When writing the curriculum for these free lessons for Regina, this should be at least one module: "Community planning -- more than just creating a document?" Other modules could include:
- Creating traffic chaos with bike paths
- Designing a new logo -- perhaps something that looks like a nipple?
- Infrastructure planning: traffic lights good, overpasses bad.
- Bait and switch with schools in new developments, and other ways to screw up sprawl.
- Street banners -- the more the merrier.
- How to be "world class": IKEA, Helicopters and waterparks
Although Winnipeg's skyscraper diagram page doesn't show anything proposed or under construction, there is some reason to be hopeful of new development downtown. First, there is a promising project brewing for the A&B Sound Building and adjacent area. Expect to hear more about that in the coming months. [UPDATE: Bart Kives has a story about this on the Freep website today]
Also, Crystal Developers, who should be given credit for not blowing off our city entirely, may eventually start building their new Heritage Landing project on the problematic Assiniboine Ave. lot that we stuck them with after screwing them out of the Fort Street location.
Also, it appears as though Regina does have a new logo (and slogan) although you don't actually see it anywhere when you're in the city. Sadly, it does not look like a nipple. I don't really like the new logo, but I'm glad they changed it because the old one bugged me because it was inaccurate. There was no angle from which the Hill Centre towers appear as they do in that logo.