The City of Winnipeg's arms-length downtown development agency will appear at City Hall Wednesday to table plans for a major facelift for the city's downtown.

CentreVenture's business plan for the next three years details some of the ideas the agency has to improve the oft-criticized core area.

Some of them include:

  • A series of commercial, cultural, sports and entertainment zones.
  • A mall concept for Portage Avenue that would allow the street to be treated as a whole as opposed to a selection of separate businesses.
  • A walkway running from the University of Winnipeg to connect to the rest of the covered walkways in the downtown.
  • A covered plaza or space near the MTS Centre for crowds to gather, perhaps taking a portion of a surface parking lot, or closing off a street south of the rink.
  • Development of the A and B Sound building on Portage into a hotel/office complex.
  • Development of the Metropolitan Theatre into a so-called rock and roll destination centre.

The agency's head, Ross McGowan said the introduction of the zones is really a new way of doing business.

"[The] new Portage Avenue plan is predicated on the assumption that there will be a new form of economic engine for downtown and predominantly for CentreVenture," McGowan said.

That means other levels of government will have to come up with cash in some cases or put in place a Tax Incremental Financing regime. TIF essentially means reinvesting property and school taxes into certain areas to encourage infrastructure development.

McGowan said it's tough for governments to come up with cash grants in economically-challenging times, and proposes TIFs are a much better means to spur development and allow CentreVenture to avoid borrowing money or cashing in on its assets.

"Give us the right tool box and we'll get the job done," he said. "We'll generate the revenue that we need to continue our work and you will get the benefits in perpetuity."

In May 2010, the city and province signed a $20-million TIF agreement for community revitalization.

A provincial spokesperson said most of the money has already been allocated to various community concerns and projects.

The province is open to discussing an extension of the program with the city, the spokesperson said.

With files from the CBC's Sean Kavanagh