Prince Charles is lending his support — via his Canadian charity — to efforts to revive a business community in Winnipeg's Historic Selkirk Avenue, two weeks before his planned visit to the city.
Prince's Charities Canada met with the North End Community Renewal Corp., the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and the Boldness Project on Tuesday to develop an "innovative business-community collaboration" on Selkirk Avenue.
"We need to know what businesses require, we need to develop that as part of the vision, and then we need to go out and identify those businesses that should be here," said Dave Angus, the chamber's chief executive officer.
The meeting included a tour of the former Merchants' Hotel site, which will get a new lease on life as part of the commercial regeneration plan, according to officials.
"The power of convening under His Royal Highness and also the ability to bring good ideas [and] adapt them to the community — those are the contributions we're making to this project," said Michael Shapcott, director of business and community initiatives with Prince's Charities Canada.
The plan is to transform the old, run-down hotel into an education centre.
The groups also want to make Selkirk Avenue a centre of commerce for the North End and its many ethnic communities, as it was many decades ago.
Positive changes already happening
News of a business plan for the area was welcomed by Mike Watts, who has owned Brothers Pharmacy — a longtime Selkirk Avenue staple — for the past three years.
Watts said positive changes started happening on the street soon after the Merchants' Hotel, a notorious business that was a magnet for violence and crime, shut down in 2012.
More people have started going out in the community and visiting the pharmacy, he said.
"They're great people. Everyone's got a smile on their face," he said. "We've built some great relationships over the last three years, and it's good."
Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, will visit Manitoba on May 20 and 21 as part of their Canadian trip, which will also include stops in the Maritimes.
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While in Winnipeg, they will see Assiniboine Park and drop by the Manitoba Legislative Building.
While Prince Charles last visited Manitoba in 1996, this will be his wife's first visit to the province.
Shapcott said Prince Charles will hear more about the Selkirk Avenue project while he's in the city.
"Our challenge always to business is to think beyond charity, and think beyond volunteerism, and think about ways that business as business can actually responsibly engage with community and make a positive difference," he said.