Cash needed to keep downtown Winnipeg growth from stalling: report

A new report warns growth in Winnipeg's downtown could be at risk if the area isn’t treated as a distinct neighbourhood that requires special attention.

$3.5B in investments credited for population growth

The population in downtown Winnipeg has seen what researchers are calling a 'remarkable turnaround,' but future investments are needed to keep the area growing, says a new report from the Institute of Urban Studies. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

A new report by researchers from the University of Winnipeg's Institute of Urban Studies warns growth in the city's downtown could be at risk if the area isn't treated as a distinct neighbourhood that requires special attention.

The 32-page report on demographic and housing market factors in the downtown says now is not the time for the three levels of government to stop investing the area.

"While Winnipeg is poised for ongoing and stable growth, downtown development continues to be viewed as high risk with lower profit scenarios for developers," the report concludes.

"We need to just keep an eye on things," said institute head Jino Distasio, one of the report's authors.

Diverse downtown

Researchers believe the downtown has a population today of 16,800 people, which the report's authors call a "remarkable turnaround" when compared to census data from 1986 that found about 11,000 were living in the area.

Jino Distasio is one of three authors behind the report. (CBC)

The population is also diverse, with 41.8 per cent of residents self-identifying as belonging to a visible minority group, while 13.5 per cent of people living in the downtown identify as Aboriginal.

Distasio credits the growth to the more than $3.5 billion that's been invested in large-scale projects in the downtown.

He said if that investment stops, the future growth of the area could stall.

"I don't know if things would come to an absolute halt but I think if we don't continue to support downtown with strong policies and programs we'll definitely see a slow down."

Distasio said the downtown needs more investment in affordable housing, not subsidies for expensive condominium developments.

Investing in affordable housing would ensure seniors can move into the area, not just younger people, said Distasio.

With files from Meaghan Ketcheson