Portage and Main the topic of public forum on Thursday

On Thursday Winnipeggers are invited to share their thoughts on reopening Portage and Main to pedestrians.

Downtown Winnipeg BIZ forum to discuss reopening Portage and Main starts at 5:30 p.m. at Fairmont Winnipeg

On Thursday Winnipeg Downtown BIZ invites citizens to share their thoughts on reopening Portage and Main to pedestrians. 2:06

It's a Manitoba landmark—Canada's windiest corner—and on Thursday Winnipeggers are invited to share their thoughts on reopening Portage and Main to pedestrians. Downtown Winnipeg BIZ is hosting a free, public forum at Fairmont Winnipeg, just steps away from the city's iconic intersection.

"There are not many places in the world where you can't cross a street," said John Thiessen, owner of U.N. Luggage, a long-time fixture in downtown.

"I don't think we should be known for a place where you can't cross a street," he said.

Closing the intersection to pedestrians in the 1970s divided the neighbourhood, said Thiessen. What's more, the underground walkway for pedestrians is a confusing way to get around, he said.

"I've literally taken tourists who cannot figure out how to walk across Portage and Main and led them to other side," Thiessen said. 

Tim Tompkins, the city planning expert who helped develop New York's Times Square into a pedestrian plaza, will be at the forum on Thursday to offer his advice. 

Tompkins will also meet with City of Winnipeg officials and with property owners who have long-standing agreements with the city to keep Portage and Main closed to foot traffic.

Laura Bickford manages the exchange district clothing shop, Lennard Taylor. She said opening the intersection is important to growing and revitalizing Winnipeg's downtown.

"The more traffic that we have on the street level downtown does nothing but increase awareness of what's going on in our downtown," she said.

The Portage Avenue and Main Street intersection, which dates back to 1862, is home to the city's tallest buildings and holder of the title as the country's windiest corner. (Google Street View)
Not everyone is convinced reopening Portage and Main is worth it. 

Greg Petzold is a cyclist and works downtown. He said he can't see the intersection's allure for pedestrians.

"Nobody's going to have a sidewalk cafe there," he said.

Mayor Brian Bowman ran on the campaign promise to reopen Portage and Main. He will be out of town and unable to attend Thursday's forum but said he's willing to discuss the proposal further.

"I've had discussions with some of the property owners. Some of whom are actively encouraging us to get on with it sooner than later," said Bowman.

"They want to see a facelift to that intersection. They want to see it become more iconic."

The Downtown Winnipeg BIZ' forum will take place Thursday from  5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Fairmont Winnipeg. It's open to the public and free.


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