Manitoba

Point Douglas residents say they want to see more density, think opening Portage and Main might help

Winnipeg's Point Douglas ward is home to what is almost certainly the most contentious intersection in the city. Along with voting for mayor and city councillors on Oct. 24, Winnipeggers will also vote on the question of whether to reopen the intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street to pedestrian traffic.

The ward will elect its 1st new councillor since 2002 on Oct. 24

Point Douglas resident Kelly Hrabliuk hopes to see the Exchange District continue to grow. 'I think as Winnipeg grows businesses are popping in, but there are still a lot of empty buildings,' she says. (Hannah Owczar/CBC)

Winnipeg's Point Douglas ward is home to what is almost certainly the most contentious intersection in the city.

Along with voting for mayor and city councillors on Oct. 24, Winnipeggers will also vote on the question of whether to reopen the intersection of Portage Avenue and Main Street to pedestrian traffic.

Point Douglas residents will also elect their first new councillor since 2002 — long-serving Coun. Mike Pagtakhan isn't running again. Dean Koshelanyk, Vivian Santos and Kate Sjoberg are running for the council seat.

Point Douglas residents Carmen Rohne, 54, and Duane Rohne, 58, who live on Waterfront Drive, say opening the Portage and Main intersection up would entice more people downtown. 

"If you want to keep the crime rate down and force it down, there has to be people on the street. You can't hide them underground," said Duane Rohne.

'There has to be people on the street,' to lower crime, say Point Douglas residents Duane and Carmen Rohne. They think opening up the Portage and Main intersection to pedestrians would bring more people downtown. (Hannah Owczar/CBC)

"That's the only thing that will drop the crime rate. There has to be people on the street."

With few people out on the street, they say they feel unsafe.

They may be in the minority on the Portage and Main issue, though. A Probe Research survey, commissioned by CBC and conducted during the final week of August, suggested 67 per cent of Winnipeggers oppose the idea of reopening the intersection, while only 33 per cent were in favour.

'Density is the main issue'

Sarah Robinson, 36, lives on Princess Street and said she loves living in the Exchange District but feels there's room to improve safety.

"Density is the main issue. We need to have more people in general," she said. "With more density comes more safety." 

Sarah Robinson thinks opening Portage and Main to pedestrians would help make the city safer and livelier. (Hannah Owczar/CBC )

Robinson thinks opening Portage and Main to pedestrians would help.

"I think it's fantastic for tourism and overall fantastic for the residents of this city. I think in the end it will make the city safer by having more people on the street," said Robinson.

"I think it will really help in terms of just making Winnipeg livelier."

Increasing the number of people living in an area can improve community vibrancy and increase safety, according to a 2014 report in Environment and Planning, a journal of human geography and urban research. 

In 2011, the City of Winnipeg released its Downtown Residential Development Strategy and Action Plan. The plan established a vision for a more vibrant, dense and walkable downtown Winnipeg by 2021. 

The plan stated that Point Douglas and the downtown portion of West Alexander would see the highest increase in new residential units, and said the area had the highest demand in the city for condo and rental apartments.

Three candidates are running for the council seat in Point Douglas, which is a wide-open race this year, after Coun. Mike Pagtakhan decided not to run for re-election. (CBC)

Since 2011, Point Douglas has seen a population growth of 2,663 according to the latest census data from 2016. 

Demand for residential units remains high in the area, especially for affordable apartments. 

CentreVenture Development Corporation is looking for developers to build 100 new affordable housing units at Market Lands in the Exchange District, the site of the former Winnipeg Police Service headquarters. 

Although work has been done to improve density in downtown portion of Point Douglas, some residents say they have yet to feel the effects. Many buildings in the Exchange District — like the historic St. Charles Hotel, empty for a decade — remain vacant.

Kelly Hrabliuk, 24, recently moved to Ross Avenue. She said she hopes to see the Exchange District continue to grow.

"I think as Winnipeg grows business are popping in but there are still a lot of empty buildings," she said.

Winnipeggers will vote for mayor and councillors in 15 city wards on Oct. 24, 2018. (CBC)

More CBC Manitoba election ward profiles:

Journalism students from Red River College's creative communications program have prepared profiles of each city of Winnipeg ward ahead of the 2018 civic election for CBC Manitoba. Read all of our election 2018 coverage here

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