Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman touched on some familiar themes and broke a little news at his second State of the City Address, Thursday.
Speaking to a crowd of about 1000 people at the convention centre downtown, Bowman said he saw a “hardworking, dedicated and common sense community.”
He announced plans to demolish the Public Safety Building and Civic Parkade, reaffirmed his support for an urban reserve on the Kapyong Barracks site, continued his crusade to open Portage and Main to pedestrian traffic and talked about the 2016 budget. It gets tabled next week.
Demolition and Redevelopment
Bowman says he wants to bulldoze the existing police headquarters and the long mothballed parkade next door.
He says the land is a prime spot to build something new that can connect the east and west halves of the Exchange District.
“This area represents a tremendous opportunity,” he told the crowd. “Moving forward, I’ve asked that a steering committee be established.”
Bowman says anything that goes there will need to be for public use. He says there will be consultations with community groups like Red River College as well as the arts and business communities, along with area residents.
The parkade has been closed for years because of structural concerns and the Public Safety building will soon be empty as well with police moving to their new downtown headquarters.
Bowman says both buildings are beyond repair.
Any plan to redevelop the area still needs approval from city council
Portage and Main
Bowman also continued his crusade to get Portage and Main opened up to pedestrian traffic, delivering a passionate rant to the crowd about the intersection’s importance to the city’s identity.
“Over the years, it’s where Winnipeg has intersected with life. This intersection can be more and it can do more for our city,” he said. “Like Osborne Village, like the Corydon Avenue strip, Portage and Main can be a place you want to take your out of town friends.”
He says he’ll continue to push business owners and work with city traffic engineers. He says he thinks the process can accelerate in 2017.
The final decision on the matter is still in the hands of business owners at the corner, thanks to a deal to close the intersection signed back in the mid 1970’s.
Budget Time Coming
Bowman also touched on the 2016 Preliminary Budget, which will be tabled next week.
He said it would be balanced and maintains key services, while investing in infrastructure. That likely means another property tax increase but Bowman won’t say how much yours will rise this year.
He did say all civic departments will be asked to keep looking for efficiencies. He said the budget would look to lower the tax burden on small businesses.
And he touched on a potential new fee. Bowman says other cities are making use of a growth fee on new developments and neighbourhoods. He says he’s starting the process of seeing how that might work here.
“We need to find the best model that makes sense for the building community that makes sense for the business community, that makes sense for new residents.”
He wouldn’t get into specifics but said the fee would work differently than a simple development fee on new houses build in newer neighbourhoods.
Other committments made by Bowman in his speech include:
– Establishing a Climate Change Working Group to guide city’s direction on climate change. It will be chaired by Councillor Jenny Gerbasi.
– A plan to visit more Canadian cities to promote Winnipeg
– Establish a new grant to the University of Manitoba to create a Municipal Infrastructure Chair to foster collaboration between the public and private sectors.