While the six-part Professionally Speaking series in the Winnipeg Real Estate News on the new OurWinnipeg blueprint has concluded, it is only the beginning in terms of actually implementing the new plan to shape Winnipeg’s future growth and development for many years to come.
The following is a brief recap of what was covered in the six-part series aimed at helping educate Winnipeggers on the key planning document and the reference point for future policy and development decisions by city council.
All six columns can be searched under Resources in the archived articles for Professionally Speaking at winnipegrealestatenews.com
The first column introduced OurWinnipeg as the city’s new official plan to guide change over the next 25 years. It is also accompanied by a detailed land-use and development plan (bylaw) — the Complete Communities Direction Strategy. This is a clear departure from the former Plan Winnipeg which was more of a visionary than an implementation document.
The first column also spoke of the very successful award-winning public engagement process called SpeakUpWinnipeg, which to this day is an active website to keep the public informed on the plan’s progress.
The introductory column emphasized sustainable growth as providing direction on housing, city-building, competitiveness, quality of life, the environment and transportation.
Column two focused on the downtown which is seen as the most opportune location to accommodate significant growth with high-density, sustainable mixed-use development. The city envisions the downtown as an ideal place to live, work and play. The Complete Communities Direction Strategy places a high priority on downtown. There are already financial incentives in place to encourage developers to build new housing units in the downtown. An urban design review is part of the development process in order to ensure development is in keeping with the existing character and vision for the downtown.
Column three spoke about corridors, centres and designated major redevelopment sites as alternative locations to the downtown to accommodate Winnipeg’s projected new population growth of 180,000 over the next 25 years. The alternate locations are all in the Complete Communities Direction Strategy (available online at speakupwinnipeg.com). The three growth areas are being singled out to accommodate new housing, retail and amenities through mixed-use development. For example, the city regards regional shopping centres as areas with the capacity to absorb more growth, such as housing and other land uses, that have not been used in the past. The corridor concept, which addresses major transportation routes throughout the city, also relates to the newly-planned rapid transit corridor moving from the downtown to eventually end up at the University of Manitoba.
Rapid transit corridors are widely known across North America as being catalysts for more intense near by land-use activity to the extent that there is a whole new area of planning called transit oriented development, or TOD.
Column four is about new communities that enable the city to accommodate all of its future growth. In the column, new communities are defined as large, vacant or undeveloped land areas near the outskirts of a city that have been identified for future development. New communities are part of a balanced approach to accommodate the 10,000 newcomers to the city.
When it comes to planning for new communities, one key difference contained in OurWinnipeg is the desire for the creation of complete communities — they need to be more than bedroom communities with limited access to other amenities. Planners want to provide opportunities for mixed uses and even employment options within walking distance.
The Complete Communities Direction Strategy is the playbook for evaluating development proposals. One of the tools that has been created is a Complete Communities Checklist to help developers understand what is required of them when submitting a development proposal.
The next column in thes series dealt with employment lands, which are classified into business parks, institutional campuses and manufacturing. A new zoning bylaw allows less restrictive in permitted land uses. For example, there are more live/work options where housing and other amenities may be incorporated into some of these employment land areas. Essentially, there will be less separation of more benign employment/institutional land uses with residential and retail. Heavy manufacturing will still remain quite restrictive to industrial development.
The final column in this series covered longstanding communities such as River Heights, Wolseley and the West End. They are referred to as mature communities as most were developed prior to the 1950s. A key distinguishing factor to identify them is a layout based on the grid road network with back lanes and sidewalks. They are well served by transit and existing infrastructure. These communities present some of the best opportunities, as well as being the best suited— for infill development.
Maintaining the existing character of these communities will be uppermost under the new plan, including preserving the sustainable use of older buildings where economically feasible.
It should be noted that there are three other direction strategies to peruse besides the Complete Communities Direction Strategy: sustainable transportation, sustainable water and waste and a sustainable Winnipeg. All direction strategies need to be co-ordinated by civic departments to ensure OurWinnipeg is meeting its objectives.
At the recent WinnipegREALTORS® annual meeting, city planners Andrew Ross and Brett Shenback told REALTORS® that the speaskupwinnipeg.com website provides a very useful online interactive map. It is a practical online tool to help the public learn more about the urban structure and how new and innovative projects are progressing.
In their presentation, the planners showed detailed drawings and the scale of the planned Yards of Fort Rouge development which runs adjacent to the rapid transit corridor. They also showed the progress on the Centennial Park residential infill project in River Heights and the new Bridgwater Forest community development in Waverley West.
The city should be commended for all of its considerable effort and time expended on the new development plan to shape our future growth. As always, time will tell how well city council follows this new blueprint for directing all physical, social, environmental and economic development in the city. As stated in by-laws, all other plans and council decisions must align with OurWinnipeg