Sunday, March 31, 2013

Winter Road Season Extended!

Due to the extended cold weather, and the very cold temperatures this winter, the ice roads are still in great condition.

That means the season is extended, the roads are open, and goods can continue to be ferried to northern communities... right?

Now why on earth would you think THAT?

The season is over, roads are closed, and everyone has gone home, including the "ice road truckers" cast and crew.

Why? The Manitoba Department of Highways said the roads were closed.

You see, when it's an early spring, and the roads are shut because the ice is covered with water, the pressure ridges are seeping, and the snow pack disappears as a result of warm weather, they Department charged with measuring the thickness and inherent safety of the roads deems them closed, and THEN everyone goes home.

When the weather is cold, and the calendar says, "Easter weekend", the pin heads figure out what it will cost to pay staff for Good Friday, Easter Sunday. Easter Monday, and figure that there's not any money in paying that overtime, so to hell with everyone... the roads are closed.

While the roads are officially "open", trucks and their loads are insured. These are official "roads" after all, but if they're closed, and you dump a trailer of much needed heating fuel into a lake, regardless of the fact that it could have happened at ANY time in the season, You're responsible for the environmental clean up, as well as the cost of your trailer, and rig.

How may takers to driving a load up sans insurance?

There are always a few renegades, thinking they'll pull off one more haul and charge through the nose for it, but why in a year like this one?

Mismanagement, a typical and constant theme of the inept bureaucrats that manage our Province.

Where is Steve Ashton, upset at the fact that a longer than usual season has been cut short? We hear about the short seasons... and the impact on all the poor people living without road access. Why doesn't anyone talk about an extended season?

It doesn't sound terribly sexy... so we'll have to wait to watch this years ice road truckers next year... I'm sure it will be VERY exciting, fraught with danger, and have none of the s*!t the real truckers have to tolerate.

"Hey... Buddy. Whatcha' doin' on my land?"
"I'm unloading this heating oil."
"Ya well you better do it fast 'eh... and get off my land."

Typically ,there is an awkward silence, but the conversation should continue something like,

"Listen you stupid shit. It's not YOUR land, it belongs to the Crown, and Her Majesty let's you squat on Her land. Frankly I wouldn't shit in this Godforsaken place, and no one wants to leave faster than I do."

But alas, the trucker figures out that the nearest STARS ambulance is three hours out, and then someone would have to come in and get his truck... so he's quiet, unloads, and heads back for another load, to be delivered to people who take no time to appreciate their efforts. They are after all, entitled.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Bay Downtown... what to do?

This is by no means a "new" topic in our "Great City".

For years, The Bay downtown has suffered from a lack of... people. You could fire a cannon in there fifteen years ago, and not only not hit anyone, but likely have no one even notice.

The reasons "why" are too complex and speculative to even bother tackling, especially since they are not related to solving to problem.  There are matters that require a good understanding of the question, "How'd we get here?" This is not one of those things. What is important to understand are a few key things.

  1. People don't shop in mega department stores anymore.
  2. Government interference and/or involvement will screw up a viable plan.
With those things out of the way, we can begin to consider a solution, and frankly I don't think it's that difficult.

The building is structurally sound, likely needing almost no major structural work aside from the potential reconfiguration. It's loading capacities are well beyond anything we'd potentially re purpose the building for. Antiquated systems are sure to include virtually ALL of the mechanical systems, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. You likely wouldn't need or want the existing systems anyway.

Hydro passed on renovating the building because it couldn't add more windows and had issues meeting E/E targets. A private developer can surely dismiss those challenges as irrelevant. There can be no mandate to alter the facade, and no demand to reach any LEED level of remediation or renovation, rather simply apply "best practices". Architects and engineers typically over complicate projects of this size, leading to systems that are extremely expensive to install initially, and are both difficult and expensive to maintain. The KISS system has to be employed. "Keep it Simple Stupid!"

So you're waiting... aren't you? Waiting for the big well thought out solution to the question burning in no one's mind for the past twenty years?

mixed use

Why the lower case letters? Why not a big sexy bold red italicized line indicating the wunder cure for what ails that block?

It's just too simple, and too proven an idea... it is SO obvious that no one should even have to consider weather it will work or not. It is as plain as the "nose on your face". Anything else will be a much hyped, very expensive, government involved/driven disaster akin to what we witness now at Portage Place, the last "driven" project which is a lot of things, but NOT what we all expected it to be.

Simply, government of any category, is inept at creating, or driving anything in a market based economy. For this reason, I am already very, very afraid.

Government is already well involved, when they need not be. A recent article in the FreeP indicates that there are numerous "studies" going on, that the Empire building of Lord Axworthy is being considered as a potential partial cure, bring more tax payer monies to be spent in perpetuity to keep things "viable", more Government Departments taking up space, (which is what a lot of those folks do... take up space), by virtue of locating the "new" Liquor and Gaming Department and so on.
 http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/fyi/Diamond-in-the-rough-194337731.html

My favourite part of the article?

The Part about the U of W wanting two and a half floors for Aboriginal Studies. Lord Lloyd... what are you thinking?
The Bay approached the University of Winnipeg a year ago, saying it would sell the store to the university for as little as one dollar.
The U of W was interested in the property at one time. It had considered using 2 1/2 floors to establish a national centre for aboriginal study, arts and culture.
- See more at: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/fyi/Diamond-in-the-rough-194337731.html#sthash.EI982NGO.dpuf
The Bay approached the University of Winnipeg a year ago, saying it would sell the store to the university for as little as one dollar.
The U of W was interested in the property at one time. It had considered using 2 1/2 floors to establish a national centre for aboriginal study, arts and culture.
- See more at: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/fyi/Diamond-in-the-rough-194337731.html#sthash.EI982NGO.dpuf
The Bay approached the University of Winnipeg a year ago, saying it would sell the store to the university for as little as one dollar.
The U of W was interested in the property at one time. It had considered using 2 1/2 floors to establish a national centre for aboriginal study, arts and culture.
- See more at: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/fyi/Diamond-in-the-rough-194337731.html#sthash.EI982NGO.dpuf
The Bay approached the University of Winnipeg a year ago, saying it would sell the store to the university for as little as one dollar.
The U of W was interested in the property at one time. It had considered using 2 1/2 floors to establish a national centre for aboriginal study, arts and culture.
- See more at: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/fyi/Diamond-in-the-rough-194337731.html#sthash.EI982NGO.dpuf

Oye.

Six floors of unadorned, "pristine" empty space, and these people are considering filling it with people who bring nothing to the downtown economy for the eight hours they are there aside from taking up parking spots. (that's NOT directed to the potential use for an Aboriginal Studies Centre, rather ANY use that has nothing to add to the economy, like a bunch of Government employees, or a bunch of University pinheads or students).

This building has the potential to be a community, in and of itself. 

The basement.

The area is well suited to the use we enjoyed for years. A grocery store type of location. A destination for all who have access to the skywalk, complete with a "you buy it, we deliver it anywhere downtown" service. With the average "super market" size increasing 10,000 square feet  (from 35,000 to 46,000 sq ft) in the past 20 years, there is certainly room for such a single destination. Smaller shops are easily accommodated as well.

Main floor.

Portage Place has demonstrated that the amount of shops down town can keep viable is less than anticipated... or is it? What is it that makes Portage Place un appealing? Perhaps I could tell you want will make it even LESS appealing and you can take it from there. Service Canada will be locating in Portage Place.

Perfect... JUST what the place needs. As it is I take my food from the food court and eat it somewhere else, we are bringing in MORE disenfranchised people to wander the mall aimlessly, sleeping on the benches? Sure its' entertaining... in a sick sort of way.

I believe that there IS a market for shopping, and not for the low end crap sold by a number of vendors in the Mall and Skywalk kiosks, so for that reason, I'm targeting another WHOLE floor to specialty shops, and service locations. Anchor tenants that can operate without windows could potentially be scared away, so we really have to fix that. It's time for a reduction.

At 80,000 square feet per floor, there is room to loose... as a matter of fact, the available space actually becomes a LIABILITY.

Hollow it out. It's simple. It's been done. How much space to carve out is for architects to consider, but surely an area of at least 25,000 square feet is easily given up and dedicated to a four season "outdoor" atrium enclosure, capable of being accessed on a multitude of levels. Our first building design issue to be sure, but manageable.

Second floor. Anchor tenant space. Here we can drop some 9 to 5 ers. Hopefully they'll shop in the basement before taking the bus home, but better still, maybe some of them will take the elevator home, because floors 4,5 and 6 are a mix of rentals and condos.

Missing a floor? Ahh yes... three. Combined studio/business and living spaces. At 2,000 square feet, these units would only number 25 or so, and would likely cater to a higher end, small operator specialty shop.

Floors four and five are easily configured to have a variety of sizes, ranging from micro lofts to three bedroom units. Heck, some could even be two stories to add some diversity.

Floor six? Never mind... most of us can't afford floor six. A dedicated elevator keeps us away from that area and we're not even privy to seeing how they live, but we can gaze at their well appointed balconies at the top of that fabulous atrium.

It all sounds so... far fetched. Maybe it's time we had some "far fetched". Winnipeg is FULL of exciting people who would drool all over the opportunity. It's our leadership that is weak, and boring, with so little imagination I'm surprised they can plan next week in their day books.

THOSE people should not be left in charge of finding new uses for this grand old building. Let the market do it, and have "those" people HELP the market... just don't let them drive, because the market is NOT a good passenger.

Consistently, "those" people are the reasons things DON'T get done around here.