A recent article regarding the One Portage & Main proposed mixed-use development by Creswin begs the question: Can Winnipeg absorb these large developments? Developers are naturally very cautious people. This is simply because they put forward a lot of money on any project and if things don’t go according to plan, there could easily be big losses. It’s a risky game. Winnipeg throughout history has been a cautious city. I believe that any type of growth in Winnipeg can be stated simply as: Slow and steady is sexy.
But with a number of large development projects proposed especially in the downtown area (Glasshouse, D Condos, the Fortress one, One Portage & Main, etc.), one would think that things are changing. My concern with this is that there hasn’t been radical changes in any industry in Winnipeg or Manitoba to support this. What I mean is that although our population is growing, our economy is expanding, our unemployment is low and overall quality of life is increasing, it is all happening at a steady and sustainable pace. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great thing, but in order for developers to risk investing in and constructing large buildings, they must have crystal clear confidence that the economy can absorb it.
If we had some out-of-the-ordinary stimulation like we find lots of oil or large corporations start setting up headquarters here and compete for office space, then developers wouldn’t think twice of constructing large projects. But we don’t have this and probably never will, which in one way is a very good thing because we avoid large swings in our economy. But on the other side, developers will remain very cautious when it comes to backing large development projects.
In my opinion, Winnipeg walks the middle ground and developers need to follow this. The city can be rejuvenated and redeveloped with mid-sized construction projects that translate to manageable risks to developers.