9. DOWNTOWN TODAY

These [XMLmind] indicate that although population, manufacturing, wholesaling, warehousing and other economic activities related to the production or servicing of goods have tended to decentralize to the outlying areas, those activities relating to the servicing of people have remained Downtown and have maintained their position there.

The following sections analyze conditions as they are at the present time in the Downtown. The picture which emerges is not one which reveals flourishing development and vigorous activity in the central area, in spite of the indicated strength of the services sector of the economy. Nor is there any reason to believe that whatever new growth is taking place is of a sufficient order of magnitude to fill all the empty spaces and generate a new vitality in the Downtown. The overriding impression is one of very slow growth, perhaps even too slow to offset the continuing loss of population and enterprise; of large areas used for surface parking; of old and obsolete buildings with low silhouettes; of an extensive segment of the business activity devoted to automobile repairs, storage and sales; of a general atmosphere of vacancy, decline, and dereliction hanging over most of the central business district, relieved only by one or two busy thoroughfares and one or two major nodes or concentrations of activity.

But these characteristics, too, are not peculiar to Winnipeg. They belong almost universally to the cities of this continent. And other cities of this continent have also found that the Downtown has required deliberate and specific programs to enable it to overcome some of the forces tending to reduce its strength and scatter its resources.

There is a feeling in some sectors of Winnipeg that the Downtown will look after itself. That is to say, that the present trends, operating under the influence of the present market forces will somehow or other generate a surge of development in the Downtown, sufficient to overcome its present inertia and remake it into a dynamic, flourishing central area, without any significant public effort or expenditure of public money. On the basis of Winnipeg’s record so far, and on the basis of experience in other North American cities, this view is completely illusory.

Illustration 2-A: Aerial View of Downtown From the North-West.