It is true that the nature and the magnitude of the effort and expenditure required in other cities have varied with the circumstances in each particular city. In those cities with very large populations, or with extremely high growth rates, the public effort seems to have been less overt and “planned” than in smaller, or less rapidly growing cities. Recently there seems to have been a resurgence of vitality Downtown in a number of cities of both the United States and Canada which on the surface appears to have been quite spontaneous, and it is perhaps this phenomenon which has led to the view that Winnipeg's Downtown too can be expected to experience the same kind of "unaided" renaissance.
Toronto and Montreal are the primary examples which are pointed to in this respect. Several factors must be recognized in the recent history of the Downtown of these cities which differentiate them markedly from Winnipeg. The first is that the basic size of these cities, and the magnitude of their growth are vastly greater than Winnipeg's. Each of these cities is more than four times as big as Winnipeg. Toronto adds a population of about 70,000 people to its numbers every year a community the size of about two Brandons. Winnipeg, during the 25-year period 1941-1966, added on the average about 8,000 people per year. The demand created by 70,000 new people each year, for housing, jobs, services, etc. is enormous, and while much of that demand is satisfied in the suburbs, there is enough of it left over to find its way into the central area and make a noticeable impact there.
A second factor is that these cities are head-office cities and experience an ongoing demand for downtown office accommodation. These great centres of commerce generate enough demand for downtown commercial space, and contingent retail and service space, to maintain an extremely high level of Downtown development activity. In the post-war era the demand for new commercial space has been almost insatiable.
But perhaps the most important factor of all, in terms of its direct impact on the Downtown has been, in the case of both of these cities, the construction of the underground rapid transit system. It is estimated that the building of the 4� miles of the Toronto subway between Union Station and Eglinton Avenue sparked development along its route of the order of $10 billion. What must be remembered however is that it cost $67 million to build the subway, and this was a public expenditure. In essence, it was the enormous expenditure of public money on the subway systems of both Montreal and Toronto which were the direct spark setting off the so-called "spontaneous" or "unaided" explosion of development in the Downtown of those cities.
Calgary [XMLmind] Edmonton are also sometimes pointed to as having enjoyed a high level of Downtown investment entirely without public aid or "planning". In the case of the Alberta cities, their stimulus to growth came from the development of the oil industry. Before the discovery of Leduc, they were very small rural service centres. With the discovery and development of the Province's oil resources, these two cities underwent a reconstruction and transformation which changed them from rural service centres to centres for servicing the oil industry. But even here it is completely misleading to say that the Downtowns of these cities experienced a "spontaneous" surge in development. On the one hand the surge was stimulated by the profound and revolutionary change in the economic base; and on the other hand "planning" of both of these communities, and in particular the planning of the Downtown, was perhaps the most comprehensive and sophisticated of any Canada.
Experience in cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Denver, and many, many others indicates that it has taken massive efforts and the most carefully prepared and energetically executed plans of development to rescue the central business district from continuing stagnation and decay. The record is there is countless documents for all to read who are interested in the facts.
Little would be gained here to set out in any detail the experience of those cities which, through visionary leadership and determined effort, and creative co-operation between the various segments of the community, have managed to halt and reverse the decline of their central business districts. What must be noted here however is that in few cases has the reversal of the decline of a central area occurred spontaneously, without deliberate and planned public or combined public and private effort.