Winnipeg is in an admirable position to profit from the experience of other cities. Although its Downtown is experiencing the same losses as that of other cities, Winnipeg has a marked advantage in the fact that a large proportion of its central area is not built upon. In other cities, where the decision has been taken to redevelop and revitalize the central area, in many cases the land was encumbered by large, old, obsolete, often vacant, but expensive buildings. The cost of acquiring and clearing these anachronisms was enormous, adding to the cost of rebuilding the Downtown.
In Winnipeg, as must as 23% of the entire Downtown is either vacant or used for surface parking; some sectors of the Downtown the ratio is as high as 29%. This is generally pointed to as one of the distressing facts about the central area, and indeed it is. At the same time, however, it represents a remarkable opportunity the opportunity to undertake a program of central area development without having to face the enormous costs of acquisition of buildings.
The local conditions which exist in the Downtown, and the degree to which they afford the opportunity for a plan of development peculiarly appropriate to Winnipeg's circumstances, are discussed in the following sections.
* As defined for purposes of this study—the area bounded by Notre Dame Avenue, Main Street, the Assiniboine River, Memorial Blvd. and Colony Street.
** Reid Crowther and Partners Ltd., op. cit.