1. PRESENT INDUSTRIAL & COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL

A plan for the Downtown, if it is to have some real prospect for realization must be based on elements which have some real prospect of development. It would not be reasonable to propose, for example, that the plan for the Downtown be based upon the development of a ski resort, or an ocean terminal. These example are of course absurd, but it would be only slightly less absurd to propose that the Downtown can be revitalized, and large-scale development stimulated, on the basis of a vast increase in industrial plants, or of new office space.

Manufacturing cannot be expected to seek new locations in the Downtown area as here defined. Nor can wholesaling, nor warehousing industries. The reasons for the removal of industry from the central area to the suburbs have been indicated in a previous section of this report. Changes in business organization and production technology, the need for more site area for expansion, the problems of transportation and access, the changing pattern of the market, are some of the important factors which have caused the movement of industry out of the Downtown. These factors continue to prevail, and new industries seeking to establish themselves, almost invariably choose suburban locations. There is, accordingly, virtually no new growth of industry of the manufacturing, wholesaling and warehousing categories in the Downtown. A viable plan of development cannot, therefore, reasonably be based on the assumption of extensive development of these activities.

There [XMLmind] been some growth of office space in Winnipeg's Downtown over the last decade, and particularly in the last five years with the completion of the Royal Bank Building in 1964, and the Richardson Building now under construction. A large part of this new construction however has been in replacement of existing office space which has become obsolete, rather than new space required to accommodate new growth. Somewhat similar circumstances may be expected for the future, although the ratio of replacement space constructed can be expected to be rather lower than in the past five years in view of the very large areas that were provided by the two projects cited. The market analysis* referred to in an earlier section, estimates that during the twenty years 1966 1986, a total of 4,292,000 square feet of floor space will be required to accommodate the needs for commercial offices and services. Of this 1,296,000 square feet will be in replacement of existing obsolete space.

This is really a very modest volume of office construction for a twenty-year period, particularly so in comparison with the volumes being constructed and projected in the cities of more active growth. Winnipeg's offices, to a significant degree, are only branch offices, rather than head offices, and a branch office city cannot expect as great a demand for space as a head office city, such as, for example, Montreal or Toronto.

Accordingly, although a measure of new office construction can be expected to continue in the Downtown, it is not likely to exceed the rate of the volume of construction which has prevailed in the city over the last decade or two, and is not likely to be of an order of magnitude which will ensure the development of significant areas of Downtown land.

Retailing is an important part of the Downtown economy. The place of retailing in the Downtown was briefly analyzed in the “Downtown Trends” section of this report, and the analysis indicated that retail sales are not holding their own. A rapid expansion of retail activity in the Downtown cannot be expected, and retailing cannot be counted upon to provide a sound basis for Downtown development.

The service industries are the only sector of the economy which is expanding, and which is holding its own in the Downtown. The service sector depends on people, and of course, on the incomes of people, and on the way those people choose to spend their incomes. But it can safely be said that other things being equal, the service function will expand in relation to the growth of population.

It is perhaps a truism to say that the life of the entire Downtown depends on people. It is not merely the service industries that grow with population, but all of the other activities carried on in the Downtown. At the present time the life of the Downtown is sustained by the people comprising the Downtown shoppers, and the Downtown work force. The resident population is small and cannot be regarded as an element of the first order of importance in the Downtown economy.