Although the change in housing taste represents the reversal of an historic attitude, perhaps the most unexpected element in this new trend has been the location of the new apartments. Traditionally the apartment block, and particularly the high-rise apartment block, was considered to be a central area feature, and until about twenty years ago, in Winnipeg, this was in fact the case. In the period 1930 1939, 805 new apartment dwellings were built in the Metro area, of which 646, or about 80%, were built in the City of Winnipeg and 321, or about 40% were in the Downtown. In the period 1940 1949, again 80% of new apartments in the Metropolitan Winnipeg area were built in the City of Winnipeg, but the proportion in the Downtown had dropped to 25%. In the following decade, 1950 1959, the massive change in the apartment situation began to assert itself. In that period, 6,137 apartment dwellings were built in Metropolitan Winnipeg, but the City of Winnipeg's proportion fell to just over 70% and the Downtown's proportion fell to 10.4%. Since then, Winnipeg's share of the new apartments in the Metro area has continued to decline between 1960 and 1966 it was only 53%, and for the years 1967 and 1968 it fell to 27% while the proportion in the Downtown fell to zero no new apartments having been constructed in the Downtown in the last two years.
For the purpose of this analysis, two significant facts emerge from the foregoing. The first is that there appears to be in the Metro area a large potential market for apartment accommodation large enough to provide the kind of catalyst necessary for the revitalization of the Downtown; the second is that apartments now being constructed in the Metro area are mainly going up in the suburbs and not in the Downtown.
Several reasons may be identified for the apartment developers' preference for suburban rather than central area sites. Probably the most important reason has been the relatively greater cost of apartment development downtown compared with the same development in the suburbs. This greater cost Downtown has been the result of such factors as the extreme difficulty in assembling parcels of land enough to take large-scale apartment developments, the higher cost of the land itself and the relatively higher tax assessment. Other deterrent influences have been the generally unattractive environment of the Downtown, the lack of amenities, the problems of traffic and parking, and the assumption that the same market conditions and consumer preferences which created the vast single family dwelling housing stock in the suburbs, continue to prevail in respect of the demand for apartment accommodation. The great thrust of new residential development has in fact occurred in the suburbs, and it is perhaps understandable that the developer would naturally think of his apartment development as part of that phenomenon and would continue to operate on the basis of suburban rather than central area sites for his apartments as he did previously for his single family dwellings, particularly in those instances where the developer has extensive suburban land holdings which he contemplates developing over a period of time.
All of these forces, and perhaps others as well, have conspired to inhibit the development of the Downtown. It is obvious that if the prevailing conditions in the central area are to be changed, and the present trends of stagnation and deterioration are to be reversed, then it will be necessary to overcome these forces. A plan for the Downtown which has as its objectives the restoration of the centre of the city to a condition of vitality and the creation there of a vigorous centre of the cultural, entertainment, and commercial life of the Metropolitan community, must be based on measures which will overcome the prevailing disadvantages of Downtown residential development.
It is [XMLmind] that most recently, in the last two or three months, there has been a stir of interest in development in the central area, and a number of apartment and commercial projects have been announced. This stir has been interpreted in some quarters as proof that development in the Downtown will occur as part of the normal course of events, and that no special measures are necessary to stimulate such activity. As indicated in an earlier section of this report, such a view is illusory. There may be the occasional project developed as part of the normal course of events the Downtown has in fact been receiving about two new buildings per year for the last fifteen years but the rate of such development will not be enough to effect any significant changes in the character of the Downtown, and will certainly not be enough to stimulate any large-scale investment and development programs, just as it has not been able to do so during the last couple of decades.