Under Siege

Prosperity Knitwear
Prosperity Knitwear (Pacific Avenue, 1913).

The smaller of the two Prosperity Knitwear Buildings (formerly the Smart Bag Co. Building, 1884, far left) came under threat of demolition a couple of months ago to make way for a new Sport Manitoba Building. Perhaps because of minor public outcry, Sport Manitoba backed off their plans. Instead, they announced plans to build a structure on an adjacent surface parking lot. Exactly how this new structure and the old one will interact is still unknown; nonetheless, this felt like a small victory.

But make no mistake about it: Downtown Winnipeg is indeed under siege. About a half a year ago, two once-glorious movie theaters on Main were torn down to make way for the WRHA project that is currently nearing completion in their place. Renovations for the St. Charles and Royal Albert Hotels, by all appearances, have ground to a halt. Kelly House on Adelaide, while technically safe for the time being, appears to have become the city’s latest victim of demolition by neglect. The Metropolitan Theater seems headed towards the same fate, despite the rock ‘n’ roll paradise that’s been promised. Meanwhile, many remain doubtful that plans to rebuild the facade of the Ryan Block on McDermot (once it’s taken down to make room for a parkade) will actually happen. And perhaps most incredible on this depressing list: Manitoba Hydro’s quick-to-be-dismissed proposal to gut an intact and partly occupied block on McDermot Street to make way for a new substation.

This is a city that is incapable of learning from its mistakes. I’m not suggesting the city should hold on to dilapidated old buildings like grim death, but the ease at which it seems prepared to let go of its history is appalling. I take photos because I enjoy it; not because I feel the need to preserve history through them. That’s certainly how I feel, though, when I head downtown with my camera these days.

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