More downtown parking in Winnipeg? Isn’t that what gave Des Moines the nickname “Dead Moan”?

Fellow bloggers Progressive Winnipeg and The Rise and Sprawl have recently challenged the assumption that a lack of parking is at the heart of downtown Winnipeg’s problems, and I have to say that I agree with them.

One of the difficulties of revitalizing the city’s downtown is that asking people what they want out of downtown can only take you so far.

Ultimately, if you want to do a good job of revitalizing downtown, you have to look at those cities that have vibrant downtown, those that have lacklustre downtowns, and see what you can learn from that.

Let’s start by looking at Melbourne, Australia. Melbourne has a vibrant downtown in spite of incredible urban sprawl, stretching more than 60 kilometres from suburban Craigieburn in the north to Cranbourne and Frankston in the southeast. Strangely enough for such a far-flung metropolitan area, there seems to be a brisk retail and dining trade in the vicinity of the bustling intersection of Swanston and Bourke in spite of only two parking lots being visible.

The area surrounding lively Swanston Street in downtown Melbourne, AustraliaThe area surrounding lively Swanston Street in downtown Melbourne, Australia (Source: Google Earth)

Then we come to the famous Champs Elysee in Paris, France. One of the great streets of the world. A great street to just walk down, even if you’re doing nothing else — and thousands of people do that each day. Good luck finding cheap or easy parking nearby.

The Champs Elysee in Paris. A lack of parking doesn't seem to have hurt the cafes and expensive stores that line one of the world's most mesmerizing streets.The Champs Elysee in Paris. A lack of parking doesn’t seem to have hurt the cafes and expensive stores that line one of the world’s most mesmerizing streets.  (Source: Google Earth)

Closer to home, there’s Vancouver’s Robson Street. Robson’s a cool street, a good place to just wander and do some people watching. It’s what Winnipeg’s Portage Avenue should be. But unlike Winnipeg, Vancouver’s core area has large quantities of residential housing and relatively few Winnipeg-style parking lots. It’s the residential element that supports the businesses lining Robson Street, even during the tourist low season.

Robson Street in Vancouver: Lots of high-rises nearby and relatively few parking lots creates a sense of vibrancy in the urban coreRobson Street in Vancouver: Lots of high-rises nearby and relatively few parking lots creates a sense of vibrancy in the urban core (Source: Google Earth)

Then we come to Winnipeg. Downtown Winnipeg does have its nicer spots, such as The Forks, the Exchange District and a bustling Second Cup cafe on Graham Ave. Immigrants living near Central Park have also brought a sense of community back to the area. But compared to Melbourne, Paris and Vancouver, look at all the dead space…

Downtown Winnipeg: Would travelers flock to Paris if it had this much dead space? (Source: Google Earth)Downtown Winnipeg: Would travelers flock to Paris if it had this much dead space? (Source: Google Earth)

When people talk about making parking more readily available in downtown Winnipeg, maybe they’re thinking about a downtown that would be more like downtown Des Moines, Iowa? If there’s one thing that Des Moines has no shortage of, it’s downtown parking. Unfortunately for Iowa’s capital city, its sterile urban core has caused some locals to give their city the cruel nickname Dead Moan. Maybe it’s because of all the football-field sized dead spots?

Des Moines, Iowa: How much parking is too much? If making downtown parking more plentiful were the key to urban revitalization, Des Moines should be one of the U.S.A.'s hottest tourist destinations. (Source: Google Earth)Downtown Des Moines, Iowa: How much parking is too much? If making downtown parking more plentiful were the key to urban revitalization, Des Moines should be one of the U.S.A.’s hottest tourist destinations. (Source: Google Earth)

If Winnipeg is to revitalize its core, it needs to look at what other cities have done right, and at what they’ve done wrong. So far, the evidence seems to suggest that a vibrant city centre needs an urban neighbourhood, or at the very least, to discourage the proliferation of dead spaces.

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About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

3 Responses to More downtown parking in Winnipeg? Isn’t that what gave Des Moines the nickname “Dead Moan”?

  1. Pingback: “Big Urban” « Regan Wolfrom

  2. cherenkov says:

    I am totally with you and Graham and Rob here, but to be fair those cities you are comparing us to have a much larger population base and tourist pull. There are still lessons that we can learn, but we can probably learn more from cities of similar size that do it better than us.

  3. Old Chum says:

    There is definitely enough parking downtown what is needed is a new thinking for the area . Make it a area that people want to live in , lower taxes to start and a break for developers to build there .
    This might make it attractive to start something most of these cities you speak of have done this .

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