Downtown revitalization takes one step back, again

I often liked to stop in at the Portage and Fort Second Cup cafe once or twice a week for coffee. After having been out of town for a few weeks, I was looking forward to having my customary Friday after-lunch coffee there.

It was with a great deal of dismay that I discovered today that the store has closed. The sign in front had been taken down, and a sign in the window thanked customers for their patronage.

Yet another setback for downtown revitalization, another example of how the high hopes we had for downtown Winnipeg when Winnipeg Square (’70s), Eaton Place-Cityplace (1979), Portage Place (1987) and the MTS Centre (2004) all opened have been dashed against the rocks.

The shopping centres are themselves part of the problem. I’ve seen attractive city centres in places as large as Paris and as small as Christchurch. None of these attractive centres had as much of their downtown retail capacity as heavily concentrated in a few small pockets of downtown as Winnipeg.

Yes, many of these cities had downtown shopping centres, but none so dominant and so effective at  sucking the pedestrian traffic off the neighbouring streets as Winnipeg’s downtown shopping centres.

The MTS Centre — which is a nice arena and in many ways is an improvement over a huge, vacant ex-department store — has also not had any wider positive effects for downtown beyond the block it sits on.

Maybe we’ll eventually learn from other cities that the key to a revitalized downtown is to have a downtown residential neighbourhood and to have downtown’s retail capacity spread out instead of concentrated in one place.

It’s a change that will come too late to save Second Cup and other businesses that tried their best to bring Portage Avenue back to life.

The sign in front of the old store refers patrons to the Second Cup location on Edmonton St., which has been one of downtown’s most successful yet under-celebrated gathering places.

Closer by, if you’re looking for a coffee or a bite to eat, there’s also The Human Bean at the Millennium Library, where the Addictive Turtles really are addictive. There’s also Gabernik’s Cafe (open weekdays) in the RBC Building, just off of Winnipeg Square, which offers good sandwiches, friendly service and great value for money.

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

2 Responses to Downtown revitalization takes one step back, again

  1. kid zubaz says:

    It’s too bad the Second Cup closed, but I think part of the reason is the fact that three Starbucks (Winnipeg Square, Canwest Bldg. and the Radisson) and a Tim Hortons (Graham and Fort) have popped up within a block in the last two or three years.

    It’s no surprise that Second Cup closed right at the same time the latest Starbucks opened, on Portage right by the Radisson.

    So all is not lost.

  2. Uptown says:

    All is not lost, but anyone paying close attention would realize that a good dozen or so businesses in various parts of the Exchange and downtown have gone dead or belly-up in recent weeks without a peep. Businesses that were announced with great fanfare years before as proof all was well, etc.

    Pastry Castle is one example that comes to mind, which as of a week or two ago had a bankruptcy notice on the door.

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