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5.16.2011

Winnipeg rethinks suburban sprawl with downtown reinvention

Source: Globe and Mail, May 16, 2011

It’s 5 p.m. on Portage Avenue and a parade of cars, buses and pedestrians is making its way out of the downtown as quickly as possible, speeding past shuttered storefronts and lonely side streets. But for the first time in years, the daily commuter rush is passing something new: construction.

An unprecedented level of development is under way in the Manitoba capital, as Winnipeg attempts to reverse decades of movement out to the suburbs.

“We want to have a situation where you don’t have a massive population downtown between nine and five and then all of a sudden it’s six o’clock and it’s empty,” says Mayor Sam Katz. “But what people don’t realize is that you can’t correct the mistakes of the past in just a year or two.”

Around the world there is a growing understanding that suburban sprawl is unsustainable, and that, for cities to survive, they must shrink back in on themselves, tightening up, promoting density and pushing their growing population into space already served by existing infrastructure and social services.

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